Tag Archives: joint custody

The rage of Taz

bear

This morning my son tore his room apart. Annihilated is a good word. He had so much anger pent up inside of him that he didn’t know how to control it. And so he raged. He threw things. He ripped his bed apart. He knocked over his chair. And he growled deep into his throat with a primal energy as he slammed his hands against the wall.

We were at odds this morning. He got on the video games when he wasn’t supposed to. And though I knew he would argue against any limitation I placed on him for the two minutes of game time, I also knew I had to follow through. So I told him they were gone for the day.

Hence, the rage.

I don’t know what to do when he gets this angry. I know that, probably, the thing he needs most is for me to stay calm and loving with him so he can find an anchor in me and bring himself down. But when he gets that overly angry, being loving with him is like hugging a grizzly bear.

My natural impulse was to get angry back. But I refrained and chose to walk away. I had to get ready for work. He was to leave within the next 5 minutes. I was frustrated that all this was happening at the worst possible time. The last thing I wanted him to do was to go to school totally amped up with rage. So walking away seemed like the best choice.

And that’s when he tore his room apart.

So next I got angry. And when I got angry, I got really angry. I let loose with the language, told him this was unacceptable. And we yelled at each other, both so angry at what was going on.

And then the truth behind his anger came out. Because you don’t just get that angry over video games, you get angry about all the stuff you’ve been stuffing inside. The video games just made all that stuff overflow.

boy holding a teddy bearHe’s angry about stuff going on at school and at baseball – how he’s rejected by the cool kids on his team and deemed fat and ugly by his classmates. He’s angry about being so out of control. He’s angry that he keeps getting in trouble. But mostly, he’s angry over his dad, who failed him many times over during his last visit – a visit that I keep learning more about.

Like that my Ex told him secrets from my past – a past that happened before my son was even born.

Like that my Ex yelled and screamed about anything and everything while my son sat in a corner of the room.

Like that he threatened the lives of anyone who dared to come to his house.

And the latest, that a game of roughhousing took a wrong turn, and my Ex took his anger out on Taz – physically.

And no one was there to protect him.

I am so angry right now. Angry, devastated, torn apart…exhausted…  Mostly, I’m furious with myself that I actually let Taz visit his father all by himself, knowing how delicate Taz is underneath his rough posterior, and knowing that the Ex has a lot of flaws.  And I’m furious with the Ex that he can’t recognize just how much his son idolizes him, even when the Ex lets him down over and over again.  The Taz is always ready to forgive his dad.  He even kept all this a secret for as long as he could, afraid that I would take his dad away from him.

I called the counselor this afternoon to try and get the earliest appointment we can. At Taz’s last appointment, Taz had us all believing everything was fine. But over the past couple of weeks, he has had several intense moments of rage that prove everything is NOT okay. The counselor talked me down over the phone, the concern evident in his voice as he sensed the brokenness in both Taz and me. And we see him next week. In the meantime, Taz is to write down everything that makes him angry in an effort to control his rage. And I have to do my best to remind him that his rage makes it too hard to help him.

In the meantime, my life is still being controlled by a man I never should have made children with or married. I will never be free from his torment. And now, he’s making our kids’ lives a living hell. And I’m tired. So, so tired.

Words cannot express the rage I feel at this man.

Advertisements

Why I let my teen move out

I know I already wrote about this.  In fact, she has already moved.  But after much thought, I decided to also write a newspaper article about what’s going on in our home.  I figure plenty of divorced families are going through the same thing as their child decides which parent to live with full time.  So I am sharing my own personal story.

Note: I am doing ok.  DQ is too.  It’s still a transition, and a lot to get used to.  But so far, everything seems to be going smoothly.

This article will print on January 11, 2013 in the Press Democrat.

LETTING GO

My 14-year-old daughter, DQ, is moving out.

It’s weird, I never thought I’d type these words before she turned 18. But here I am, standing by as she packs up her bags and prepares to leave the nest. My nest. The one I have padded with protection and comfort since the day she was born, through a messy divorce, during financially tight times, and in her tumultuous teen years. She is flying the coop with my assistance when I drive her a full three hours away to live with her father.

And this might just be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

For 14 years, I have been her primary caregiver, the one who is responsible for every aspect of her life. I am the one who has filled out her school forms, checked her homework (till her homework got too smart for me), packed her lunches, and made her doctor’s appointments. I was the parent she told about her first love, and the parent who picked up the pieces when her heart was broken a few weeks later. I am her chauffeur, her personal chef, her nurse, her cheerleader, her everything she needed me to be so she can be a happy kid. I’ve gone to every one of her soccer games. I volunteer at the camp she attends every year. And I have done all this on my own. So to hand over the reins to her dad, allowing her to move three hours away and out of my realm of parenting, was way beyond my comfort level.

My first impulse was to say no, absolutely not. But she asked me to at least think about it. So I agreed to mull it over before I ultimately said no.

I was at war with what was the right thing to do in this situation. Of her two parents, I had proven to be the more responsible. Our two children, DQ and Taz, live with me full time, and I have fit my whole entire life within their schedule and comfort. Their father, who moved several counties away a few years ago, has never had the privilege of moving heaven and earth to make it to a parent-teacher conference at the same time as a mandatory meeting at work. I’ve been the parent while he’s been the one they visit occasionally. I’ve accepted that this is what works for raising the kids, and hold no bitterness over this. It’s just the way it is. But to give up my place as my daughter’s primary parent was rocking a boat I didn’t want rocked.

During the time when I was to be thinking this over (even though my mind was still set on NO), DQ took the time to patiently discuss all the perks of her living with her father. She talked about her new baby brother over there, how she would get a chance to know him and help take care of him. She took me on a virtual tour of her new town through Google Maps, pointing the cursor towards all of her favorite hangouts a few blocks from her home. She told me about the friends she had there, helping me to get to know them though her description. She handled the whole situation like she was the adult and I was the child. She was patient and kind, helping me with a hard transition. I was stubborn and tearful, refusing to budge.

Then a funny thing happened – my eyes were suddenly opened.

It didn’t happen on my own, but through a lot of help. I talked with my husband at great lengths about the whole decision. I discussed it with a counselor. And eventually, I called my ex-husband himself and talked about the possibility of our daughter moving in with him. After much deliberation and thought, I realized I had much less reasons to say no, and many more reasons to say yes.

So I let her go.

DQI know in my heart that I’ve made the best decision I could for her. DQ gets a chance to get to know her other side of her family, the part that makes up the other half of her. I, in turn, get to feel what it’s like on the other side of the coin – the one where I merely get to visit her instead of seeing her every single day. This still feels like a bad dream. I keep waiting for DQ to tell me she’s changed her mind. Of course, she hasn’t and likely won’t.

But I’ve realized something. Loving a child isn’t just about holding on to them and protecting them. It isn’t just about being there every step of the way.

Sometimes love is knowing when to let go.

Empty nest blissfulness

us16

This week has been blissfully free of children.  Blissful, I tell you.  We’ve hardly done anything special.  In fact, most of it has been spent on the couch watching TV, or sitting side by side as we read our separate books, or even just doing nothing with no noise whatsoever.  I think that’s our favorite.  No TV.  No videogames.  No bickering or demands, or miscellaneous messes to clean up.  Just the two of us in our house that is suddenly ridiculously easy to keep clean.  Even meals are wonderful, cooking for two with very little clean up.

It’s just plain blissful.

Camping next to the creek at our favorite place in the world.
Camping next to the creek at our favorite place in the world – complete with tarps in case of rain.

We started the week at our favorite little spa/camping spot in the world, braving the frosty weather in the hills to be able to soak in hot springs during the day and snuggle underneath a mountain of blankets at night.  It was the same place that Shawn proposed to me, and we hadn’t been there since we got married.  So it was a bit nostalgic to hike on the same trail we walked over a year before, pausing in the spot where he knelt on one knee pretending to tie his shoe, only to offer me a ring and a promise.  🙂

This camping trip was the perfect way to start our kidless week.  I was feeling a little down, having said goodbye to DQ the night before.  I had fought a few moments of tears, and I know I’m guilty of snipping at Shawn a couple of times for no good reason except he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  A trip into the hills and away from everything else helped to center the both of us, melting away the stress, negativity, and any lingering sadness so that when we drove back, we were actually ready.

New Years Eve was naturally kidless as well.  But rather than do anything special like go out in the freezing cold all dressed up to spend way too much money, we stayed home in our PJs and ate a delicious steak and potato dinner.  He drank his glass of non-alcoholic champagne.  I drank a delicious chocolate martini.  He was totally sober all night long.  I got a bit too tipsy off my one drink.  He slept like a baby all night long.  I threw up all night long.

Oops.

The rest of the week has been pretty tame.  We got to spend some kidless time with some good friends of ours.  We’ve resumed our normal working hours.  And we’ve enjoyed our home time totally unplugged from parenting.  It’s been a nice little break.

When I pick up the Taz on Saturday, I know it will be bittersweet.  It will be nice to have him back.  But his sister’s absence won’t go unnoticed.  It’s when life without DQ here will actually hit.  So to remedy that first day of transition, I am spoiling Taz with a trip to Six Flags – just the two of us – for a day of fun before we actually head home and go back to regular life in its altered state.

But in the meantime, I am really, really enjoying the empty nest state of things right now.

“I could get used to this,” I joked to Shawn.

“No you couldn’t,” he told me.  “You’d miss the kids if they actually moved out.”

Maybe so.  But this quiet week sure has been great.

Letting her go.

‘Letting our children go’ is a lifelong process for parents, one that we wrestle with again and again, and each parent has to wrestle with it in his or her own way. — Mister Rogers

My daughter is moving away.

It’s weird typing those words. I always knew there would be a day I would have to face this reality. But I thought it would be at 18 when she left for college rather than when she was only 14 years old.

And I’m sorry to those of you I haven’t told this to in person. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it on my own.

I’m conflicted in this decision. It didn’t come lightly. DQ came to me about it months ago, and I thought we had tackled it then. I thought I laid down the law enough for her to want to stay. But several new things happened and the subject was brought up again, this time with more urgency.

So what happened?

First, her boyfriend moved 3 hours away to Redding. Having wrapped her whole social life up in him, she found herself in foreign territory. She had no close friendships, a strained social life, and the person she used to spend every moment with suddenly nowhere around.

Second, she spent a really great weekend at her father’s house, spent some quality time with her new baby brother, and got back in touch with some friends she knows who live in Grass Valley, where her father lives.

Third, she insisted she needed a change of scenery so she could start fresh.

When she first came to me about wanting to move in with her dad, I considered it for only a second before I refused. But she was persistent that I at least think about it. She laid out some very specific reasons as to why this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, noting the Christian friends (ooh, she’s good) that she hangs out with up there, how she wants to get to know her baby brother better, and showing me a map of where she would be living if she were there – taking me on a virtual tour of the town through Google Maps.

She got me thinking.

The past 6 months or so have been really rough with DQ. Her teenage years have not been the most pleasant as she goes through her Jekyll & Hyde emotions. One moment she’s the loveliest of all people. The next, I have to keep my hands out of her cage or she’ll bite them clean off.

I also understand the need for change; the realization that so many mistakes have been made that the only choice is to begin a new direction in a new place. Of course, she’s a teenager. Mistakes are going to happen over and over again. My understanding of her need for a change of scenery goes hand in hand with my concern over the fact that she’s once again running from problems she’s created. This isn’t the first time she’s wanted to run away. She did this with her old school two years ago when the drama became too much to handle. Now she’s doing it again by moving to Grass Valley.

What if it happens again once she’s there?

Her father had the same concerns when we spoke on the phone today. We had a really good, bare bones conversation about DQ’s desire to move in with him. It made me feel a ton better to hear him raise all the same concerns I had about her – even before I voiced them.

What if she falls in with the wrong crowd there?
What if she pushes all of his buttons and makes him furious, as she’s known to do?
What if she gets there and decides she wants to leave again?
What if he can’t afford to have her there?

We discussed all of these at length. He was surprised I was even considering it. I kept asking him if he had any reservations, any at all, that it was ok if he did…

“Do you want me to have reservations?” he finally asked me with a chuckle.

“Yes!” I said, laughing as I admitted I wanted him to give me the out so that I could tell DQ “no” and let it be known I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

At any rate, the decision has not been made 100% final. The Ex still needs to contact DQ’s proposed future school and find out what needs to be done to get her transferred there. And I put the caveat out there that I needed to talk to DQ’s counselor before it was a done deal. But admittedly, the decision is 99% a sure thing. I’ll be sending the Ex half of my child support check to ensure he is still paying off his back support while still being financially fair about it as he takes DQ into his care. I’ll visit every couple of weekends, making the trek over there to hang out with her. She’ll come back on holiday breaks, though how we do this so it’s fair for both kids is still a detail we have to figure out. We’ll also have to figure out how she’ll attend training weekends for the camp she’s on staff at. It’s all a bunch of messy details.

But strangely enough, I think I’m ok with this decision. I mean, I’m totally sad about it. It’s going to be weird not having her around. I’ll probably be totally depressed for the first couple of weeks.  She’s the one who makes me laugh the most. She’s not just my daughter, she’s kind of like a friend. We have a million inside jokes. I mean, who’s going to quote every movie we’ve seen hundreds of times with me? Who will I watch Glee with now? Who’s going to have living room dance parties with me, or embarrass me with her totally dirty jokes?

But I also know it’s not the end of the world.

She’s moving 3 hours away, not across the country. It’s still unsure if this is a permanent move, or just until the end of the school year.  We’re all keeping this open as a trial, with a minimum of 6 months time.

Perhaps a little space between me and DQ will be healthy. And, can I just say it privately here?  Perhaps it will give her a bit of a reality check.  Or not.  But it makes me feel better to think so.

But beyond that, I know how important it is for her to get to know her baby brother. And in a weird Freudian way, I know it’s also good for her to get to know her dad better and be around him.

This could be good for all of us. We’ll see.

Feeling lost

The whole family went out to dinner last night, including my parents and uncle. The celebration behind the occasion was to get together before my dad went on a cross country excursion, and my kids left for another 10 days at their dad’s house. So we all met up at La Vera’s restaurant in Santa Rosa during the Wednesday night market.

Following the dinner, Taz and I went to the bathroom before he left, except he took a really long time to come back out. So we came up with the brilliant plan to disappear around the corner and hide from him as a joke.

Except there’s nothing funny about an 11-year old who comes out to an empty table and thinks that his whole family has abandoned him.

Vintage Taz (circa 2011)

At first we thought it was hilarious, and we stood silently giggling as his back was to us and he surveyed the area. But when he turned at us with a shocked look on his face, quickly replacing it with a wide smile when he saw our familiar faces, I could see the thoughts racing through his head. Behind that smile was a valiant effort to keep the tears at bay. And any humor I found in this was instantly replaced with feelings of shame. I had placed my son in a position of facing his biggest fear – of being forgotten. Beneath all his bravado, silliness, and attention seeking behavior is an effort to make himself noticed and remembered. And it’s possible that it’s all an act to ensure he won’t be overlooked. And here he was, shaken up by a mere 10 seconds when he felt the most alone at the expense of his family’s amusement.

Needless to say, I feel like a horrible mom.

The poor guy kept his smile plastered on his face, doing his best to not even let on the appearance of tears. But I wasn’t fooled. I’m not sure anyone else in the family besides me even knew just how hard he had taken it. I tried not to make a huge deal out of it so he wouldn’t feel embarrassed or start to really cry. But I couldn’t help but apologize profusely and then insist on holding his hand for most of the walk back to the car. I overcompensated by acting ultra silly until he was finally past the point of wanting to cry and no longer wanted to hold my hand.

Ok, practical jokes are normal in families, and our family is no exception. It’s a rare day when a sarcastic quip or humorous tease doesn’t occur. But that still hasn’t stopped me from reliving that moment, and then mentally bear hugging my still-so-young son in protection against his horrible family.

The kids leave today for their dad’s house, and this time I’m not ready. The first excursion I couldn’t kick them out fast enough. I just needed a break from being a mom, and welcomed the quiet a kid-free house would bring. During that time, I heard from my daughter several times about how she couldn’t get along with her dad, begging me to come home. And I even got a call from their dad who was at a loss about how to deal with a hormonal teenage girl. Naturally I wanted to fix it all. I encouraged my daughter to talk with her dad when they weren’t on speaking terms, and I gave my ex pointers on how to handle the emotions of a stubborn and delicate daughter. But I eventually took a step back and stopped absorbing their problems. It wasn’t mine, it was theirs. And it was up to them to make it better. By the time they came back, they had wordlessly patched things up, and they also had a new brother (their stepmom had her baby the day before they were to leave). I had thought they were going to fight me on going back, but both kids were enthusiastic about returning in 5 days time.

And here we are, 5 days later, and it’s time for them to leave again.

Vintage Wine Country Mom and kids (circa August 2010 in San Diego)

During the last few days I have felt the need to soak up as much time with the kids as I could. It seemed like both the kids were too. They each had their own separate times of spending quality time with me. DQ hung with me at the kitchen table, both of us perusing catalogs and gabbing about this and that. Taz took time away from his video games each night to hang out and watch the Olympics with us. He kept prodding me to play a board game with him during this time, but time just got away from us. Now I wish I had.

They’re only going to be gone for 10 days. When they’re back, they probably won’t see their dad for a few months. I’m starting to see a tiny portion of what he goes through when he says goodbye, because I’m really, really going to miss them. And it’s possible that for the first few days, I might feel just as lost as a forgotten 11-year old kid.

My Week Without Kids

This article publishes in the Press Democrat on August 10th.

The kids are visiting their dad this week. As a result, the house is strangely quiet. The TV, which is usually blaring with bright pictures and loud voices from attention seeking sitcoms, has been off for days. And the Internet speed is curiously faster without video games tying up the bandwidth. The living room is free of clutter, and the food in the kitchen is intact for much longer than usual. In fact, our food bill this week was much lower than usual, and it’s been really nice to cook for two rather than five. Our calendar is looking pretty bare this week, and the cash in my wallet is staying put instead of being handed over to kids who need new clothing, a soda from the store, money for half-done chores, or whatever their fancy of the moment happens to be.

I was asked recently if I missed my kids. Without hesitating, I said absolutely not. It was only after I said it that I realized maybe I shouldn’t have been so enthusiastically quick in my response. I love my kids. I love that I have them with me the majority of the time. But after a long summer of bored teenagers taking over the house, I love that they are at their other parent’s house for 7 glorious days.

It’s been a really long summer. My son, Taz, has taken to video game marathons while I’m away at work. Despite the sunshine outside, his comfort level takes place in his darkened bedroom, chatting away with friends on his headset. When he’s not doing that, his butt is planted on the couch watching TV. Dirty dishes are piling up in his room even though he’s been told food doesn’t belong anywhere but in the kitchen. When I come home from work, he’s usually back upstairs in his room, talking loudly into his headset while his friends shout back through the television. Meanwhile, the downstairs TV is still on with whatever kids show he was watching earlier, the living room totally destroyed and the kitchen showing blatant signs of whatever he ate that day through the food on the counter and the garbage on the floor.

But the noise from my son is overruled by the pounding beat coming from upstairs. Frizz, my stepson, has taken to listening to club music at extremely loud levels at all hours of the day. From the moment he wakes up at 2 pm till late in the evening, all that can be heard throughout the house is bump, bump, bump, bump. I’d like to strangle whoever thought it was an excellent idea to buy a teenager a sub woofer for his tiny room. While we are at work, Taz and Frizz compete with each other as they try to hear their own sounds above the others. The other day, Taz’s TV was on full blast, as was Frizz’s pounding music. This was what I got to come home to. The kicker was that Frizz was also wearing earplugs to drown out the noise. Tired of sounding like an ancient broken record about keeping the noise at a level that is respectful towards everyone living there (just writing that out makes me realize what an old fogey I’ve become), I fought the noise in the most mature way I could muster. I figured out just how loudly the downstairs surround sound could play my personal mix of Coldplay music. Apparently pretty loud – at least loud enough to drown out all the other music.

In the midst of all this is my daughter DQ, who is suddenly very much in puppy love with a boy who lives near us, and wants to spend every waking moment with him. Take a hormonal 14-year old girl, add in a 14-year old hormonal boy, factor in the summer break right before entering high school when both have a lot of free time on their hands, and mix it all together. The sum of this equation supersedes any stress that videogame marathons and subwoofer competitions can induce by about a million.

So when it came time to drive my kids several hours away to stay with their father for 7 whole days, I couldn’t throw their stuff in my car fast enough.

In the time they have been gone, I have enjoyed a few lazy days by the pool with a magazine in my lap and a cold drink within arm’s reach. I have gone to bed early every night, and woken up refreshingly early every morning. Mr. W and I have even enjoyed a couple nights out on the town.

In a few days, my kid-free staycation will be over. By then, I will be ready to take back the reins. But until then, I think I will enjoy this brief interlude from motherhood while it lasts.