Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gestures In Good Faith Are Good For The Soul... I Hope

OK so I spent 3 hours last night trying to post yesterday's entry and Blogger apparently had other ideas.  Like it didn't feel like working or letting me post anything.  So this is what I would've discussed yesterday.  With any luck, tonight when I log back on to post for today Blogger will be more cooperative.

I'm not sure how much I got accomplished on my quest today (yesterday) but I do have a few good things to report.  As I mentioned in my first post, I have a pretty rocky relationship with my ex-husband.  Without wanting to full on bash him I will say that he often has trouble staying, for lack of a better word, even.  By that I mean some days he's fine and happy go lucky as the next guy and other days he is on a warpath and the missile is usually pointed directly at me.  Sometimes the happy, nice guy stays around for a few days or weeks, and there have even been occasions where he's been around for a couple of months at a time.  But the Kim Jong Il in him always returns, and I am always kind of anxious wondering which person I'm going to talk to on any particular day.  I should say, that the Kim Jong Il in him seriously brings out the Catherine di Medici in me lest you think I feel like I am the saintly one who never contributes to any of this drama, but I will say that generally my Mrs. Hyde only shows up in retaliation, not as the aggressor. 

So anyway this is an argument we've had quite a bit over the years, and I know that there are a million single moms out there who have probably dealt with things very similar from their exes.  He does pay child support (save a few times here and there when he's been fired and without a job for months at a time) and regardless of anything else I will say about him, he DOES love the girls and enjoys spending time with them and is for the most part a pretty good dad when they're with him.  I'm sure there are quite a few areas in which he could improve, but I know there are areas I could improve my good mom-ness as well so I try not to dwell on those things too much (too much). 

The money thing has always been a roadblock in our ability to get along as parents.  Shortly after he was ordered to pay child support after our divorce he petitioned to have the amount lowered, which is upsetting to me as a mom.  Why wouldn't you want to give every penny you had to your kids?  I know I do.  Why doesn't he?  Just like so many dads out there, I know that he struggles with this thought of "who gets the money."  Like, I'm giving all this money every month but how much of it goes to the girls and how much goes to Tracy?  I've argued with the boyfriend about this many times because he has the same thoughts about the child support he pays his ex-wife.  He says, I know she is buying groceries with that money or putting gas in her car or paying her gas bill... Um, of COURSE she is.  Because she's FEEDING your daughter, DRIVING her everywhere she needs to go, and PROVIDING heat and therefore life for her.  How hard is it to understand that all of these things contribute to the upbringing of your child?  I don't know but I've talked to a lot of other single moms who face the same thing so I know that I (and the boyfriend's ex-wife) are not alone in dealing with this problem.

My ex is also supposed to insure our daughters and pay for half of their medical bills, neither of which he's ever done.  There was a period of about 4 months after the hearing in which he petitioned to lower the child support that he did add them to his insurance, but then he lost that job and hasn't had a job since that has offered insurance for them (from what he tells me, anyway).  And when it comes to the medical bills the beat response is always "I don't have any extra money, sorry can't help right now."  So I've paid for all of those myself, including 2 surgeries for our younger daughter.  And let me be clear when I say, I sure didn't have the money, but I guess the difference was that I didn't see a choice in the matter, and paid their bills.

So on top of the medical bills as my daughters have gotten older they've started to dip their toes into the water a little with some activities and sports.  Over the past year or two, we've done gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer, baton, swimming lessons, and also tutoring when my older daughter needed some help learning to read.  For the most part (he did share the cost of the 1st session of cheerleading, and also their first go at soccer and gymnastics which was through our local Y and therefore, extremely cheap) the cost of all of these have come out of my pocket.  (Or my dad's, who has a strong belief in the importance of these activities and the joy to which it brings the girls and wants to make sure they get the opportunity, so in the absence of help from their own father, papa has definitely pitched in a LOT to help out when needed.)  Then there are the constant stream of school pictures, school fees, school lunches, field trips, blah blah blah... none of which my ex contributes to (again, a big thanks to my dad here because he often pitches in for these things as well!). 

I've talked to him about this so many times, but the response is always something of the combined, "I don't have the money" and "that's what I pay you child support for."  I completely disagree with this on a couple of levels.  I don't have the money either, but I try and figure it out for the well-being of my kiddos.  And I don't think it's what he pays child support for.  I think that money goes to their food, shelter, clothing, day care, and other things that provide their basic well being.  And the child support we get from their dad is not even close to half of those costs.  The "extras" are just that... extra.  I sometimes can't come up with the money for something I want to be able to let them do, and so they don't do it, but whenever I can come up with the money for these things, it's always "extra" on top of our monthly budget and bills that go toward their daily life.  As a result of these conflicting opinions their dad and I have about these things, I have a major problem paying for all of their activities but then letting him know about everything so he can go and watch and enjoy the benefits of what I struggle to provide but to which he doesn't contribute.  This may be wrong of me, but I can't help feeling this way.  I've gone back and forth about it a million times, but I just have a major problem with him not wanting to try and save money or set aside money to contribute to these things but still expecting me to share the enjoyment of it all.  In a rather heated argument on the subject at one time, I am both ashamed and proud to say that I responded, "I don't have to scrimp and save to come up with the money to pay for them to be in all of these activities and let you reap the benefits of all of it.  I already pay for all of their health insurance and medical bills and make sure they're healthy and let you reap the benefits of that."  So truthfully, probably not the nicest thing I could have said, but truthfully, it's how I feel. 

OK so like all of my blogs that's a long way around to get to today but I can't help it.  Isn't backstory important?  Don't you want to know the things that have brought me to this point and the reasons why it is important for me to change and improve?  I guess you might not... so if that's he case I might encourage you to skim through my blogs to get to the meat of the days' progress and skip the backstory, but if you have the time or the interest, please enjoy learning about what makes my life the Hot Mess I'm trying to change from!  :)  Anyway... today. 

For about 6 or 8 months my ex-husband has had a girlfriend who is a very very nice woman.  She loves my daughters a lot and although it's a little scary to see another woman loving them like a mother, I am happy to have my kids get love from as many sources as possible. And it's so much better than the alternative, that he be with someone who doesn't take much of an interest in them.  So I go with it.  And honestly, I really think she has been good for my relationship with my ex.  He has had a LOT more nice days than not lately and I am sure that is a lot of her doing.  I do struggle with it on some levels because before she was in his life he didn't take as much of an interest in their lives, but I guess again that's a way that she's helping him.  That's not to say that he wasn't interested in our kids' lives, like I said, he loves them and for the most part is a pretty good dad when they're with him, but before she was in his life it wasn't strange for him to go a couple of weeks at a time without seeing them or cancelling on them a lot and a lot of that sort of thing.  Since she's been in his life his visits have been extremely regular.  On the one hand I think, why should you get to spend all this time with them now just for her sake when you didn't want to spend so much with them before, but I'm dealing with that on my own because I think that my girls can only benefit from it (unless she ever sees the light and leaves him... but that's a story for another day).

For the past couple of months he's been more agreeable than normal and the good days have definitely outnumbered the bad.  He was extremely cooperative in ironing out our crazy holiday schedule and I think that in the end everyone that wants a piece of the kids got to enjoy some sort of holiday fun with them.  And on top of that, I haven't been plagued with vicious phone calls and texts, and stressful children switches for a couple of months, for which I'm extremely grateful.  So it an attempt to be thankful for that, I decided to give a little back.

I still believe that he should be contributing more to their lives, their medical needs, their school needs, their activities, etc., but I doubt I'll see much change in that area in the future.  And I'm not going to change my opinion to the point where I'm buying enough school pictures each year for the both of us and just giving him half or making sure he has the schedule to each one of their events or activities he hasn't contributed to, but I will say that I could probably loosen up in this area a bit.  So as a gesture of good faith, I let him know that the girls are cheering for youth basketball right now, and have let him know the game schedule so he and his girlfriend and anyone else in his family that may be interested can go to the games and watch them cheer. 

This may not seem like a big step on my quest to Live My Best Life, but I assure you, it took a lot for me to offer this information without any insistence or assistance from him.  He didn't even know they were cheering for basketball right now so I could've easily just gotten us through the season without worrying about it, but I know that I need to make myself a better person.  Even if I don't completely feel like he deserves to have that information because he doesn't contribute, his being more agreeable and nice and less threatening and vicious has made a big difference in our lives and stress level lately, and that's just as important as financial assistance, if not more so.  It's worth it to me not to have to be arguing about everything all the time to provide a small bit of info that will let him enjoy another part of the girls' lives. 

So today (yesterday) was a small (not that small, really, for my ego, but small in the grand scheme of things) step towards Living My Best Life.  I am looking forward to more non-threatening collaborations with my ex in the future.  I'll keep you posted!

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