Sometimes your the bug. -The Bug Lyrics
Mary Chapin Carpenter
A month ago, we told Mark that his scheduled visits weren’t working for us.
He had been the one to print the calendars and assign the visit days and hours per visit. He delivered the calendars sometimes two months in advance and, in most cases, refused to be flexible saying, “The calendar was printed two months ago. The kids know the schedule. There will be no changes or cancellations.”
Life doesn’t work that way – especially with curious, creative, active young people.
Cousins come to town and want to spend every waking – heck, even the sleeping – moment with cousins they see only once a year.
Friends call with invites to fish or solve mysteries or paint or golf or just hang out all day without plans.
We are blessed to live close to extended family who seem to like us enough to attempt to include us in their plans. Mark, however, believed that he should be a priority and that the kids should have to opt out of extended family fun because he should take precedence.
In the real world – not the narcissist’s version of the real world – if the phone rings, you might adjust your schedule, at the last minute, to go to that barbecue. You don’t answer with, “Gee, I’d love to come for barbecued ribs, but I’m supposed to stay home and dote on dad tonight.”
Since the first schedule, the kids had never looked forward to the Dad Visits. The visits were made worse when spending time with dad meant they missed out on a sleepover at a cousin’s, a day at the pool, or a field trip with grandma and grandpa.
It’s not real life to expect everyone to plan their schedules around the kids’ Dad Visits.
It is real life to have a schedule that includes a basic framework of expected visits, but one that also allows flexibility for both parties.
Also, Mark’s summer calendar included one extra long day per week. Both Mark and the kids anticipated those days like you anticipate a root canal. No one was having any fun.
One month into summer and the kids were begging me to end the visits. Not only am I not in a position to do that, I won’t do that. I still firmly believe that they need to learn to deal with their dad.
But something had to be done.
Under the advisement of some close family members, I came up with a new plan – one that would give us control over our schedule.
We had never had control over the schedule.
I nervously presented Mark with a new plan.
I told him which three days of the week the kids would be available, and which hours worked best. I took into consideration his work days and selected days similar to what he had chosen in the past. I asked that he commit to two of those days, and that he let us know the weekend before.
I also asked that the kids not be punished for having to change the schedule if something came up at the last minute. That doesn’t mean the kids can cancel if grandpa suddenly calls and has time to hit some range balls. That’s not fair to Mark. But the kids should be able to cancel for reasons that warrant a change – unexpected company or a forgotten birthday party invite.
Mark would be afforded the same flexibility.
At first, Mark accused me of trying to manipulate him.
Then he asked, “If I commit to this new plan, are you going to yank it out from under me?”
The first couple of visits were strained. He played the part of the martyr on the phone and in person.
I reminded myself that it’s never easy for a narcissist to give up control.
Now, a month later, things are settling a bit. The kids seem less shell-shocked after a visit. Mark has actually called a couple times to invite Will to do an all-day adventure. One time Will went, the other time he passed.
Our new schedule does not rule out the possibility of long summer day visits, but this new schedule does not make those long days mandatory.
The kids aren’t feeling as trapped. They don’t fear that they will miss out on other fun. They have some control.
I’m not saying that it’s great to be the windshield, especially when Mark is the bug. (Hell, I would have relished saying that four years ago.)
I am not saying that I’ll never be the bug again. We know how life works. There will be plenty of opportunities to be both.
I’m also not saying, “Damn, why didn’t I come up with this three years ago?” I’m not saying that because the time wasn’t right then.
Now it’s our turn to be the windshield.
And it’s a beautiful day for a drive.