Parenting is a drug. The highs are amazing, euphoric even. The lows: the worst come down ever. Nothing makes you confront your own feelings of inadequacy and fractures your sense of self-worth like a teenager with a bee in his (or her) bonnet. That same being you held to your breast and nurtured, that you fought so desperately to bring into this world, can turn on you in a heartbeat, when they feel their own life is closing in on them.
Master Z told me a couple of days ago that he wants to spend most of his time at his other house.
Until now, we have always operated on a 50-50 week about basis. He is almost fifteen years old and approaching the end of year 9. He’s on the cusp of manhood and is desperate to embark on a more independent, self directed life where he can get himself around and spend less time on structured activities, and more time instead with friends.
He has spelled out his logical reasons for wanting this change in his living situation: T’s house is closer to school and his friends, he’s sick of taking all his school and sporting gear back and forth between the two houses, and it’s quieter and a better atmosphere for study there. Plus the little kids drive him nuts at times.
I get it.
So why do I feel so completely and utterly betrayed?
I literally feel like my insides have been scraped out with a spoon. I’ve completely personalised it of course, and the feeling burns. How could he do this? How could he stand being without us for ten days each fortnight? How could he throw back in my face everything I’ve done for him, and reject his other family like this?
He’s being a teenager.
Just like the majority of others navigating this adolescent phase: it’s all about him.
And because he can.
Shared parenting is so hard. Issues arise that you can never, ever foresee at the time you make that decision to embark on separate lives. I am almost certain that had I have known the innate difficulty that split households would bring to my kids’ lives, I truly would never have left my first relationship. It’s just too difficult. For everyone.
That’s easy to say from this position: ten years down the track and a world away from the memory of struggles we faced at the time. I know deep down that there is no point dwelling on the past, as I wouldn’t ever give up the life that I currently have now, with Lisa and my tribe. So it’s redundant. But perhaps if I had known then some of these issues I would face in years to come, as well as the layer upon layer of added difficulty, I might have been better equipped to make a more informed decision at the time.
I never fully understood how people could ever just ‘stay together for the kids’. It seemed so silly, to have two people desperately unhappy with one another, co-existing purely to avoid disruption to the lives of children – children who would probably be happier with their parents not being ‘at each other’ day in and day out. This ‘stay together for the kids’ mentality was the school of thinking that my parents adopted, and while I appreciate wholeheartedly the good intentions, I don’t believe it necessarily did my siblings and me any favours. I know too well that feeling of walking on eggshells, and the perception that things completely unrelated to me were always my fault, purely because quite often the atmosphere in our house was tense. I swore my children would never grow up with that. I was convinced my parents would have been happier shaking hands and going their separate ways.
There were many good times too of course – wonderful times as a family – but the overriding constant theme present throughout my childhood is one of tension and guilt.
What I didn’t completely grasp was why my parents chose that path: why they stayed together all those years knowing full well that it was so troubled. I always assumed it was simply because of my father’s position as Principal of a Catholic high school. Divorce at that time would have cost him his position in Catholic education, coupled with the fact that for my mother, being a single mother of four children really wasn’t the done thing. I now realise these were only secondary considerations.
They stayed together because the alternative is too damn hard.
And I can honestly say today that I get it.
So I will begrudgingly set my little bird free, earlier than I wanted or hoped, knowing full well that he knows how much I love him, and that I will always, always have a place for him.