Friday, January 18, 2013

Separation Parenting and Hidden Challenges

My princess O comes back to me from her Dad’s today, and stepson L returns from his mum’s, so bedlam is a mere few hours away from hitting my house with a vengeance.

O has a little more visitation with her Dad than I’d like these days, but that is the nature of her growing up. Currently she spends 2 nights a week at his house. These 2 nights a week she is in a strange bed, in a strange house, in a bedroom that backs onto the neighbour’s bedroom. She hears strange noises, and there is only one person sleeping in the next room. She comes home with purple circles under her eyes that almost reach her jaw line, and an attitude I hoped not to have to deal with until she turns 13. On these days, when I gently suggest a nap, she hears ‘I’m going to lock you in a dark room and make you stay there for H O U R S and H O U R S and yell if you try to come out.’ She screams and kicks and chucks tantrums. My beautiful, happy, sweetnatured girl turns into something from a horror movie until I give up, and let her have the TV in the playroom. 

This is around the time I call my ex and snarl ‘why did you send me back a hellbeast? She clearly didn’t sleep, what the hell?’ and my quiet, timid pain-in-the-ass tells me she slept fine and he has no clue what’s happening. Resigned to getting nothing from him, I hang up and scream at my phone ‘YOU ARE A LIAR!!!’ 

When she stays up all night, screaming and refusing to sleep, I curse his name (when my princess isn’t listening, of course) and then I worry about why she is so afraid of sleep.

All of this isn't to say that my ex is a horrible father. I don't believe that for a second. He loves our little girl more than anything, and would never in his life hurt her. He's been an excellent co-parent and (more recently) a friend. As a mother, though, I worry whenever O is out of my sight. I want her world to be full of unicorns and puppy dogs, and her screaming and nightmares terrify me. 

By Saturday morning, my gorgeous, happy girl is back, sneaking into bed for cuddles as soon as her stepdaddy leaves for work and asking when she can have her breakfast. 

L is much quieter these days when he arrives from his mum’s house. 8 months or so ago, when he came over he was another demon child. He’d bounce of walls, truly a feral beast. His attitude was always beyond deplorable, and his Dad’s 23-year-old girlfriend (yep, me) was a particularly easy target for the vitriol he had clearly stored up all week.
Now, he’s learnt that no matter what he does I’m gonna keep on being there. I love his dad, and him, and I ain’t going anywhere. He goes to his room now, and reads and gives himself a bit of time to make the transition from one house to the other. Or, even better, sometimes I get to pick him up from school. The nice, quiet half-hour car ride gives him time to relax into being at Dad’s place and hanging with me for a few days. However he chooses, I give him half an hour or so to get his head around the new place the new people. It may be his Dad’s house, but the majority of time spent here is with me, and anything that saves me the heartache of scary demon child, I’ll do gladly.

When my ex and I got pregnant with O, we were engaged. We were going to be together forever, and a parenting team. I’m sure B and his ex thought the same thing. Separation parenting was never on the cards. Now that we’re both doing it, the challenges are more than either of us imagined. I knew there would be communication issues, lies, fights over special occasions, stressing about consistency. I never, ever thought about the transitions and how hard they’d get as my little girl grew. She was 9 months old when we separated, and I was only 20!! But now I take it in my stride. I’m learning to be a parent, and a step parent, and to deal with everything that kids bring. Even the stuff the books don’t tell you about.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Tara- I can't even imagine what a minefield you have to negotiate as a step-parent, and with O's dad's visitation too. It must break your heart. You're a tough cookie - thanks for the insights. I hope it gets easier. Xx