The Picnic Table

picnic-tablea dream… Every so often, one of us would lose grip on our side of the table, and the legs would scrape against the sidewalk.  The scraping sound seemed to echo in this warm, starlit night.  It was close to midnight, and there wasn’t a hint of a breeze.  I found myself wishing for a wind that would muffle the sounds of our shuffling and scraping.  The three of us were carrying a large picnic table from house to house, sneaking into garages, trying to find a can of paint.

We were on a frantic mission to get this beat up old table painted.  And we were scared to death of getting caught.  I kept whispering encouragement.  Jenny was crying and pleading to go home.  Will’s eyes were doing that nervous tic/blinking thing, but he was not going to give up.  If I said we needed to paint this damn table, then he was going to help me get it done.

We’d drag our table into a garage and quickly scan the shelves for a can of paint.  My heart was racing, I was breathing hard, and I was terrified that we’d wake someone and get caught on our mission.  I kept looking at Will and Jenny, trying to gauge how much longer I’d be able to get them to help.  My panic was made worse by the fact that I knew I shouldn’t be forcing my kids to do this.  I knew that a good mom wouldn’t put her kids in such a precarious situation.  They were doing as I told them to do.  They were frightened and exhausted.

After we left the fourth garage, without a can of paint, I woke up.


I had that dream about 10 days ago.  I remember waking up and thinking, “For God’s sake, woman, why didn’t you just wait until morning, go to Home Depot and buy a can of paint.”  The dream was reminiscent of those ones that I’ve had about frantically trying to do/be/fix/take care of/satisfy.  You know, the hamster on the spinning wheel kind of dream.  The dream that has me running in circles and getting no where fast.

But in the days that followed, the symbolism became obvious.

In my efforts to fix/take care of/facilitate Jenny and Will’s relationship with their dad, I’ve been dragging them along with me. They have expressed their concerns about spending time with their dad.  They often don’t want to deal with any of this, or with Mark.  But I keep looking for a way that they can have a relationship with Mark.

And I should be shot for that.

First of all, I know, and have said and written before, that it is not my job to facilitate their relationship with their dad.  And while I have made it clear that I am not going to do that anymore, I’ve noticed that I keep falling back  into my role as facilitator.  I keep asking them what they want, what they want me to do, how they would like me to handle things for them.

In the meantime, I finally realized that I need to take charge.  I need to handle this without further burdening them with the details.  Yes, we will still have open discussions about their feelings.  But, those discussions will be prompted by them.  I will field calls.  I will answer emails.  I will establish boundaries.

And I will firmly tell Mark when a 7 hour visit is 5 hours too long.  I meant to say that I will not let visits become like my dream of the picnic table, with the inevitable eye-blinking and tears.

We will not be held hostage in our own home.

And in light of the fact that Mark is now working with a counselor, I can see that my recent progress in taking charge and meeting the train head on will benefit Will and Jenny.  They do need to know how to deal with Mark.  They will continue to develop more tools.  I will share the relevant points with them, but not the unnecessary, epic-long emails, the complete transcripts of counseling sessions, or lengthy details of phone calls.

At this point, it is time for Mark to do some real work.

Jenny and Will need to be secure in the knowledge that I will protect them, I will handle the bullshit, and I won’t make them drag the table to one more garage.

Related Post

When Kindred Spirits Have Coffee "I can't believe we haven't really talked since before we were both married." "... and divorced." "Yeah.  That, too.  So how are you doing with it all...  the being divorced?" "Well, I'm sleeping.  I'm eating.  My stomach doesn't hurt all th...
The Flow Has A Plan When I tuck Will in at night, he wants to know how many pages he should read before he turns out the light.  He wants to know the plan for the next day.  He wants to know if he will be allowed a cup of coffee.  He wants to know what we'll be doing fo...
Waiting When her babies were small, she had an urge to knit tiny striped mittens with pink and green and purple fuzzy yarns.  Now her kids wouldn't be caught dead wearing handmade mittens.  Friends were having babies who needed their precious hands protected...
This Wasn’t The Plan This wasn't the plan - to be a single mom in my 50s, raising kids by myself. I had planned to be happily married at this point.  I thought we'd all ski together and travel together and watch movies together.  I thought he and I would marvel at how b...

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment