Copping

The regular reader of this blog, and I believe there is at least one of you, will know that I am divorced from my ex, Stephanie* and that we share custody of our sons, Seth (14) and Owen (11).

Yesterday, I was waiting at church for Owen to finish rehearsal with the children’s choir. I was rather blissfully engaged in writing an actual letter on an actual card, something I’ve been allowing myself to do lately, when Stephanie appeared, looming over me, beckoning me back out into the foyer so we could talk. Urg. But I went. (We belong to the same local UU church, which is not always the easiest thing, but it’s pretty much worked out so far, and it’s a very good thing for the boys.)

Now I can’t even remember what she wanted – she prefers talking in person about minutiae that I prefer to ignore or address via email. The thing is, the longer we talked, the more irritated I got, and the more irritated I got, the more I copped a ‘tude. I didn’t notice it at the time, all I noticed was how irritated she makes me, but once we were done and I went back to my seat, thoroughly out of the letter-writing mood, I had a sudden picture of myself out there. Maybe this is because one of the church ladies, who had been bustling about, passed us several times, and smiled warmly at me every time – she was seeing us and I was seeing her seeing us. Seeing me. Maybe it was because that morning’s sermon had been a good one. I don’t know, but I got it, all at once, what a fucked up attitude I have with Stephanie. I could see myself in my mind, standing at a remove, a distasteful expression on my face, speaking probably more loudly than necessary, waiting impatiently for her to finish or even interrupting so I could make my point, without really listening or giving her ideas any consideration. Talking down to her from my position as a superior parent, one who is more thoughtful, warmer, more understanding of the boys’ needs and desires, and really, an all around better person. Fuck! I thought to myself. No wonder she doesn’t listen to me!

Many people will tell you that Stephanie is a difficult person, even people who get along with her will tell you that. For various and complicated reasons, she has her own problems listening, she’s got severe control issues, she’s highly anxious and chronically unable to see the world from any other viewpoint than her own quite narrow one. With our history, it can be nigh on impossible for me to treat her firmly but respectfully, making sure I stick to very rigid boundaries and do not become emotional, which is the absolute best way to deal with her. It’s hard because she drives me crazy and I absolutely believe that I do know what’s best for the boys and I am the superior parent, BUT she is not an evil person. Fucked up, yes. Evil, no. And she was once a little girl who dressed up to go to a tea party at her Aunt Mary’s house (I used to display the photo; she has it now), a little girl who stayed late at school with sympathetic teachers because it was so hellish at home. Not to mention that we hold between us the precious lives of our babies, who love her and need her. The result of me knowing these things about her is that if I am not EVER VIGILANT, POTTER, EVER VIGILANT#, I get into this vicious cycle of being nice to her because I remember the former and then screeching to a sickening halt and copping that extremely unsavory superior parent/you’re a blithering idiot attitude when she uses my being nice to her as an excuse to practically move back into the house with me.

Ok, but the ‘tude is gross. It keeps me from paying attention, from being the kind of person I want to be, from spreading kindness instead of grumpiness. Here I am, trying to be wise and spiritual and calm (I do devotional reading every morning! I exercise! I work hard!), wanting to give the boys a good example of how to be a grown up, wanting our home to be a refuge and a source of happiness, really thinking a lot about what it means to be human as I start this very last year of my 40s, and I’m standing around in the church foyer where all the church people can see me being a complete fuckhead to my ex? Oh dearie me.

I guess, in the way of these things, by the time I get my degree in the extremely complicated art of Being Divorced From Stephanie, the boys will be off on their own and I won’t have to talk with her but a couple times a year. Well, some people train to be Buddhist monks, some people deal with very difficult divorces with as much grace as possible. And I haven’t been very graceful lately. I really really need to work on not being such an asshole to her – the boys need me to, and Stephanie needs me to, and all of us are important. You are my witness: I’m copping to that.

*her name changes from post to post

#a la Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter books

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 5:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

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