“What do I have to do to be good enough so dad will love me?” “How come I have such a bad dad?” “My life won’t be good without a good dad.” And to that I said, “Honey, do I have a bad life? How am I doing? I have a pretty darned good life, don’t I?” And through alligator tears Jenny said, “It’s just not fair. When are you going to get us a real dad?” I wanted to say, “Well it’s not like I can put a post on Craig’s List saying, “Need one great dad for two amazing little people. Must like listening, Barbies, joke telling, card trick teaching, golfing, fishing, bow hunting, skiing and relating. Don’t need husband. Narcissists need not apply.”
And so we continue this bizarre odyssey of trying to navigate a relationship with a guy who is completely clueless about how to relate to his kids.
Mark purchased a new set of golf clubs, new hiking boots, and is shopping for new running shoes for Will. Nice, right? He took Jenny to get a pair of earrings, and said, “Some day I’ll have to get you a bike.” Then he turned to me and said, “Does she need new shoes?” He was standing right next to Jen, but he didn’t ask her that question. Jen looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t have any good running around shoes.” But he didn’t hear her. He wasn’t listening for an answer to the question he’d asked.
Instead of relating to or listening to his beautiful kids, he buys them things. This isn’t a new thing for divorced couples. But most divorced adults might be cognizant enough to realize that the gift buying should approach fairness, to some degree.
Now, of course, Jen thinks that Mark loves Will more. Will is crying because he feels bad for his sister.
And I am struggling with ‘loving’ this ridiculous struggle.
I made an appointment with the counselor for next week. Not for me. For the kids. I got off the phone and realized that we are still jumping through hoops for Mark. We are working on this for Mark. We are going to counseling for Mark. And then I think of the times that we don’t have to deal with Mark – the peace, the ease, the lack of stress and tears.
I once read something from someone (damn it, I can’t remember where or who) and it continues to float to the surface of my pool of thoughts. It went something like this: “While many think venting is a healthy way to express anger or hurts, it is the venting that prevents us from acting.” I initially disagreed with that sentiment. For selfish reasons, I continue to vehemently defend venting. Hello. This whole blog is about venting. Venting has been my outlet for years. But I kept thinking about it. I started to see that venting was like continually opening the oven door when you’re baking something, or lifting the lid of the pot of a gently simmering stew. Each time you lift the lid or open the oven door, you let out either steam or heat, and you slow the cooking process. If you leave the door closed and the lid on, the cooking can finish. Each time I vent, I release the stress and pressure, thereby allowing myself to continue the struggle. If I quit venting *gasp* the pressure would build, and it might actually bring me to some real action.
Maybe that action would propel us out of this struggle. Maybe it would direct us into a new stream, or guide us onto a new path.
And like my aunt said the other day, “Should you maintain this zip code just to prove a point. And at what cost?”
We’ve now taken our venting to a professional level. We are seeing a counselor. Mark isn’t scheduled for more sessions. The kids are. This is beyond insane.
In this dream, that I had on vacation, and can’t quit thinking about, I am driving the three of us home from the ski hill. We are all safely buckled in, and we are laughing about our ski day. I follow the bends in the road, and up ahead I see a fellow that Mark knows. He is standing in the middle of the road, smiling with his hands in his pocket. I slow the car way down so I can veer around him, and the kids and I are saying, “Geez, guy, what the heck are you doing in the middle of the road.” I didn’t stop to ask if he’d lost his mind. We just got around him and kept on our way. But I kept looking over my shoulder thinking I’d see him come to his senses and move to the side of the roadway. Only he didn’t. Between looking over my shoulder and looking in the rear view mirror, I lost sight of the road. The last glimpse in the mirror was of the guy pointing in Mark’s direction. I didn’t see Mark, but in the language of dreams, I knew that the guy was pointing at Mark. And because I was so preoccupied with the guy pointing at Mark, and because my eyes weren’t on the road, I drove the car off the shoulder of the road.
We plunged 30 feet to the creek bed below. I felt the slamming impact and heard the loud crunch of metal. And then silence.
I looked back at the kids. They were staring at me with this look that said, “What the hell happened?” They were fine. We all caught our breath, checked each other for breaks or blood or bruising. We didn’t really say anything. We just felt our arms and legs and heads for injuries, all the while in complete silence.
I attempted to start the car. It started right up as if nothing had ever happened. I put on the park break, got out to check for damage, looking under the car. There was nothing! The tires were fine, the whole car looked completely intact. The engine was purring and I got back in and said to the kids, “The car is fine. I can still drive it, but we’ll have to get someone to pull us up the side of the bank, back onto the road.”
And I woke up.
I thought about this unsettling dream for two days before I figured out the symbolism.
I have been so focused on Mark and all this stuff with Mark, that I have lost sight of where the kids and I are headed. And each and every time we ‘drive off the road’, we are stuck waiting for someone to come and help us. Our family helps, our friends help, and now we are looking to the counselor for help.
It’s time to quit venting and take some real action.