Yes, my children think that I’m an alcoholic. It came up one night when my girls were in my bedroom. I try to keep my bedroom nice, as a retreat for me. I didn’t realize that it would attract my female offspring. They keep their rooms like hoarders-in-training but come to my room to relax. It’s just not fair . . . but I digress . . .
One night when they were lounging in my room one daughter told me she thinks I’m an alcoholic.
“What? Why?” I asked, completely shocked.
“Well, a recovering alcoholic,” she clarified, and further explained, “I’ve never seen you drink.'” She pointed out that she’d seen my sisters and my best friend drink but, “You never do, Mommy.”
“Even Daddy drinks,” she added. I must have made a face of some sort because she quickly said, “But not too much.”
She went on, “But Mommy you never drink so I figured — you can’t. And you never have alcohol in the house. What grown up never has alcohol in the house?”
Well damn. The kid has it all figured out. Her sisters chimed in and agreed. “Oh yeah, I thought that, too,” said one. “Me too,” said another. The one I call “The Quirky One” just smiled.
“But I’m not an alcoholic!” I protested.
“Recovering alcoholic, mom,” she corrected me.
Sooo. My kids think I’m an alcoholic because I don’t drink. Yup, It’s very difficult to prove that you are not a recovering alcoholic if someone thinks you are.
Am I going to have to throw a few back at the dinner table just to show my kids I’m not a drunk? Bring a six-pack to the High School Football game maybe? Down a Bloody Mary at breakfast?
Damn kids don’t know my life.
The truth is, except for the college years I’ve never been much of a drinker. My ex-husband was absolutely and totally against drinking, see My High School Self and The Night I Became Cinderella. I didn’t make my own decisions about it, Instead, I followed his lead since he had very strong opinions that theoretically made sense. He had come from a family that had been plagued by substance abuse. Most of his siblings have had issues, serious issues. Even his mother, her first and second husbands, and his estranged father reportedly had bouts with addiction. He’d seen some bad things caused by alcohol or drugs and feared the propensity for addiction might be hereditary. I’d seen the effects on his family and vowed never to expose my own children to that lifestyle. So he and I were going to be different. I didn’t drink, except at college where I drank behind his back with my college friends whom he never really liked. After we were married we only kept alcohol in the house for holidays. Bottles of hard alcohol collected dust on top of the cabinets until they were wiped clean and set out at Christmas. We were definitely not a “wine with dinner” family. My husband and I shared a few drinks over the years, but by and large I completely missed the typical partying or bar hopping of youth and the happy hours of the young professionals. Then came the pregnancy and breastfeeding years where I had to abstain anyway — so it’s been years since I’ve been any kind of drinker.
No matter, after double-digit years of marriage and five children my husband left me. I could do whatever I damn well pleased.
Unfortunately, at the time that meant taking anti-depressants.
Fact: You’re not supposed to drink when taking anti-depressants. So, I didn’t. I follow directions, you see. I’m obedient like that. No drinks for me while I was on the meds.
No matter, after a very difficult “discontinuation period” (aka “withdrawal”), I’m off the anti-depressants. Technically, or should I say, medically, I can drink now. Hooray, hooray!
But I still don’t drink.
First, I’m a complete lightweight. After not drinking for years, I can’t hold my liquor. Half a drink and I’m tipsy, and not in a good way.
Second, since I roll solo most of the time, I’m always my own designated driver so . . . can’t drink.
Third, now is not the time to start having alcohol at home, not with a house full of teenagers.
And fourth, I’m the custodial parent of five children. I’ve got responsibilities, I can’t sit at the local bar with friends every night. That ship has sailed. I missed it. Damn it.
So yeah, I’m free to do what I want now — except that I’m not, not exactly, not really. Story of my life . . . but I digress . . .
But this is what kills me — my formerly anti-social, teetotaler, judgmental ex-husband is now the life of the party. After years of telling me that drinking was wrong, that he was afraid of addiction, that he didn’t think kids should be exposed to alcohol — now he drinks and to our kids, he’s the normal one . . . but me? Me?
Hello, I’m Mommy and I’m an alcoholic.
Just Me With . . . a drink in my hand. It’s coffee.
It begs the question: If my girls think that because they’ve never seen me drink I must be an alcoholic, what do they think about the fact that they’ve never seen me date? I mean, their Dad has found love and remarried. I, on the other hand, have not. I abstain, or so it may seem. The girls probably think I don’t occasionally enjoy the company of a man (or keep one in the house) because I’m either: (1) still heartbroken about their Dad, or (2) have herpes.
Humph. Offensive, either way.
Related: Getting Off The Meds
The social worker said, “She wants to break you.” She, being my daughter.
The reasons why there is a social worker in my house are beyond what I feel like writing about now. But know that it was my reaching out for help, not a protective services situation. My daughter is struggling with anger and depression and literally ran — I mean ran from traditional counseling. You haven’t lived until you’ve chased a child around a therapist’s office, but I digress. Consequently, I sought another route which brings professionals to the house.
Over the years I had done what I was supposed to do. I told the children what they needed to know about the separation and divorce and move based on their age and capacity to understand. I did not talk about the legal aspects of it. The children never knew that I suffered through dealing with various court filings (actually for me I was usually responding to my husband’s filings) and court appearances. They don’t know about the financial and professional ruin and my poor health. They were too little, it was appropriate to shield them. The younger ones don’t seem to remember my good old-fashioned nervous breakdown and years, literally — years of tears. I suppose that’s good. I know it’s good. When my children are grown and thinking back on their childhood and mother I don’t want them to recall an image of me lying on the kitchen floor sobbing. That’s not cool.
She has stated that her misery is because we moved from the big marital home in the nice neighborhood, but I think it’s more. I agree, she wants to break me. I believe she thinks any appearance of strength or acceptance on my part somehow negates her feelings of loss. The more comfortable I get with leaving the old life — the old house, the more miserable she seems.
What she doesn’t know is that I’m already broken, I broke down long ago, my loss was substantial. For the last few years I’ve just been in survival and repair mode, with medications and counseling as needed, along with a fair amount of carpentry. As the children have gotten older I’ve enhanced explanations and have told them they can ask me anything and I will respond (age appropriately). I’ve explained why we had to move, and why we moved to where we are now . . . but she’s too young and too miserable right now to hear it.
Still, she is old enough to know that our move to a much smaller house in a poor neighborhood is not merely a new adventure; she can see that we have taken a step down, socio-economically. She also knows that her Dad also has a new life — with new people in it — and that’s just the way it is.
But, without acceptance of it all, it stinks.
Plus, my daughter is savvy, suspicious, practical and depressed enough to outright reject the “positive spin” talk. I’ve tried. She’ll need a different angle. She’s a lot like me that way.
And let’s face it, misery loves company, and she wants me to be miserable and angry, too. (I am, but I try not to show it.)
Though I’m thankful she feels comfortable enough with me to express her feelings, especially since she is uncomfortable with her Dad, I still want to (but won’t) say,
“Don’t break me, girl. You need me, more than you know. I’m all you got. I am not invincible. I am human, even though I am your mother. Don’t break me. Please. I’ve been broken before, you don’t remember — but it ain’t pretty.“
So when I recently tweeted, “I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry” after the heart wrenching session with my daughter and the social worker, it was because it hurt me to my soul and I feared that if I cried I would never stop. I know, sounds overly dramatic, but sometimes . . . it is.
Just Me With . . . some struggles.
Thankfully, my kids have all been healthy. Their gross motor skills developed early. Translated, that means as toddlers they were (are still) runners, climbers and jumpers.
Once somebody gave me one of those big plastic houses kids are supposed to play house in. I had space inside so I put in it the family room. Not once did my girls play house in it. No, no. They did, however, stand on top of it and jump off, repeatedly. Had to get rid of it. That cute little house was a safety hazard for my twins, two of whom I call Thelma and Louise . . . but I digress.
We had a long informal dining table, also given to us. With the leaves attached it sat eight people. It was just the size we needed. However, according to my Olympic monkey children it was also long enough to run across. Again, a safety hazard. The table wasn’t that long and once the toddler runs and reaches the end? BAM! No, this was not going to work. I’d caught the kids right before falls on previous table running attempts but sooner or later my luck would run out. My daily goal back then was just to stay out of the Emergency Room (and off the Six O’clock news).
Still, I needed a table, so it could not suffer the fate of the play house. The table and the children must learn to co-exist safely. But the children were still little, they were at that age where I could really only chase behind them. They had no concept of consequences, danger, or any real responsiveness to my voice — they were all,
“Oh I can run, I can climb. Therefore, I will run and I will climb — all the time.”
And all my parental, “No, Stop! Wait!!” and all that jazz — meant nothing.
Absolutely, nothing. Say it again, y’all . . .
Back to the problem. How to keep the girls off the table? (Later it’ll be how to keep them off the pole, but I digress again.) They could only get on the table by first climbing on the chairs, but simply moving the chairs away from the table had not worked. These minions simply pushed them back to the table and climbed up, then a sibling would follow and in a blink of an eye, I had a line-up of miniature Village People looking toddlers on a table.
No, no. I needed something more secure.
I think it started with a jump rope. No, I didn’t tie the children up (not then, heh heh heh).
But after every meal, I would push the chairs in, grab a rope, thread it through the chairs around the table and tie them up in a nice knot.
The children’s fine motor skills had not developed enough to untie the rope. They weren’t (yet) strong enough to pull the chairs away, though they tried.
I didn’t realize how weird it was until a friend from out-of-town came to visit. We sat at the table together, ate, fed the kids. When we were finished I cleared the table, got out the rope and proceeded to tie the chairs around the table while we were chatting away.
She stopped talking and said, carefully, slowly, like talking to a crazy person:
“What are you . . . doing?’
Oh snap, sometimes you don’t know how strange and dysfunctional you are until there is someone to see it.
Me: “You mean you don’t tie your chairs together after every meal?”
Sometimes the kids did listen to me, even when I didn’t want them to. See, “Momma said, No!“
Here’s a fun fact: As children grow they develop fine motor skills.
So I did what everybody does, I told him, scolded him really:
“Do not ever unbuckle your car seat. It is not safe. Do you understand me? You will get a time-out for that! It is very, very, very important. Do you understand? ”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Him: “Yes, Momma.” He still called me Momma then.
He could tell when Momma wasn’t messing around. I was using my stern voice, my serious face and my angry eyes. Mission accomplished.
But my little Houdini is not my only kid. I had had five kids in all. The three-year-old was just the oldest. Twin girls, twice, came after. Yes, They are Twins, Yes, they are Twins, Too. Consequently, we didn’t get out much. Taking a preschooler, two toddlers and two infants to any store — well, this was not an outing that a person takes lightly. So sometimes when I had to run errands and my mother was with me we would buckle the kids in the car and my mom would stay with them while I would run in and out of stores. It got us out of the house, sometimes the kids would get their naps using this method, and it gave me a little break.
The very next day after the car seat unbuckling incident and lecture, my mom and I decided to load the kids and run some errands. We pulled into the local pharmacy and I ran in. As per usual, my Mom stayed with them in the car. I was gone only a few minutes.
When I came out, my mom was standing outside of the car, all five kids were still strapped in — inside.
The doors were closed.
“This can’t be good,” I thought.
My mother was distraught. Almost in tears.
“I can’t get in.” She said. “The babies started to cry and I got out to calm them down. I — I — I — closed the door . . . and now it’s locked.”
We, the adults, were locked out. The children were locked in. Turns out I was right. This wasn’t good. The keys were in the car.
I tried not to panic. After all, the car was running and the air conditioning was on, so they wouldn’t cook in there . . . but still, it’s not good to leave five children alone in a car and I didn’t know how much gas I had.
Options: I could run home and get an extra set of keys. But that would take too long, and my mother was losing it. I didn’t want to leave her alone with the kids. My husband was never really available during the day and worked too far away, anyway. I could call my Dad to do it, but he’s hard to get a hold of . . . so . . . I guess I’d have to call the police to break into the car. This was not a proud moment. “Why? Why, do I ever leave the house?” I wondered.
Well, hello there, Mr. Panic.
Then I remembered — my son — the big boy, the one who has motor skills!!! The boy can get out of his car seat and unlock the door!!! He has the ability. He has the manual dexterity. I’ve seen him do it — just yesterday. “It was worth a try,” I thought.
And so . . . one day after having scolded the boy for unbuckling his car seat and making him promise never to do it again —
I begged, “Honey,” I spoke kindly but loudly through the closed window, “Momma wants you to UNBUCKLE YOUR CAR SEAT and UNLOCK the door!”
He looked away from me. “Clearly,” his three-year-old mind must have reasoned, “This is some sort of test and I’m not going to fall for it, nope nope.”
I cooed, “No Honey, it’s okay, it’s okay, really, Momma says it’s okay, PLEASE get out and let us in. Please, you won’t be in trouble!!!! I promise!!!!”
I saw him roll his eyes toward the ceiling, away from me. His hands stayed at his sides. He was more still than any three-year-old could possibly be. It was impressive, really.
My mother was crying by this time and apologizing, she felt really, really badly. But I had to get to the kids.
Me to my statue-like son, “Honey, please. Please!!!!!! It’s okay, I promise. Get out of your car seat. Momma needs you to get out of your car seat! PLEASE!!!”
This child would not even acknowledge that I was talking to him. Again, it was impressive. And comical. I had literally just made him promise never to get himself out of his car seat and here I was begging him to do just that. It was like a sitcom.
“Pleeeeeeease!!!! Momma says it’s okay.” But that boy was NOT going to fall for my obvious trickery. “Momma said no,” he must have thought, “Momma said no.”
We had started to draw a crowd. I was beginning to tear up, too. The girls were useless, too young to manipulate their car seats, arms to short to reach the locks. And . . . they’d started to cry again.
This was not good.
In the end, my obedient son never unbuckled his car seat. Some nice gentleman drove me home (I wasn’t far, and thankfully I’d left the house unlocked). I got my spare keys and everybody was fine.
—- Except my mother. It took her a long time to recover.
We didn’t go out for a while after that and when we did, no matter what the kids were doing, my mother never got out of the car again.
Just Me With . . . five car seats, a mom, and a son who had learned his lesson, damn it.
She was in first grade when her world changed. Her Daddy had moved out during a three-day weekend — one of those holiday weekends when people buy refrigerators and mattresses. Me? I was online looking up how to tell children about their parents’ separation. That Sunday we told the kids and he moved out the same day (I cannot describe that day, it was — no words, yet.) On that holiday Monday I held back sobs long enough to call each teacher at home and give him/her a heads up. Having no idea how the kids would be at school, I asked the teachers to call me if there was any strange behavior — outbursts, crying, sullenness, etc. They were crying a lot at home, off and on.
They still had “Circle Time” in Mr. Harris’ first grade room. “Circle Time” was the part of the school day when the children sat on the floor, each taking a turn to speak freely. It was meant to encourage discussion and teach respect and listening to others. The teacher used a rain stick and passed it around the circle. The rule was, the child with the rain stick had the floor (or rug — ha ha). The other children must listen to the speaker and be quiet, but they could ask questions after the child has finished. Since it had been a long weekend, the children discussed what they had done over the weekend.
When my daughter got the rain stick she announced to the class:
“My Daddy moved out over the weekend.“
She told me all about it when she got home from school. She exclaimed, with bright, light eyes open wide, and in that — slightly too loud, high-pitched and overly dramatic little girl voice,
“Mommy, everybody got soooo quiet. I could hear the birds outside and the trucks on the street! Nobody said anything.”
That’s some serious silence for a classroom of first graders.
I was a mess; I managed to murmur something about how they probably didn’t know what to say. I asked what the teacher said. She said he didn’t say much.
I sometimes referred to this child as a wealth of “inaccurate information” (Hell, I still do). I never really know what the whole truth is with her. Once I found her name written on the wall at home. Of course it had to be her work. Why would another child write her name? She denied it of course. But not only did she deny it, she took paper and a pencil to all of the other children procured handwriting samples in an attempt to prove her innocence. Her investigation was flawed since little sisters couldn’t write anything but their own names at the time, but I had to give her props for her tenacity.
My little lawyer . . . but I digress . . .
She was telling the truth about Circle Time, though. I spoke to Mr. Harris later, and he confirmed her story, saying that the other kids did indeed fall silent when my daughter made her announcement. Since there were no questions he just continued on to the next child. Reportedly, my daughter appeared to be okay. Mr. Harris told me that he was glad he already knew, though, and he thanked me for giving him a heads up.
We often think of how to tell the kids. This is how one kid told . . . her whole class.
Just Me With . . . a Circle Time story.
By the way, her twin in the class across the hall didn’t say a word to anybody, and was angry that her sister told our business.
Our Break Up, The Musical Revival — Oh yeah, we went to a play that weekend.
Six Days of Separation — I was a hot mess.
My Cheating Husband Was Packing Viagra — Self Explanatory
When I Needed a Helping Hand — People can be so nice.
My Ex-Husband remarried recently. We had been married many, many years, had five children together, a prolonged separation, and the nasty divorce was final only a few months ago. The announcement of the pending nuptials was made to the children and then to me just last month. Then things seemed to take on a life of their own. And someway, somehow, I was relegated to the Nanny in this whole wedding scenario, a Nanny who is not treated very well, unpaid, and forced to work and/or be on-call on her days off.
— Have the children ready and send them out no later than x o’clock am on Friday because they have hair and nails appointments at y.
— So and so will pick the children up in time to get to wedding [unnamed location] by x time, they will be brought back around y time by different so and so’s.
— They’ll be brought home “sometime in the evening” because it is an evening wedding [no time provided]
— Make sure they don’t mess up their hair and nails before the wedding
— Make sure they don’t mess up their hair and nails before the wedding, and again
–Make sure they don’t mess up their hair and nails before the wedding.
In the weeks preceding the above I was hit with:
— We want to take x child shopping for wedding clothes on x date (even though it was not during the visitation times),
— We didn’t find anything so we’ll be back tomorrow to take the child out again (even though it was not during visitation times), he said you don’t have any plans.
Well, well, well.
I had decided that since it is their father’s wedding, the children should of course be allowed to attend (even though the wedding did not fall on a “Daddy” day). Accordingly, I would be flexible and allow some inconveniences. Because, how often is he going to get married?
( Seriously, I’m taking wagers).
However, that said, and although it is true that I no longer love him, and I have no jealous or romantic feelings about his getting married, etc., it turns out that my being an indirect participant in the wedding festivities by providing my assistance with the children and scheduling was a little too much to take.
The day before the wedding was grooming day. I had to have the kids up and out at a very early hour for Summer. I had no idea what time they would return. On the wedding day itself, though the children were not going to dress for the wedding at home, they still had to be showered and ready to go by a certain time. This responsibility fell on me . . . and it pissed me off. The children did not rush to get ready. I had to ride them about it.
“C’mon, get up, start your showers.”
“You cannot be late, please get in the shower.”
“You cannot wait until the last minute, PLEASE, get ready.”
Then they were picked up by the Ex’s relatives, at least one of whom has disrespected me in ways she doesn’t even know I know about and in other ways she does. This person was sent to my house to fetch my children. She’s never been to my home before and under any other circumstances would not be welcome.
I was never actually given a location for the wedding and had to specifically ask for the time of the wedding and a time frame in which I would expect the children home. Not an unreasonable request, one that shouldn’t have had to have been made. I mean I did need to make sure I was home or near home when the kids got there.
That night, though some of the children have phones, I was texted by the Ex himself to tell me the children were on their way home (no time frame provided, and still since I was not given the location of the wedding, their being on their way home didn’t mean much). When I didn’t respond to my Ex’s text in a timely manner I got a subsequent text asking me to confirm my receipt of his original text. Upon confirmation, I received a “Thank you.” I guess that meant his responsibility for the children was now over. The Nanny (that would be me) was going to be home, the evil half sisters (actually only one of them is evil) could drop them off and leave.
Well, well, well.
And as the children came in, dropped their bags of clothes, shoe boxes, flowers all over the house, it was up to me to make them clean up after themselves or do it for them. And when one of my children presented me with a box of leftover boutonniere roses, it was up to me to respond with the appropriate thank you. (Ugh) Adding insult to injury, another child asked me why I didn’t come. I responded, a bit too matter of factly, “To my Ex-Husband’s Wedding?” And another, older child, added simply, “It’s self-explanatory.” I’m sure I was so much more useful to them in the capacity to which I was assigned anyway. The children were exhausted, they left half of their mess strewn around our little house and they went off to bed.
It was so nice for the bride and groom that the nanny could repeatedly present the children on a timely basis to be made up so beautifully for the wedding day and that the nanny could stand by and be available to receive the children when their appearance for and celebration of the happy occasion was over.
Well, well, well.
As it turned out, it didn’t feel so nice for me. I am human.
This is what led to my not having such a good day on the day after the wedding. No I didn’t feel like having a big blow out party or night out on the town on his wedding day, but I unwittingly facilitated everyone else having a grand old time while I rushed around and then waited around. This, after the tears, complaints, uncomfortable silences and tantrums from the kids in the six weeks from announcement of the wedding to the wedding itself. All things I had to deal with.
In the end, though, the kids were fine. But the whole ordeal was taxing on me, from worrying about them generally ,and dealing with their initial ambivalence and despair “I don’t want to go to the wedding at all,” cried one child, to changes in schedules, and being ordered about without common courtesy. and having to literally clean up after the affair.
It shouldn’t have been like this. Damn. My Ex and his Bride have not proven to be the most sensitive people (this is the man who sent his kids home to tell me he was getting married ON MOTHER’S DAY). So I don’t expect much, but damn.
Hindsight. Should I have said that he must take the children for the whole weekend? Perhaps. But he never has them for the whole weekend and it was not even his weekend. Who would have taken care of them while the bride and groom honeymooned or were consummating their marriage or when they simply weren’t needed? The evil half-sister? Some other random relative the kids don’t know (but I do) ? I was convinced that if I’d said, “Well you take the kids for the whole thing” it would have been harder on the kids. Maybe I was wrong. And had we switched weekends and days around, which is not our norm, it would have interfered with some activities the kids and I already have planned for later in the Summer.
All in all, at the time I was concerned about trying to keep the whole thing as drama-free as possible and keeping the children from being dragged around any more than necessary. Plus, I didn’t want to force technicalities just to flex my muscles or to purposefully, spitefully inconvenience the bride and groom. I didn’t want to play the “you don’t have a right to take the kids” card — it just would have made everything nasty.
Perhaps, however, I should have been more concerned about myself. Well, lesson learned.
The next time he gets married . . . things will be different. Ha!
Consequently, I have been in a complete funk ever since the wedding. I provided assistance and patience and in return, I was a recipient of their rudeness. I know I allowed it, but it still pisses me off. Note to self: develop more backbone (despite years of being accommodating to him). See My High School Self.
I feel like I should get something for my trouble, my stress, my time, my child counseling — all the things I suffered as a result of the Ex’s decision to remarry in a hurry.
No, I don’t want a “Thank you.”
I’ll take a check.
Just Me With . . . nothing to show for any of this crap, but leftover dying wedding flower boutonnieres in a sugar jar.