The Universe wrapped her arm around me Wednesday evening. I felt her warm breath on my ear.
This is what I heard her say:
“Listen, Honey, you’ve done a fine job. I’m proud of you for doing your best. I know this was hard for you. You got through to him as much as you possibly can. He’s injured, Dear, and you can’t do anything about it. You knew that when you married him, and you know that now.
You can rest easy in the knowledge that you have done as much as you possibly can. I don’t expect any more from you. Now you must focus your energies on caring for yourself and your children. You have avoided the negativity as long as you could. You tried tenderness and compassion.
It’s time for you to move on.”
Tuesday evening, Mark called and the kids didn’t want to talk to him. A long, tense, unproductive phone conversation culminated in my inviting him to join us for home school lessons the next morning.
What the hell was I thinking?
Again, he said he wanted to be involved. Again, I gave him an opportunity to show us that he wants to be involved.
We weren’t sure if he’d really show up.
At 8:28, Wednesday morning, his car pulled up.
By 8:31, the kids were heading up the hill to grandma’s.
Mark looked at me and said, “Make them come back here.” I said, “I can’t duct tape them to the couch.” He said, “Make them come back here for their lessons.” I looked at him, my hands raked through my hair in the way I always do when I’m stressed, and I said, “Mark, I’m trying to tell you… they don’t want to be around you.”
A three hour conversation ensued.
I explained that he can’t control the kids the way he tried to control me. I gave him examples of how the controlling backfired with his two older boys, with me, and now with Jen and Will. I explained that I understood that he was clingy, suffocating and controlling because of his upbringing. I spoke compassionately about how his childhood was so difficult. I pleaded with him to see that his hardships didn’t need to direct his parenting.
I explained, over and over again, that if you choke someone, they can’t be free to love you. If he demands that Jen and Will love him, he’ll alienate them.
I suggested that a man of faith should be able to trust that his kids’ love for him would rise to the surface, if he would give it a chance.
I thought he was connecting with me.
I proposed a plan that would keep the lines of communication open through calls and emails, but without the demands of scheduled visits. I speculated that when Jen and Will weren’t backed into a corner, they’d be able to breathe easier, and would consider approaching their dad on their own.
Naturally, Mark was not comfortable with relinquishing control, but he sounded as if he would give this a try, especially when considering the nastiness of the alternatives.
I conveyed my deep desire that this mess be resolved in such a way that the four of us could grow from this experience. I stressed that a harmonious resolution would benefit Jen and Will and further them along on their journey to being great people. “Mark, let’s show them what compassionate, caring adults can do if they put aside their egos and do what’s right for the kids.”
By Wednesday afternoon, I felt the most hope (scary, I know) that I’d felt in a long time. I sensed a turning. Physically, I felt as though I’d been hit by a truck. The intensity of the conversation completely sapped my energy. But emotionally, I was soaring.
I knew I’d sleep well. I knew the Universe would be proud of me. I was proud of me. I dared to be encouraged and optimistic.
Part of me – that part that hides behind the dusty filing cabinet in my brain – secretly wondered if I’d pegged Mark wrong. Maybe he wasn’t really a narcissist. Maybe he was just a broken guy, with a crappy childhood, who desperately searched for love.
Thursday morning’s inbox contained emails addressed to the kids, from Mark.
He doesn’t believe that my plan will work, but he’s willing to give it a try. He doesn’t think it’s right for a dad to not be able to see his kids when he wants. They have to know how difficult it was for him to… how hard it is for him to ….. how sad he is that …… how all he wants is …… how he just doesn’t understand how they wouldn’t want to be with him….
The Universe read the kids’ email over my shoulder.
During our second cup of coffee she said, “Well, Sweetie, that’s tough. He says he’s going to try, but you don’t know for how long. You’re still swimming upstream in limbo. You aren’t going to feel great today. Your psyche is bruised. Yesterday’s talk took a lot out of you.
You’ll have your strength back tomorrow.
You know what to do. You’ve done your best.”
I do feel better today.
I do know what to do. We’ll let Mark give it a try. We’ll see how this shakes out.
When this phase ends, we’ll move.