It’s heartbreaking to me that my son’s first real example of hate in his life is his father’s hate for me.
Yesterday was a mess. Well, the whole first half of the day was great – we all slept in, got up and went to the pool, swam around and practiced diving and read books under an umbrella. It was a beautiful day.
But the afternoon just turned into a series of unfortunate events.
First Unfortunate Event:
I was mixed up on drop-off locations — I thought I was dropping my kid off at his grandparent’s house. I misread an email from my exhusband.
Second Unfortunate Event:
We forgot Harrison’s medication at my house. Thankfully, we realized this after only driving for 15 minutes, but this meant that we had to drive 15 minutes home to get it, which put us 30 minutes behind schedule. As soon as I realized we forgot the medication, I called my exhusband’s parents and, when they didn’t answer, I left them a message let them know I was going to be about 30 minutes late.
Third Unfortunate Event:
I knew that I was low on gas, but thought I’d have enough to get to where I needed to drop him off before I needed to fill up… Because of the extra driving, my get-fuel light came on about half way to their house. Tack on an additional 7 minutes to my tardiness.
Fourth Unfortunate Event:
The kid wanted to play games on my phone, so we turned my phone to airplane mode so that he could only play games that didn’t require data usage while we were driving and away from wifi. This meant my phone was essentially off … And I didn’t even KNOW it – this is the first time we experimented with airplane mode.
Fifth Unfortunate Event:
My exhusband’s mother is physically disabled, so when we got to their house and knocked and knocked, we knew we’d probably need to wait for some time so that she would have time to get to the door. After ten minutes of knocking, we started to worry a bit, so I pulled my phone out and went to call their house again.
This is when I realized that my phone was essentially off. I flipped airplane mode off and ping-ping-ping-ping four text messages from my exhusband.
6:07 :: Inside
We usually meet at a Best Buy for pickup. So he was telling me that he was inside.
6:15 :: What is your ETA?
6:19 :: Hello?
6:27 :: Where are you and why aren’t you communicating?
My stomach dropped into the floor. Oh, shit. It was now 6:30.
So I immediately called him, the first thing out of my mouth, “I am so sorry!”
He laid into me… Started yelling at me and berating me, I interjected and said, “Let me explain,” and he snapped back, “No! I’m talking now.”
So I hung up the phone.
Maybe that wasn’t the best move, but when you have a history of verbal abuse with an exhusband, you lean on whatever coping mechanisms you’ve got. The only way to take control of the situation and remove myself from a harmful environment was to hang the phone up.
So, we pointed the car in the direction of Best Buy, ten minutes away. While en route, my phone pinged again.
6:39 :: You are not communicating with me, there are people waiting on us and I cannot sit here any longer since you’re not communicating, answering the phone, responding to text… I have no idea what is going on. I’m heading back to the Mall of GA. You can bring Harrison to me there or you can make arrangements for him this week.
Wait… What? He was willing to give up a week with his kid because we made him late for dinner plans? This rattled me and, as I’m realizing more and more, the trauma I experienced in the years of our relationship and the decade after we split up, when I get rattled by old triggers, I don’t have many tools in my arsenal to deal with things. This is something I need to remedy.
So, this is where I made another mistake. Given that I was headed to Best Buy, but his text told me he would be 15 minutes further north. I didn’t know where he’d be at the Mall of GA. I was rattled and zipping down the interstate now, so I asked Harrison to call his dad and ask him where he’d be at the Mall of GA.
He said, “Hi, dad. It’s Harrison. Where are you going to be?” I sat next to my kid and listened to my exhusband tell my son how inconsiderate and irresponsible I was and my kid, with tears running down his face, squeak out, “Yes, sir.” I then listened as it sounded like he passed the phone to his wife and she took a turn berating me and my son squeaked out, “Okay.”
He hung up the phone and did not know where we were supposed to be going. His father and stepmother were so intent on making sure he knew what a fuck up I was, that they didn’t answer his only question.
They didn’t hear him at all.
Sixth Unfortunate Event:
Sidebar: My kid and have had several conversations with regard to his father’s and his stepmother’s continual abusive language about me in front of the kid and directly to the kid. It really hurts him and puts him in a really weird spot because he loves both of his parents and he doesn’t understand all the layers upon layers of things that have caused us to be in this position. We’ve talked about strategies to sidestep the conversation, being asked to be excused or removing himself from where the conversation is happening. We’ve talked about speaking up and saying, “I don’t want you to say these things,” and each time, he’s told me that he doesn’t think he has the courage to speak up to his father.
At this point, my kid has witnessed all of these unfortunate events happening one by one and watched the whole afternoon fall apart. But when his dad is repeatedly telling him how irresponsible and inconsiderate I am on the phone, he doesn’t speak up. He doesn’t interject. He doesn’t offer up any reasoning for why things have happened the way that they have happened. He just silently cries and says, “Yes, sir.”
And I snap at him about how I wish he had the courage to speak up. He cried some more and I immediately apologized. I told him that even I had a hard time speaking up with his father and how could I expect him to have the courage to do it if my solution to dealing with the yelling was just to hang up the phone.
Augh, I felt terrible. How did the whole day get so fucked up?
Another text ping on my phone.
6:53 :: It’s one thing to make mistakes, it is another thing to be irresponsible and inconsiderate. Whatever the problem has been for the last 40 minutes, you have not answered your phone or your text. Or call to let me know that there was any problem. Harrison has his bags packed in our car for vacation. There are 5 people waiting on us. We worked out all the logistics of who would meet where and when revolving around an established meeting time and place with you, and you really dropped the ball. No communication with me whatsoever. We will be at Tin Lizzy’s at Mall of Georgia. Waiting for you to bring him.
At this point, I feel like I’m going to be nauseous. The adrenaline is pumping hard and my phone rings as I’m getting off the exit ramp of the highway. It’s my exhusband telling me where to drop him off since I was, “still not answering his texts,” while I was driving 70 miles per hour on an interstate.
I pull over into the mall parking lot and punch in Tin Lizzy’s in my GPS. The restaurant is not inside of the mall, but is in a courtyard that is directly adjacent to the mall… Therefore, the address that the GPS is registering is just the general address of the mall.
Seventh Unfortunate Event:
Harrison and I are both frantic at this point, having been jerked into an emotional panic by the verbal abuse and the stress of not being able to find this damn restaurant. We circle the area that the GPS is telling us to go and it’s literally like, “Make a U-Turn. Turn left, turn right. Make a U-Turn.”
This restaurant is not here. I pull back over and I just can’t handle the emotions any longer. I take a few deep breaths and the tears just start falling. Harrison leaps up and wraps his arms around my neck and tells me, “It’s not right that he says mean things about you behind your back.”
We have a discussion about it. He says, “I don’t understand why he hates you so much.”
And I want to tell him why I think his dad hates me. I wanted to open up the box of secrets about who his dad was before he “grew up” and got married and moved to the suburbs. I wanted to open up with him about the shame I think his father carries with him from the second time we went to court because he sued for me for custody and the judge really gave it to him hard. But I kept all of that stuff inside and said, “Your dad is not a bad guy…”
And my eleven year old kid’s response, “But he’s not a good guy either.”
Eventually, we realized that we’d need to drive around a bit to find the restaurant. At 7:15 he got out of my car and went to meet his cousin and Nona.
I’m trying to think back to the first time I witnessed real hate… And honestly, I think I was like 25 or 26 years old, if you don’t count the hate that I experienced from my exhusband after our marriage. I was dating a black man and experienced racism for the first time when a black woman shoved me in a grocery store because, “All the good brothers were taking white bitches.”
That my son recognizes and understands hate at 11 years old and his example for it is his father’s hate for his mother is seriously fucked up.
I still feel sick about the whole situation this morning.