Wednesday, January 23, 2013

For the greater good

First: a tribute.  Today is Katherine's tenth birthday, and I just want to say for the millionth time how incredibly much I love, admire, respect, and cherish my daughter.  She is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I have no idea how I got so lucky as to have her.  She is kind and compassionate, thoughtful, loyal, and has more integrity in her pinky finger than most people have in their whole bodies.  She is a hard worker, and she is incredibly persistent.  She is the best friend in the world, and the close relationships she holds are beautiful to witness: there is no backbiting, no gossip, only a pure type of love that is rare and beautiful.  Once she has a friend, she keeps her forever - she's retained the friendships she's had since infancy, and they are more precious than ever.

She's incredible, and I am blessed.

Which is how I am getting to my second point.

My ex is not someone I trust.  When he talks to me, he is often rude and almost always abrasive.  He's quick to fly off the handle, even when I am doing backflips to be accomodating, and he doesn't care about throwing little temper tantrums in front of our daughter.  He still lies to me - small lies, sometimes meaningless, but I can't count on him.  He says he never saw the email, even though he replied to it directly.  He says I never told him, even though it's on our mutual calendar.  He shows up late to pick up our daughter, and delivers her home early.

Just typing that makes my stomach hurt.

Today, for her birthday, Katherine requested a dinner at our home with both of her parents.  I didn't hesitate and immediately told her that I'd love to do that for her.  (Okay, first I said, "Are you sure you don't want to pick a restaurant?" but she was clear, she wanted both of her parents in her home.)

And today I am feeling anxious and sad about it.

My ex is going to be in my house, and who knows what snarky rude things he will say to me.  Our daughter has requested dungeness crab - her favorite, and a veryveryvery rare treat - for dinner, and I can imagine him making snide remarks about the price, or complaining that I serve garlic butter instead of lemon butter (or vice versa), or taking all of the claws for himself.  I can imagine him helping himself to things from my kitchen, not just what I serve.  I can imagine that when I sit down he'll start requesting things from me.  I can imagine that when I say something intended to be pleasant, he will say something hurtful in response.  If I ask him how he is, he might say it's none of my business, and if I don't ask him, he might tell me that clearly I don't care about him.

It's a vicious cycle, and one I'm all too familiar with.

What's worse, is that it brings back so many bad memories dating to when I was pregnant and then the day of Katherine's birth.  I won't dwell on it, only say that he hurt me badly then.

Today he posted pictures of himself and our daugther, taken over the years, on his Facebook page in honor of her birthday.  The pictures are all very sweet, and I believe that all of them were taken by me.  They all show a smiling father and his beautiful child.  But people who see them don't know the back stories like I do: the one in a Santa hat that he appears to be so proud of was the day we got our Christmas tree and he didn't want to go and he thought the hats were stupid and I felt like I was two inches tall and I just wanted a happy Christmas experience and he kept snapping at me; the one on the hiking trail where he sulked and refused to walk with us and actually disappeared for two hours when we were by the lake and Katherine kept saying "where'd Daddy go?" and I didn't know and I was starting to wonder what I would do if I got back to the trailhead and the car was gone; the one at the Fourth of July Parade when it was too crowded and he was mad at me and he once again left and we didn't know where he was and he wouldn't pick up his cell phone and then when he did locate us he yelled at me and I cried when Katherine was out of earshot.  But nobody seeing the pictures would know that.  And they wouldn't know that I took those shots. 

A few people have told me flat out that having him come over is too much, that I'm crazy to let him into my life like that.  Well, on my own account, they're right.  There is a part of me that would like to tear nto him and give him a piece of my mind; there is a part of me that is crafting cutting retorts to his rudeness.

But I won't do it.  I will invite him in, I will smile, and I will serve him wine and crab and Caesar salad and garlic bread that I have purchased and prepared.  When he complains that it's taking too long and he's hungry (remember, he doesn't work, but I will be the one rushing home to turn these ingredients into a special meal after work) I will smile and say "would you like cheese and crackers while you wait?"  If he snaps at me, I will redirect my attention to Katherine and say "Tell me about your day at school, honey.  Did the class sing to you before the cupcakes?"  (The ones I made last night, frosted at 6 this morning, and then delivered before work to her school.)  I will dish up the crab on each plate from the kitchen, so that he will not take three of the four claws for himself.   (Katherine will get two because it's her birthday, he and I will each get one.)  If he gets really bad, I will look at him directly and say, "It's our daughter's birthday, and I refuse to ruin it, and hope you will make it good for her as well."

This turning the other cheek thing isn't for sissies.  It's at the exact moment that I want to slap the rudeness off his face that I need to lower my voice, and turn to view my daughter with loving eyes.  I am doing this for her, and for my own integrity, and not for Bryan.  He's enough of a fool that he won't even realize how hard I'm working at not taking his bait, and he will not be appreciative of my kindness to him.

Today, he comes, and as a gift to my daughter, I will feed him, serve him, clean up after him, welcome him, be kind to him, make smalltalk with him.  And I will do it as graciously as I am capable of doing so that it doesn't look forced, and so that I eliminate as much tension as possible.

Because that girl of mine?  She deserves it.

But I thank God that after dinner he will leave and go to his own residence, leaving me at peace in mine.

Happy Birthday, Katherine.  I hope that I honor you today, sweetheart.  May you never read these words, never know the extent of my anger, frustration, and disappointment in your dad.  And should you ever learn, may you know that my love for you is a thousand times bigger than my feelings for him, and you are worth it, every last bit of it.

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