Hard conversations

Tomorrow I am going to have that super serious conversation with the ex. I have already drafted my list of concerns and points I need to make. I actually feel really good about this conversation. Although I plan to use some of the same language from the healthy relationships program my dad and I did last year, I am not interested in building any sort of huge relationship with this conversation. I am interesting in healthy and successful coparenting without this 900 mile distance I have enjoyed for over two years now. I am interested in preserving the mental stability that I now enjoy after removing myself from the emotional tornados that swirl around the ex.

I need to bring up some of the bad that happened, but not to blame or shame, just to illustrate why texting and phone calls are fine but why we cannot have a “hang out” type of friendship right away. I am willing to give time and space for growth but as of right now, there won’t be that level of friendship with someone who is a taker. Someone who has not supported their children financially in years and refused to work at times while we were married, but was also a huge pain in the ass about continuing to send the kids to daycare. So there’s no second income and I still must pay for full time daycare? Not cool.

One of the biggest things I need to do is explain that these kids are not the kids who left in 2021, or even the kids who visit at Christmas and over the summer. They were thrown back into the tornado and did their best to be what they thought they needed to be. But here with us, they have grown and learned so much about the world around them and gained an understanding of what life is like for other people. They have chosen activities and extracurriculars that feel good to them. All three enjoy amazing academic success after being removed from the tornado.

But there has been damage. When someone isn’t working in a family and the other person is, it only seems fair that the one at home who is the better cook should make the meals. That was not the case. There were refusals to meal plan, refusals to grocery shop alone, and refusals to start meals so we could eat on time. Sometimes there were huge fights that led to 8pm dinners, all because there was no dinner plan. I was resentful as the person who got up, got every one of these four children out of bed and dressed, packed up and to their destination, then picked them back up, did the homework and forms from school thing, and NOW I have to also worry about dinner while you did NOTHING to get them up, NOTHING during the day, and NOTHING after school. Why am I doing everything? All the fighting, all the unpredictable meal times, all of my fatigue from doing everything myself, it all took a toll on the kids.

My wife is a meal planner. She loves gathering so grocery shopping is usually fun for her. We have a written meal plan on the fridge that anyone can look at any time to see what’s planned for dinner. We rarely deviate from the plan and it’s usually in favorable, take out dinner kind of way, so they are happy with it. If we eat a little late, they point it out. If we switch meals around after the original plan, they ask why. But they’ve settled way down with this. It was never about money before. We had plenty of money for food. I still don’t know why it was such an issue; only that I had nothing left to give to take care of that as well as everything else.

I am not nervous. I know I can do this. I need to protect the kids and the routine that has saved their lives and given them the much needed stability that I couldn’t provide before. I need them to understand that they don’t need to revert back to some personality they had before; who they have become is enough for everyone in their lives. They don’t need to change a thing, it is the responsibility of the adults in their lives to adjust their expectations of who these little people are.

I also know how to be nice and without the waves of resentment washing over me, I know I can say things in a better way. I know how to frame ugly things in a less ugly way so that the message gets through, not the shame and blame. There is no blame here. I am setting the boundaries I need for myself and my family. Violations of those boundaries won’t be met with kindness and understanding, and I won’t just ignore these violations like I used to. After years of therapy, I know who I am and what I need to feel ok. And allowing someone who did nothing but hurt me is not what I need.

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