It isn’t as if I expect the past to disappear — or for my kids to just forget the things that happened. Sometimes, though, I get comfortable with the new direction in which we are headed and the negative memories soften and fade to the back of my consciousness. I’m not focused on them, and in a way that gives them the power to rise up and smack me over the head when I’m not expecting it. Boy, did I get whacked yesterday…and it hurts. I don’t mean it just hurts me to remember…it’s painful to see my kids hurting because they are getting hit with the same stuff. Abuse — and the fallout that results from it — is a daily hurdle to overcome…even two years out.
Yesterday was Vader’s birthday. He turned 15. In the morning he wanted to go see his friend, Tour, play in a chess tournament. No problem because I was going anyway to pick up Tour’s sister. I want to preface this by saying that Vader finds it funny to call me Tyrant and Dictator almost constantly…yes, he knows it’s disrespectful and that it hurts me…but he doesn’t care. He enjoys taunting people. When we arrived at the chess tournament, I was already worn down from the name calling, and I was also in severe pain, so I opted to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Vader yelled at me that I was lazy. So when I reached the floor where Vader was waiting, I lost it. I punched him in the arm a few times and cried and told him he was a creep…then I fled to the ladies room to sob in private. The way he treats me has gotten to be too much for me to deal with and the lazy comment was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
A bit later he approached me and tried to hug me and I told him to go away and leave me alone. This is his usual M.O. — he dumps on others in order to relieve the pressure he’s feeling, then he expects that a quick hug and an apology will make everything okay…until the next time. But yesterday I decided that this was another pattern I was allowing because I wasn’t doing anything to change it. So I wouldn’t allow him to do his usual hug and apology and he didn’t know what to do. So he pulled the same thing his dad always did – he used his anger to try to manipulate the situation and turn it around on me. Suddenly it was my fault that he was upset and making nasty comments — because he’d been trying to tell me for days that he was having difficulty coping with his feelings. With every accusation he spat at me, I was able to reasonably show him it wasn’t the truth. Then he just grew angrier.
When Vader is hurt, it always comes out as anger and is most often directed at me. He isn’t satisfied until he’s viciously ripped me apart and rendered me to nothing. Sometimes he’s physically violent, but more often his tongue is his weapon of choice. And it cuts. Yesterday I heard my son scream at me about how his ‘old man’ promised to always be there for him, but I put him in prison, making it impossible for his dad to be able to keep his word. It’s amazing how Vader’s reality can be so twisted. So after hearing how I don’t care about him, I don’t help him, I don’t care how he feels or that he’s having a hard time on his birthday without his father, I went home and did what I always do — took care of everyone — including Vader. His siblings were very upset with him for the things he was continuing to say because they all know which parent made empty promises and horrible decisions…and which parent keeps their word and is here for them every day, no matter how difficult it gets. They know who got them to safety, who fought for them, and who keeps us together…even when some of us don’t want to keep on keeping on. And at the end of the day, no matter what is going on in our home, they know who loves them and will do anything for them.
This is why my heart hurts so much: Vader knows all these things, too, when he’s not upset and reactive. The pain is soul-poison for him and he hasn’t yet learned how to get those feelings out in a non-destructive manner. I know what that kind of pain feels like, so I hurt with my boy. I have times like that, too. I sometimes wish I could rip my ex apart for what he did to our family and the mess he left in his wake. Realistically, it’s too much for one person to even know how to deal with, but there is no other choice, so I soldier on and pray all the time for grace. I ask God to protect my kids from me and my failings because I know I don’t see everything clearly. I filter life through a lens tinted from all of my past experiences and sometimes that can mean I have poor judgement. Thankfully, that’s when the LORD steps in and sets me straight.
So yesterday afternoon, after the babysitter was settled comfortably with Jem and Scout, my children, our friends and I piled into my ride and we took a road trip to Dave and Buster’s to celebrate Vader’s 15th year. During the drive Atticus told me that Scout was getting to the age where I was going to have to discipline her for her bad behavior. He was concerned that her lack of obedience will cause her harm. I agree, but I’m quite torn right now over what I think is an appropriate way to discipline her. I do not want to spank because of the severe abuse we came out of. There are many reasons, but I don’t think Atticus, or anyone else who didn’t survive with us, can understand. He wasn’t trying to tell me what to do — he was speaking from concern and I appreciate it. I know I can be extreme in my views and he knew discipline would be a touchy subject, but he spoke out of concern. I know enough to see that God was using him to speak to me. I know Scout is becoming unruly. I don’t want her to turn into a brat, but she’s very close.
I know I’m failing her because I don’t have stricter discipline for her yet and it’s way past the time that I should. Honestly, what it comes down to is not wanting to be the bad guy yet again. It truly sucks to be a single parent. All the discipline falls to me and sometimes I drop the ball because I don’t want to be the mean one. Scout sees me in such a simple way – I’m mommy…and she rejoices every time she sees me. I worry that things will change and that the bond I have with her will be lost.
I love Scout more than life. I will ultimately do the right thing by her…I just don’t know yet what the right thing is. I’m praying and asking for guidance and I know God will grant it. I know He wants me to raise these kids up the best way that I can, so I’m waiting and when the time is right, I’ll know, because God never fails me.
The restaurant and arcade were great! Everyone had fun and I was glad to be able to have some one-on-one zombie-killing time with Melody because she is so rarely home these days. On the drive home I kept smiling as I listened to the ones I love singing and talking and laughing. So happy to be together, even if we aren’t what we once hoped to be. We are complete in a new way — by letting God heal us and move us forward into whatever wonderful things that He’s planning.
And as I drove through Cleveland and listened to everyone singing, I thought about their dad and where he was. I found myself wondering if he even realized it was Vader’s birthday and if he was thinking of him or regretted the things he’d done. I truly hope so. Not because I want him to hurt or agonize over the pain he caused, but because that’s the only hope my children really have of gaining their father someday…