The Proof is in the Fritos

Late Monday afternoon I had the opportunity to enjoy a guilty pleasure.  My kids were gone.  I got a break from being a role model.  I sat at the table in front of my laptop reading blog posts, while dipping Fritos in chili.

It was a little slice of heaven.

Yes, that is a big deal for me.


I can’t eat when I’m nervous.

For the past four years, I haven’t been able to eat when my kids are with their dad.  In their absence, I pace across the floor, wring my hands, try to get something done, and spend the free time preparing myself for the worst.

In those days, not a one of us would have had an appetite after a Mark visit.  They’d return and begin pacing, venting, and sketching angry words to draw out their frustrations.  They’d plead with me to make excuses so they’d never have to go again.


Monday marked another new transition.


Mark took both kids and Will’s new buddy skiing.

This was monumental.

They were gone all day.

They got home just in time for dinner.  They didn’t need to vent.  They didn’t spread out on the floor and tell me how it was the worst day of their lives.  Will wasn’t blinking excessively.  They were animated and smiling.

They dived right into steaming plates of Fettuccine and Italian Cube Steaks.  Between bites, they told me tales of their day.

  • On the way to the hill, with a carload of kids, Mark stopped to pick up a couple candy bars for himself.  He didn’t by anything for the kids.  He ate a candy bar on the way up, and saved the other for the return trip.
  • When it was time for lunch, he let Jenny have a pop, and he told Will to have water.
  • He didn’t offer to buy lunch for Tim.
  • He ditched Jenny on one of the runs, to ski the trees, and then got frustrated with her for following him.
  • He talked to Jenny all day long in the baby voice.  They saw an acquaintance, and chatted for a bit, and the acquaintance teasingly parroted Mark’s sing-song voice when directing comments to Jenny.

So why was Monday a good day?

Mark hasn’t changed.

Jenny and Will have changed.  They’ve grown.  They’ve matured.  They have tools.  They can cope.

They can laugh at the rudeness of a parent who stops at a convenience store to buy candy for himself, and then eats it in front of others without offering to share.

Jenny can find her way down a ski hill now.  She doesn’t need to rely on her dad.

Will can see his dad for what he is.  He can find the good in an outing with his dad, and laugh off the stuff that used to send him reeling.

Jenny still hears the voice, but now she just rolls her eyes.  Will reminds Jenny that Mark loves her even if he treats her like a baby.

Two years ago, they’d have been telling me, through tears, “Obviously, he doesn’t love us, Mom.  Look at the weird way he treats us.  How can he love us when he acts like that?”

Now they accept Mark for who he is, and they don’t take his treatment personally.

With a lot of talking, a little maturity, and a bit of distance, some real progress has been made.


Pass the Fritos.


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  1. I’ll bring the guacamole! Do you have some cheese we can melt? This is serious cause for celebration!

  2. Kate,

    I’ve got the fixin’s. You get your butt over here.

    Seriously. I’m just glad Jen and Will have developed these tools now, instead of in their 40s, like me.

  3. Oh happy day! Glad that the kids are doing so well, pat yourself on the back!
    I can just see him stopping at the store, candy bars in hand, munch, munch, and not even having a thought that maybe his, HIS, dear children might want one also. Narcissists are a breed of their own, they all deserve each other… I’ve got one I can loan Mark… not loan, give… ha…

  4. And let me put this out there: YOU are the one who has helped them develop those tools. What a gal!!

  5. Annie,

    We were spinning our wheels for awhile there.

    We spent time wondering why or how he could be so selfish. Spent more time wondering if he could or would change.

    Now we know… It is what it is.

    We just have to remind ourselves to laugh about it.

  6. Pat,

    Yep. I’ll admit it even if it’s cliche, the change had to begin with me.

    Thank you for saying that.

  7. OMG! I’m doing a happy dance for you and the kids! This is such great news!

    I had to laugh at Mark buying candy bars for himself and not for the kids. But I am amazed and heartened by the fact that your kids can laugh at it too!

    This posted really lifted me. I am beginning to think my kids will be able to navigate their way though contact with their dad and still remain whole.

    You’re doing an excellent job Jesse! Thanks for sharing this wonderful progress!

    Hugs to you and your amazing children!

  8. Reese,

    Thank you! Thank you!

    I swear, it all comes down to communication. Talk, talk, talk to your kids, and listen to their hurts. But you know that. When they reach the age where they can handle the talk, you’ll be ready.

    p.s. I know I’m not the only one who would love an update on you, your two sweeties, and your new friend. :)

  9. We’re all doing fine. The kiddos are doing fine. They spend one day and night a week with their dad. They are still too young to really challenge him or express any independence yet, so I think they are safe from hurt for now. Their dad is still being nice to me. Really nice. I’d almost start to take it for granted if I didn’t know better.

    Me and the new friend are still an item. But he hinted on the weekend that he would like to have another child, and he wanted to know if I felt the same. I don’t feel the same. I want to be completely present for my two children because I know they may have a tough road ahead at times. So this may be a deal-breaker for me and new friend. In a way I’m thinking “Of course. New friend was too good to be true. ” But I’m going to give him time to figure out if he wants to stay even though he can’t have more children with me (he already has a 19-year old daughter who he loves).

    I’ll keep you posted…

  10. Reese,

    Thanks for the update. It sounds like things still continue to move along well for you. I’m glad.

    In a totally uncharacteristic move, I am NOT going to comment on your new friend, his feelings about a baby, and your reservations.

    *applies duct tape to fingers*

  11. This is such a great post.
    Fabulous lessons here, no one can make victims of us till we allow it. The learning curve can be long winded, but once we decide to be on the path of recovery, there’s no looking back. Sending you love and best wishes, N

  12. Natasha,

    What a pleasant surprise to see you here!

    Thanks for stopping by to cheer us along on our journey. You are so right about the learning curve, but with encouragement, it gets easier.

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