I’m breaking with this blog’s usual ‘timeline’ to interject with something that happened today. I wanted to mark it, diarise it, write about it whilst it was fresh.
So far, this blog has been retrospective, and I’ve had months to calm down and try to put things in perspective before writing, but today provided an example of the kind of minor incident that E is constantly generating and leaving the kids and I to deal with the fallout of. I wanted to write about it now, so it was there for me in future and so I can use it to help me understand what’s happened in the past.
What tends to happen is, just as when things are nice and calm, and we all feel like we’re finding our feet, E chucks a grenade into our family life. It can be major (moving in with P), but it can also be minor and something so small, that the emotional impact it has seems vastly out of proportion (until you remember that it involves five people who are still reeling from the aftermath of E leaving). I guess it’s a reminder to us all that we’re ‘not over it’.
Today’s grenade was, of all things, an invitation to lunch. Last week E had texted Oldest Son and Oldest Daughter (Youngest Son was on a school ski trip, and, as ever, he didn’t text Youngest Daughter), saying ‘hi’. Only Oldest Son replied and he then got a text in return asking if he, and the others, would like to go to lunch the following week.
Oldest Son told me about this, and I asked the girls if they were going to the lunch, both said they knew nothing about it, and both felt strongly that E should talk to/text them directly about it. I had a feeling E would be expecting them all to go, so I kept an eye on things and checked with the girls later in the week to see if he’d contacted them, but he hadn’t. E hadn’t asked me if his plans were convenient, or if the kids and I already had plans, but I was getting used to this – I also knew that reacting angrily would result in any emails or texts I sent being ignored and making me feel terrible about myself, so I’d not said anything to him.
Anyway, the week went on and nobody, apart from Oldest Son, heard from him. Then, today, out of the blue, all four of them got a text asking them to confirm that they could make the ‘planned’ lunch that he was booking.
The result was awful. Within minutes, what had been a calm, peaceful house was engulfed in an emotional whirlwind. Oldest Daughter was angry, hurt and anxious. Apart from anything else, she hasn’t seen her Dad since he left (she’s only spoken to him twice since he went, and both of those occasions were early this year). She, quite understandably, felt she was being pressured into a situation she wasn’t comfortable with and that she was having a something imposed upon her that she didn’t want. Youngest Daughter was just plain distressed. We’d spent the morning with Child Mental Health Services (long story, that I will tell later in the blog) and she was already very upset re his lack of communication. Getting the text implying she was expected to go to lunch shocked and upset her.
Youngest Son surprised me most of all though – he loves his Dad and always sees him when requested. Although (*spoiler*) he’d been very upset on a recent occasion when he saw E on his own and E tried to get him to meet P. He said ‘no’, and E didn’t force the issue, but it’s made him very cautious about his Dad, and he’s now decided he only wants to see him with Oldest Son. Since this happened, I’ve also been told that he’s started dropping his Dad’s surname at school and using mine. I haven’t said anything – I guess he’ll talk to me when he’s ready, but he’s clearly not happy with his Dad. He replied to E’s text saying he couldn’t make it. He said to E that it was because he had jet lag (he got back from the school ski trip today), but he looked at Youngest Daughter and said ‘because, actually, fuck him’.
Poor Oldest Son was asleep whilst this was happening (school holidays produce a whole new body clock in him, I frequently hear him wandering round at 3am, I can never work out if he’s up early, or hasn’t gone to sleep yet if I see him at 10am, and I’m never sure if I’ll find him on his laptop, or fast asleep when I knock on his bedroom door in the evening). The other three were really upset that E was suggesting that Oldest Son should have organised everything. I was so glad that they understood, but I was also angry on his behalf – the poor kid had done his best to pass the message on, but it wasn’t his fault the others didn’t want to go. Also – he’s not E’s messenger – what sort of person uses a 14-year-old to try and communicate with his kids (two of whom are basically estranged from him)?
Throughout all of this I didn’t say a word (I just listened). But my protective instincts were outraged by how much hurt and pain he’d caused the kids with just a couple of texts. A small, very petty, part of me wanted to say to them ‘he’s a wanker, tell him to fuck off’ and that part of me was pleased that the kids were standing up to him and that he wasn’t getting what he wanted. But I chose to say nothing and try to be a shoulder for them to cry on. The problem is, that if I try to reassure them at times like this, it makes them cross, because it looks like I don’t understand, if I agree with them it makes them feel like I’m trying to get them ‘on my side’. Sometimes there really is nothing I can say without making things worse.
Oldest Daughter tried to be honest and decent about it and explained that she wasn’t ready to meet up with him yet. E wouldn’t let it drop though. He replied (with smiley face) saying Oldest Son should have spoken to her. She and Youngest Daughter were sitting together, and she texted him back saying Youngest Daughter hadn’t had a text. E texted (with another smiley face) saying he’d texted all of them the previous Friday. Youngest Daughter showed her sister her phone. Oldest Daughter’s face fell as she said, ‘he’s just bare-faced lying to me’. There was just nothing I could say.
Youngest Daughter was heartbroken. I have spent the last two months trying to reassure her that her Dad’s lack of communication with her wasn’t personal. In fact, I’d spent 30 minutes with the mental health counsellor just this morning trying to reassure her that her Dad loves her as much as her siblings and that his lack of communication was because he wasn’t sure what to say to her. Personally, I’m as angry as she is about how he acts with her, but I’m desperate to try and stop her hurting. But after all that I’d said, and after he’d texted all the kids re lunch, and after Youngest Daughter had replied saying she couldn’t go, he ignored her texts, whilst replying to all Oldest Daughter’s texts. They were sitting together. It was obvious that he was communicating with Oldest Daughter not her. It was like watching her being slapped in the face. She later sent E a text expressing all of her hurt and anger. He ignored it. She’s now blocked him and deleted his phone number.
Anyway, all is calm again now. Oldest Son has appeared from his nap and seems slightly perplexed by the fact he’s the only one that can now make lunch tomorrow (I’ve suggested he and Youngest Son just see their Dad as usual on Saturday) as well as vaguely confused that everyone’s had their dinner and he’s got to heat his up in the microwave. Youngest Son is heroically fighting the jet lag (he was in the States) and playing on the Xbox. The girls are in their rooms, hopefully talking to friends and getting the support they need. I know there’s nothing I can say to make things better. I want to go up there and hug them. I want to tell them I love them and that everything will be ok. But I think for now they need their own space, so I’m giving them time.