We all like to think our children are perfect little angels. And for the most part, my sweet baby is. Notice I said “for the most part.” She has been back from visiting her father for exactly two weeks and my precious Prinny has turned into a vision from The Exorcist. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme but I’m used to my child being my little cuddle bug, full of hugs and kisses and “I love you Mommy.” Lately….whew, lately that hasn’t been the case. I’ve chalked her behavior up to her simply needing an adjustment period, time for her to get used to the difference between her home here and her dad’s house. I’m starting to realize though that the adjustment period isn’t just for her. It’s for me too.
Before Prinny’s latest visit with her father, she had seen him approximately half a dozen times in five years. Never over night, never longer than a few hours at a time. Then, all of a sudden, I’m supposed to put her in a car, not with my ex-husband, but with his wife that Prinny has only met twice, and tell her good luck as she is driven twelve hours across the country to spend Christmas in a house she has never seen with people she barely knows. Just typing that…no wonder my poor baby is acting the way she is. We had less than a week to prepare for her spending the holidays in Texas and I swear, I should get an Oscar for that performance. My heart was breaking at the thought of not seeing my baby on Christmas but for her sake, I had to act like this was an exciting adventure, filled with fun and surprises. I was pulling every line I could think of from “You’ll get TWO Christmases, won’t that be fun?!” to “You’ll get to stay up late and spend time with Daddy.” The problem with that is, is that Prinny has never really known her father as “Daddy”. He doesn’t call, doesn’t write, doesn’t e-mail and now, Merry Christmas, he’s Father of the Year. I realize how bitter those words sound but as a mother, it is our job to protect our babies like a lion protects her young. You want to protect them from ever knowing hurt, shield them from the world, and if I could hold her in my arms until her wedding day, I would. So as a single parent, what are you supposed to do when your knee jerk reaction is to emotionally protect her from a man who’s supposed to be her protector as well? That’s a question I simply don’t have the answer to.
As of late, some have questioned my relationship with my ex-husband’s wife. We’ve been seemingly mortal enemies since she first came on scene and now, we’re flirting with the idea of a friendship. But honestly, can you blame me? A girlfriend made an offhanded comment about “keeping your friends close and your enemies closer” in regards to my relationship with this woman, but that’s not remotely the case. If Prinny’s father is going to have a relationship with our daughter, then it is safe to assume his wife will as well. Birthday parties, her wedding day, the day she has children of her own…this woman will be there for that. It’s easier for everyone involved if she and I can form some sort of friendship. And the thing is, I like her. God, if she reads this then she is sure to throw that in face ten years down the line but dang it, I do. She made a comment once that she felt “in another life, we could have been the best of friends.” Maybe she is as full of crap as I am but I’m starting to see her point. The woman makes Winnie the Pooh references on a daily basis and is way too cheery in the mornings but, I’ve got to hand it to her, she’s a pretty cool chick. I know that while Prinny was away from me, this woman was the one who fed her, bathed her, tucked her in at night and gave her kisses. That damn near breaks my heart thinking that another woman was doing my job but when I think about the alternative…I’m thankful for her. Granted, I still don’t trust her as far as I can throw her but I do know that she loves my daughter. And I know that if it weren’t for her, Prinny’s trip to Texas and subsequent attitude after the fact could have been a lot worse.
It took Prinny approximately one week to tell me “That’s not how I got to do it in Texas.” We were running around the house, late as usual, hurriedly trying to do her hair, tie her shoes, kiss the dog good-bye and grab her lunch when my precious baby dropped that bomb in the middle of our morning routine. I swear, I looked down at the kitchen floor to see if my heart had landed there because it certainly felt like she had just ripped it out. I know it sounds redundant but I can’t say it enough, for five years it has just been the two of us. For everything. No father around? Don’t worry, Mommy can coach soccer. Mommy can build you a bookshelf. Mommy can go hunting for frogs in the backyard. Mommy can because Mommy has always had to. Now, Daddy swoops in to save the day and Mommy is literally left holding a frog. The irony in that is just too much. I think I could deal with these mixture of emotions if I had the teeniest ounce of faith in my ex-husband. If only I believed that he was honest to goodness interested in being a full-time dad, not a fly by night parent. But Prinny has been home two weeks and her dad has called once. How do you explain that to a five year old? I think I would have a bad attitude about it too.
No one said being a single parent was easy. And before now, I’ve never really thought of myself that way. And my goodness, it just hit me but I’ve never thought of Prinny as a child with an absentee father. Goodness. For five years I’ve been operating under the mindset that the situation is what it is. We deal with it and move on. But when he appears and then disappears…I can only imagine the heartache it causes her. She is my world, the reason I live and breathe and I miss her when I’m away from her for more than a few hours. How on Earth can he handle floating in and out of her life? I wish I had a magic wand that could make everything better, that could make him the father she needs him to be but that’s a choice he’s going to have to make on his own. For the life of me though, I can’t understand it. I honestly thought that he would spend a week with her at Christmas and realize what an amazingly special little girl she is and fight me tooth and nail for custody. Looking at my baby’s face, seeing her react to her father making time for her when it’s convenient for him, I would almost welcome that. Anything is better than having to explain to my five year old that her daddy loves her even though he’s not around. God help me, but there’s not a manual for this. Until there is, I’m prepared to smother her in hugs and kisses, willing her to know that Mommy loves her no matter if she’s my perfect little angel or my scary little monster. I need her to know that no matter what her daddy does, Mommy will always be here for her. I just hope that’s enough.0