Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Friday!

It is Friday, the sun is shining, and things are settling back to normal. My tax returns have hit my bank, so I’ve got a little breathing room. (Funny how being employed only half a year will change your tax status so profoundly.) It doesn’t take a whole lot more than that to make me happy. Oh, and some of the pictures I’ve discovered on my camera:

Documenting home inventory...
A self portrait in watercolor.
Right after seeing a Lady Gaga clip, she came downstairs to show me her version.

I’ve let my daughter use my camera because she is careful with it and because it is interesting to me what she chooses. She’s even started taking videos, and those are cracking me up. When there’s one that is share-worthy, I’ll post it, if I can figure out how.    These made me smile. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Someone pull this thorn out of my paw

Yesterday Buster was at M's school to wait for the final bell.  As I approached the pickup area, I observed him standing apart from the parents I had introduced him to, silent and by himself.  They are a great group of parents, and so after I made eye contact, I passed him by and went over to talk to them.  They asked me about my interview and we chatted about the current job market.  When M came out of her classroom, she was excited and happy, and it was a minute or so before she saw her dad.  He followed us back to my car, and she asked me again why he wasn't getting in with us.  "He's got his own car, honey.  He'll meet us at the house."
When we got back to the house, I had really had enough of him, so I encouraged her to take him up to her room and do the art project she'd planned for them.  I poured myself a scotch and sat down to watch a very good movie.  A half hour before it was over, they came trooping downstairs to demand we go to dinner.  *sigh*
She insisted on Red Lobster, and I couldn't see any reason finally not to give in.  She hadn't been there since we moved, and she knows this is a "special occasion" place.  What's more of a special occasion than daddy's last night in town?  Of course, he was not enthusiastic.
As soon as we sat down, I could tell we were in for a rough night.  He asked me if I was an alcoholic, he thinks that because M's jacket has stains on it that I am a bad mother, and he said that he thinks that her problems at school are because of me.
Nothing I say to him makes any difference.  He is stubborn, angry, defensive, and adamant, along with being completely clueless about children and child care, what is normal and what is not, and what it takes to be a parent.
I asked him why he is making trouble for me, as I have never kept M away from him or blocked his access to her at all, in fact have facilitated their relationship (such as it is) in every way I can.  He maintained that it is "his right" to do whatever he wants.  He didn't care that it doesn't make sense.  I asked him what he hopes to gain - and he didn't have an answer.
Throughout this conversation, M sat beside me looking visibly troubled.  At times she held up the menu to block him from my view.  She said that if I couldn't see him that I wouldn't be so upset.  Smart kid.
I never wanted to argue in front of her, but he made sure it happened.  I was crying before it was over, and my sweet, sensitive daughter put her hand on my back, gave him her best stern look, and said "She's right, you know!"
At some point, I simply abandoned trying to reason with him and concentrated on helping M with her crab legs.  He would only eat a tiny bowl of chowder and sit there glaring at me.  We ate our seafood dinner, I let her go ahead and order the chocolate cake, and I picked up the tab. (The only one that I did, by the way.)
We drove back to our townhouse, we got out and M said goodbye to her dad, and he drove away.  His flight out was this morning.
As we got ready for bed, I was exhausted and so was she.  She was pretty clear that he makes me unhappy.  She advised me "you should marry someone else!" And she recommended our dear friend S.  Since he has always been loving and kind to her, I applaud her taste and discernment.
She slept in my bed last night, and clung to me in her sleep.  This morning, she would only say that she was sad that Buster had left, and she feels like he left because he doesn't like her.  My poor sweet baby.   Reminding her that he was going to leave no matter what didn't help. 
I hope this doesn't stay with her too long.

I have a second interview for a job downtown this afternoon, so I need to shake it off, as well.  Sure could have used some sleep.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On My Last Nerve

Thursday evening Buster arrived and we agreed to meet him for dinner. M picked Applebees, one of her favorites, and we went there to wait for him to show up. The restaurant was on the same road as his hotel, literally a few miles straight south, so of course it took two phone calls to help him find it. And so it went.

He complained about the terrible condition of the road and how his rental car was “a sled.” The quarter inch of snow that had fallen that evening had set his insecurities buzzing. He talked about himself throughout the meal. I recognized that M was delighted to have him there, and so I invited him back to our place for a bowl of icecream. He was scared of following us back to our place, a drive that took less than ten minutes and involved one left turn, but somehow he made it.  While the icecream was softening on the counter, she took him to see her room. I could hear her happy chatter as she pointed out each thing. They ate their icecream and he left.

The next morning, I invited him to come along to take M to school, so that I could introduce him to M’s teacher myself. Then I showed him where he would need to sign in when he came back to have lunch. He had lunch with M and then came back in the afternoon to stand with me to pick her up. I could tell that M was excited to have her dad do these things. I watched how awkward he was with any adults that were nearby. He followed us back to our place and played with M while I was in the next room reading. This consisted in her showing him her toys, and him watching a little tv with her. When he is with her, they get along fine as long as he doesn’t have to figure anything out, so it is pretty much like two kids playing together. This was the pattern of the weekend.

Every time I tried to talk to him, he shut down the conversation. Since I am not going to argue with him in front of my daughter, we didn’t have any significant communication. We went out for food, they played and watched tv, and I hung out. The weather was unusually bad, so we were stuck inside. The only clue I could get about how M was feeling about her dad was that while she wanted him there, she wanted me there, too. On Saturday at lunch, I suggested he take her to the Natural History Museum, but she insisted I go too. He lived here for years, but he disagreed with me how to get there, so I caved and drove them there, and he voiced surprise that I was able to find it so easily. He was worried about knowing what “her schedule for snacks” was, and what would happen if she needed to go to the bathroom. A couple of times, I looked at him and said “she’s old enough to tell you what she needs,” but this didn’t seem to sink in at all. The fact that she will be 6 years old next month was something he cannot grasp. At one point I made the mistake of asking what he thought about a movie he had watched with my daughter that morning, and listening to his answer reminded me of how very strange and insulated his mind really is. I remembered how his particular point of view came as such a rude surprise when I lived with him. He is so robot-like. He had kept up his careful game of pretending to be human when I first knew him, but after a while he was unable to keep up the fa├žade, and it was more and more disconcerting as his authentic self became more clear.

It was all exactly like when we lived together when she was a baby. Me taking care of everything, and him following along in his faltering, incompetent way. Whenever I would try to let him take the wheel, he would panic and stall, so to spare us all from too much discomfort, I played Ship Captain although I could have really used a break. By Saturday evening I was so exhausted I could barely stay awake. I had plans to have brunch with a friend on Sunday, and I was determined that for a few hours at least, he could amuse M himself. I had him drive us to her house, and he fussed about every detail. Would I help him with the carseat? Where should he take her for lunch? What should he do? What should he do?! I gave him clear instructions: Find a burger place that had an indoor play structure. Buy her lunch and watch her play. There are many of these in the area and we passed a few on our way to my friend’s house. He was still anxious and insecure.

I had a lovely brunch with my friend, and I called him to come pick me up. I saw him when he arrived and parked the car directly across the street from the restaurant, and I went out to his car to tell him that I needed to get something I’d left in my friend’s car and that I’d be “right back.” I walked back across the street, met my friend, and walked back to her car. When I returned to where I’d left him, his car was gone. I thought about how typical this was of him. I had literally been gone only minutes. I called him on my cell phone. “Where are you?” He had driven around the next block to where he thought my friend “would have parked” based on the location of the restaurant, even though the parking spot across the street was fine. When I finally found him, I said “I said I’d be right back.” He didn’t understand my annoyance. In his mind, he is always doing exactly what he is supposed to do. The confusion he causes is always someone else’s fault.

I got in the car, and my daughter greeted me with enthusiasm. She was happily engrossed in the GPS device he’d brought, and I gave him directions to drive to the next place, the house of an old friend. As we were approaching her house, he asked if she had moved. “Yes, five years ago,” when we were still living together. My lovely friend, who he knew before we all had children, invited us to stay for dinner. Throughout the evening, we watched as he behaved like one of the children there. He is so self absorbed, and unconcerned about his lack of social skills. Despite being prompted, he alone didn’t clear his dishes when dinner was over, even when my friend began to load the dishwasher. He helped himself to food that was not part of the dinner on the table. He didn’t get up to help, or offer assistance with anything. He kept calling her son “Bud,” despite having known this child since before he was born.

We have tonight with him, and then he leaves in the morning before we get up. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, but I am managing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not an Auspicious Beginning

It really choked me up this morning when M was busily making her bed, saying how she wanted it to be nice to show her daddy. She is a tidy kid, but she was putting a lot more effort into it this morning. My heart about broke, watching her climb over the bed to pull the covers even. We drove to her school and waited for the bell to ring. When the kids had filed into their classroom, I spoke to her teacher. I wanted to let her know that M’s dad was coming today for a visit and that he’d probably want a peak at her classroom at the end of the day.

Imagine my surprise when the teacher told me she was aware that he was coming, because he’d been emailing her! She wanted me to know this because his emails to her had felt “inappropriate” and had caused her to alert the principal for guidance and to involve her in the situation. Apparently, he was asking about spending the day in the classroom, and when she told him she felt that this would be too disruptive, that he “wasn’t happy with her.”

Feeling like the world had tipped a little off its axis; I drove home and left a message for the principal to call me. When she called me she related to me the rest of the story. He had called seeking access and had only emailed the teacher at the principal’s request. I told her that I was hoping to speak to him as soon as he arrived in Colorado and before he came to the school for any reason.

He returned my call when his flight was stopped in Chicago. His tone was pompous, condescending and arrogant, as usual. He really doesn’t understand why I would be upset to know that as a man who has no custody, no visitation, and the absolute minimum of communication with me is trying to gain access to my daughter through her school without my knowledge. In his words, he was merely trying to (by calling and emailing various staff at the school) to “acquire information.” In true Asperger’s form*, he took something I said a while ago and glommed onto it like it was the key to unlock everything he wants. To him, I am the Gatekeeper, nothing more or less, and since I had told him when his flight was cancelled before, that he should have let me know about the cancellation along with some information about what his options were, and he decided that this was what he needed to do in each successive situation in which he needed to talk to me, oblivious to the circumstances or ramifications of each individual event.

*He has never been diagnosed as such; I am just sharing my opinion.

So, while I was thinking about how much M would enjoy it if her dad could arrive in time for him to come to the school to pick her up with me, he was making phone calls and sending emails to people who had no idea who he was and had never heard his name before. And he couldn’t understand why this might be distressing to the people who are charged with the safety and well being of young children during the day.

It took most of the morning, but I managed to get everyone to agree that he could come to the school tomorrow to share lunchtime with M. His plane is supposed to arrive in Denver this afternoon. How I wish I could send a team of “Men In Black” suited guys to meet him as he comes off the plane, perhaps surrounding him quietly and saying “Please come with us.” A girl can dream. As it stands, I’m going to have to figure something out for this afternoon/evening, because M is quivering with anticipation about him coming and will be wanting to see him as soon as possible. FML.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When Mama is Happy…

Thanks to my lovely, generous, and understanding friend K, I was able to take advantage of the reservations I’d made last week and still keep my Saturday night with Mr. October. My daughter spent the night at my friend’s house, where she got to revel with some of her buddies and have a slumber party, and I got to get fluffed up and step out with a good smelling and funny man and have a Big Girl Night Out. Such fun. We went to a great place in Denver called Vita, and there was live Jazz and nice waitstaff (!) and good lighting and really yummy food. We talked and laughed and drank and ate, and I had a great time. I was aware that it was Valentine weekend, but there was absolutely no trace of it in the place, and nothing schmaltzy interfered with my evening. *Sigh!*

After a ridiculous amount of fuss, M’s dad has rescheduled his ill-conceived visit to this Thursday. I can only hope that he will be able to manage the trip. I have no idea what I’m going to do with him for 5 days this time, since M won’t have the four day weekend we are still enjoying today. But I’m not going to let him ruffle my feathers if I can help it.

I had a lovely weekend and I want to maintain the happy buzz as long as I can.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A little Rant

Here’s the thing: It is not that I don’t understand about stuff like weather and other unforeseen circumstances. I do. It is that Buster (for that name suits him better than anything else) confronts life as if it were something he is entitled to. His Arrested Development is such that whenever he encounters a problem, he is like a windup toy that has hit an obstacle. He just stops. And then, like a kitten with a dead mouse, brings me the problem, and drops it, wet with spit, at my feet.

When we lived together, this was a major issue between us. It was enough to turn me into a screaming shrew, and the last thing I want to do is spend my time in pointless conflict. It is my breaking point. My one divorce all those years ago was mainly because I just couldn’t have the same fight over and over again. I can’t do it. I would rather go it alone, do all the work, and deal with whatever comes along, than beat my head against a rock forever. I have had plenty of time to contemplate the repercussions of this attitude. Believe me, I realize that I have signed up for a lot of the work and responsibility in my life, and I am not unaware of the irony.

However. It is not entirely crazy to wish that an almost 40 year old, college educated man could grasp the difficulties of challenges that are no harder than the day to day work of the average administrative assistant. He used to live in Colorado, for god’s sake, and he grew up on the East Coast. He should be well aware of the fact that there might be bad weather in February, and that bad weather is likely to cause travel problems. I know that the only reason he booked the flight is that he got the ticket for a very cheap price.

When I told her that his flight got cancelled, she burst into tears, and I felt terrible for her real and tangible anguish. I held her and tried to sooth her, but inside I knew that this won’t be the last time. When it was time for their regular Skype time, she didn’t want to talk to him. So I tried to call him in another room and let him know what was going on, but as soon as he heard that I was angry at him, he hung up like he usually does. So I sent him an email and hoped he would respond.

He didn’t respond to my email, instead, knowing that my daughter was upset, he called me on Skype to find out what I thought he should do. And instead of calling me and presenting solutions, he just called to dump this in my lap, without any idea what to do about it. She was standing right next to me, so of course, I tried to make him understand that he needed to figure this out for himself without using the tone, volume, and choice words that I really wanted to. After much grinding of teeth on my end, he finally ended up rescheduling his trip to next Thursday the 18th.

She has tomorrow and Monday off, which is why I agreed to this weekend originally. Next weekend, she will only have the regular two days. I am not going to take her out of school so that Buster can play Daddy. She has been having a hard time and our recent successes have been hard won, and I think keeping continuity is important. I suggested he wait until she had a break from school to reschedule, (kids DO get frequent breaks) but he protested – it would have meant sacrificing part of the cost of that Cheap Ticket! Gasp! And – with her standing right next to me – his whining won out and that’s where we are.

Leaving him in Fraser sounds better and better each day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Welcome to the Drama

I knew it was too good to be true. And maybe it won’t be as bad as I can imagine it will be, but here we are. M’s dad was supposed to arrive tomorrow morning for his second visit in five years. When he said he wanted to come, I looked at the calendar and saw that this Friday and following Monday M’s school is closed, so I said to come then. I asked that he just not tell her about the trip until he’d bought his ticket, because I didn’t want M to be disappointed. He is enough of a disappointment as it is, quite frankly.

I have already mentioned that I thought February was a poor choice for his visit, but that is when he wanted to come. Knowing him as I do, and having witnessed his decision making process for several years now, I think he just got a wild hair and did this on impulse. But he did buy a ticket and he did send me his flight information, so for a few weeks now, my daughter has eagerly been anticipating her dad’s visit.

This morning he emailed me this:

“southwest is cancelling flights, whch means that mine on Thurs is going to be impacted. don't know what it means yet, but probably not good. possibly delay entire trip. more info when I have it.”

And so it goes. I saw this before school but didn’t say anything yet to M. I didn’t want to wreck her whole day. (plenty of time to do that later!)

Besides my futile rage at the numbnut, I feel as if I may have tempted the gods. I mentioned to some friends at the Super Bowl party that M’s father was coming for a visit, and I wistfully said something like how nice it would be to go out and do something while I had a captive babysitter. One of the people listening was Mr. October. He asked me if I’d like him to take me out. I was so taken by surprise that I said yes. (We are friends, and he is fun to be with, despite what happened.) We chatted about it later and I picked a restaurant that has Jazz on the weekends and made a reservation. It isn’t a romantic thing, just an opportunity for me to have a nice adult night out without my daughter. Since she was born, I have only been out without her a couple of times. (This was never my plan; I am not some kind of weird fanatic. It simply has worked out this way, and believe me, I am working on changing this!) I know that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, too, but I feel secure in knowing that my friend knows that my excitement about going out with him is all about the lightness of feeling the chains fall to the floor for one night.

So of course, as my luck would have it, the weather in the NorthEast is freaking out. My daughter and I have been working really hard at trying to be positive and keep our spirits up and plowing through everything that’s going on, and she had a really good week and a half. I am so frustrated that her dad’s trip may be screwed up! She will be so hurt, and angry, and this just isn’t fair. Like I said, this is only his second visit in five years. Or was supposed to be. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February makes me shiver

I love to talk to my daughter. Her teachers have always told me how much they enjoy the unique things that come out of her mouth. In this way, she reminds me of what I was like at her age, but she has a lot more confidence than I had.

My mother has been able to have a few phone conversations with my daughter, but M is quite aware that my mother has cancer and I think she has a pretty good idea what this means. I guess I can thank my Labradors for providing this valuable Life Lesson to my daughter, as they both got Mast Cell tumors in their “old age” and subsequent surgery before they died.

This morning, M and I were having a chat, and she offered up this gem: “Well, she got that cough, and you know what that leads to.” As if my mother’s pneumonia last year was the kiss of death, and a harbinger of her doom. Could be she’s right.

My daughter’s dad is coming for a visit next Thursday. It will be the second visit in five years. He is planning to stay for five days. She is very excited. Me, not so much. He is like a big awkward puppy that hasn’t been housetrained: You are afraid to leave him by himself and you don’t know where you can take him. I know that I am going to have to be the Cruise Director/Camp Counselor for the entire visit, and the thought of managing him for that long makes me want to take a long nap. I still don’t know where he’s going to be staying, but I imagine it will be somewhere that gets horrible reviews and smells bad.

February is an odd time to come to Colorado, since he doesn’t ski or do Winter sports and complains about the cold, but this is when he could get a cheap flight. Maybe I should take them to Fraser for the tubing. Fraser is often the coldest incorporated town in the lower 48 states, but it features one of the best tubing areas I’ve ever seen. It might be too scary for M yet, though, and that’s a long time to be in the car with her dad just to torture him.

Hmmm. I’m going to have to think about this.