This is a long blog, but it seems the best way to let my friends know what is going on–big change just happened!
2014 was a challenging year. So challenging that I haven’t been able to write much about it–too much in the middle of it.
By January I had realized that Wade and I were not really a good fit. I could go on and on about it, but suffice it to say our styles of living just didn’t click. I had started looking for other places to live, sort of gearing myself up to make yet another life change.
Then early evening on on February 3rd we got the call that changed everything: Wade’s son-in-law, Bill, had committed suicide leaving two children with no parents. Wade’s daughter, Ginger, had died in August of 2009.
At the time Sam was 14 and Tori was 11. As I’ve written before, we ended up with the kids, and after a month or so of working out all kinds of legal stuff, Wade became their Conservator.
We worked really hard, all of us, to settle into a family. For the first few months, Sammy kept a distance, playing video games, not talking a lot. Tori and I started bonding fairly quickly. She had not ever really had a mother, as Ginger was very ill for most of her life and then died before she turned 7. There were really tough times over helping Tori learn math–as she had skated through school really not learning any of the basics. We went from her barely working on the 2nd grade level to the point where she could actually pass most of the 5th grade requirements. The teachers were so proud of her that they let her be promoted even though she was one point short of passing.
Sam pretty much phoned in school work, scraping by on test scores as he had done most of his life, and getting passed anyway.
They both went to camp, and when Sam came back after 8 weeks, he seemed very different, saying he had done a lot of growing up that summer. I started hoping that we could actually make this thing work.
Wade and I were still at odds, but he more or less separated himself from us, and while he worked at his office away from home most of the time, the kids and I did a pretty good job getting along.
One area we could not agree on was the way we talked with the kids. I’m a believer in more action less talk. Wade has the idea that lectures and long tirades about behavior will somehow have a greater impact. My experience of that is that after the first sentence or two, the kids just look down and wait for him to finish, not taking in or caring about what he says to them.
I tried to talk with him about it, we even discussed it at the family therapy sessions, but it started to sink in that he wasn’t interested in anyone’s feedback or ideas. His way or the highway, pretty much.
On November 22nd, he took the kids to a movie I had already seen. By the time they got back, he had been raging at them for at least an hour–didn’t like them acting up (like kids do), poking at each other with some chop sticks they had picked up as they left a take-out place. He had very little tolerance for noise, silly behavior–the kind of stuff kids do to entertain themselves and also bug their parents….
The scene continued with him cornering Tori in my office with the door closed, her ending up running upstairs in tears and Sammy trying to defend her against him. When things quieted down with Wade having retired to the bedroom to watch TV, I sat with the kids trying to find out what went on and help things calm down. I found myself saying, “kids, you just can’t provoke him–you know how he gets.”
Sam turned to me and said, “I don’t want to live in a place where I can’t be myself.”
That is when the nickel dropped for me. I was done.
I said, “I don’t either, Sam.” Then proceeded to tell them the whole truth about how I was about to leave when they arrived. They wanted to know why I hadn’t told them sooner, and I explained it as best I could: they really didn’t know me well, I could not have taken them out of the situation legally, and I couldn’t abandon them to living with Wade, knowing what I knew about him (rage issues, lack of concern for meal times, he didn’t value keeping the house really clean, very demanding with unreasonable expectations, then forgetting them and not following through). I just couldn’t do it.
I told the kids that I was ready to move out, and if they wanted to come with me, I would take them. They immediately got excited and agreed to go.
Those almost 11 months had nearly killed me. I gained 10 pounds, my health went downhill, and Wade and I were on edge with each other most of the time. He kept demanding some sort of submissively docile behavior from me (not even possible!) and would sulk and withdraw whenever I would express myself in a natural way. I felt like I was in a dark dungeon, and was actually feeling hopeless. This was so unusual for me that I was sort of in shock over it.
When the nickel dropped and I spoke my truth to the kids, I felt free for the first time in months.It was right before Thanksgiving, so I knew I had to wait to do anything until after the holiday. I didn’t say anything to Wade, but simply withdrew from any possible interactions with him that could result in conflict–meaning I pretty much avoided him. If he walked into the kitchen, I would walk out. If he asked me a question, I was as brief and polite as possible. The kids and I didn’t let on that we had a plan brewing.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I got my friend Harriet to help me look at what might be available for me to move into. The next day I called my real estate agent, told her my situation, and she jumped to action. By Tuesday, we had looked at 6 houses and I put a contract on the one that seemed best suited for our needs.
My sister Rachael had suggested that in a situation with a volatile man, it was best to not tell him about our plans until I had as much in place as possible. So I waited until the contract on the house was accepted, and we went to a session with the family therapist (without the kids) and I explained to Wade that it was time for me to move out and the kids were going with me. No surprise, he was shocked. He even said that he had begun to fall in love with me again, because I had been so easy and pleasant to get along with over the last few weeks. And he urged me to wait to do anything for at least 6 months. I told him it was because I was not acting like my natural self, keeping my distance to ensure we would not have any conflict. And that the woman he thought he wanted to live with was a tamped down, repressed version of me. And that the decision was done, as I had already bought a house.
That seemed to help, because he accepted my decision.
The next week, Sam announced he would rather live with Carol–the woman who has been his tutor and mentor since 3rd grade. We all consulted and Carol loved the idea. After consulting a lawyer, Wade realized he couldn’t keep full control and have the kids live with us, so he went to court with us to petition the judge to give all three of us Conservatorship–which he did–and we now have settled into our new living arrangements.
I got the fastest mortgage imaginable and we moved into our new house on December 20th. Tori and I are getting used to living without the others–it is harder for her because she has been so connected to Sam her whole life. Sam is feeling unfettered, as he has been responsible for Tori all these years and is wanting to be independent and free. He is acting out some anger with me, which is natural, as I have been coaching parents for years to see that kids can’t break away from someone they feel tied to unless they rebel in some way. So I am just loving Sam through it, and waiting until he decides to like me again.
So, here we are. Carol and I are parenting the kids, Wade seems to be relieved that he can see his grandchildren from time to time but isn’t responsible for them daily, and the kids seem to be adjusting to the new situation. School starts again on Tuesday, which will be an adventure for both of them, as they are starting new schools again. I moved to Richardson, a suburb of Dallas, so Tori could have a truly neighborhood school. It is 3 blocks from our house. The middle school she will go to next year is about 4 blocks from our house, and the high school she will go to is even closer. I fervently hope she can continue to do well in school. Once she figured out she was smart and could learn, she became a solid B student–a big change from last year!
Carol and I consult frequently about the kids–as we feel like we are doing this family thing together. I am looking forward to seeing how this new year unfolds.
And I am most grateful to be out of the dark and into the light–living in my own home again, being my eccentric, natural self. And, by the way, I have lost 13 pounds and feel my healthy self again!
I couldn’t have done all this without the help of my amazing friends–I felt like Moses parted the waters and all sorts of resources showed up. We are truly blessed.