Just as I didn’t think about getting divorced when I got married, I also didn’t think about raising children in the midst of a divorce when I gave birth to them. Parenting is already a challenging gig. Plunge the process in the icy waters of divorce and get ready to gasp for air.
Without warning, or training, the world of parenting while dismantling the family is about as easy to navigate as the Fire Swamp. Or the north face of Everest. Or the waters around the Farallon Islands right about the time the Great White sharks venture there on holiday. (I desperately want to swim from shore to The Farallons.) And doing so while dealing with an angry, soon to be former spouse can feel like being dehydrated at 13,000 feet.
Coincidentally (wink, wink), our move to Bolinas was kicked off with nearly two solid weeks of daily commuting back to our old town due to the travel schedule of another. I’m certain it was unintentional. (Is today Opposite Day?) And a timely experiment to thrust upon me after running hard to pack and move and struggling through the quicksand of unpacking.
At the risk of boasting, I’d like to share with you some major achievements:
I have found clean underwear to don each day. I said underwear. Not socks. (And I sure as H didn’t say panty.)
I don’t hit the snooze button anymore.
The last time I witnessed the sun rise so many days in a row I was on a Spring Break trip in Ft. Lauderdale. I feel so grown up!
Thanks to the bento boxes my thoughtful and divine Mom purchased for the dudes, I have managed to pack rainbow lunches for them. They have managed to mostly eat them.
High Maintenance Kitty has not been eaten by a coyote.
(High Maintenance Kitty has also not eaten the mouse that rules the kitchen in the wee hours. He’s too busy hogging my pillow.)
I have not run out of gas. But I did have to get two gallons in Bolinas for the small sum of over $5 per. (I need a mathematician to calculate the best financial move for me – hybrid or high gas mileage? Must sell my beloved 4Runner.)
I have maintained a decent shaving schedule. No braided pits here.
I have only missed one event – a T-ball game. For which I was spanked via text.
The dudes are super happy. (Although this morning the tall dude did say, Mommy, It will be refreshing when all the boxes are unpacked. Refreshing...)
I survived the So You Think You Made the Right Move, Do You? experiment and am grateful to have had the opportunity to be put to the test during what can definitely be called a rambunctious time. Without a doubt, we made the very best decision to move to Brigadoon. Living in Bolinas far outweighs the challenges of living in Bolinas. With the exception of the sulfur water. Yes, it’s soft, it’s really good for our skin and hair, it has healing properties. It also smells. Some days not so much and other days my nose is perpetually wrinkled. A plumber is in my future and he’s carrying an industrial filter.
If I want sulfur I’ll get naked at a hot spring. (Note to self – get naked at a hot spring soon.)
While this move has tested me, supported me, and brought me to a magical place brimming with bewitching opportunities for encounters of the human and animal variety, the most valuable house warming present I’ve received has been a renewed focus on boundaries. As a bonus, the right sets of circumstances to test them out have presented themselves.
Boundaries are as important as breath.
Boundaries need to breathe.
Boundaries benefit from a very active Observer Self. (She totally digs her new digs.)
I need boundaries with the dudes, too.
Boundaries make people angry.
As I said, I missed a T-ball game. The dudes weren’t bummed. They got to stare through massive telescopes set up on the mesa and spot Jupiter and her moons, get up close and personal with our moon, and learn how to spot Orion. They also played tag in the dark and bonded with a gaggle of new friends.
They were particularly stoked to hear about the black panther that lives just down the road. While this could be a Bolinas legend, I’m considering it fact. Perfect way to get them inside at twilight.
But The Genius wasn’t pleased.
The reason I raise that not surprising point is because it perfectly illustrates the tricky nature of boundaries, establishing them and enforcing them, in the midst of divorce.
Pre Pocket Call, back when The Genius was calling me Angel and telling me how excited he was to be on this adventure with me and how blessed he was to have me in his life (there is no more perfect time to say, blah, blah, blah), he would have been fine with missing a game, and not surprised that we instead experienced a special event like our unplanned trip through space, courtesy of the scopes of visiting Astronomers.
But not anymore.
Had we still been married, and he was traveling, and I told him that I missed a T-ball game but the dudes got to look through massive telescopes and get all cozy with the moon, he would have said, It’s a T-ball game, not league sports. Instead, it’s a directive that they’ve made a commitment and must keep it. And I’m bad for not having seen to it that they did.
Of course he’s focused on keeping commitments. Now.
He wants a say in everything, and if that say is an opportunity to criticize me, well that’s irresistible. My every move is scrutinized. The tall dude lost his baseball hat. My fault. The little dude left his at the playground. Instead of talking to him about being responsible for his T-ball hat, a fine lesson for him to learn at this stage so that he doesn’t expect everyone to run around and clean up his messes as he gets older, it’s on me.
A comet explodes over Russia. I’m staring at the sky too much. I must have launched it off course.
The Golden Gate Bridge no longer accepts cash. I’m the root cause of that evil integration of technology.
The Pacific Plate and the North American Plate are at odds. Over me. And my recent move to Bolinas.
When the next quake hits (I believe I have felt a few shimmies since our arrival), you know where to place the blame. Here, let me spread my arms wide so the blame has plenty of surface area upon which to splat.
Somehow, some way, I am the root cause of everything.
I had no idea I was that productive.
I accepted responsibility for missing the game – even though it was not listed on the calendar TG creates for co-parenting purposes and vowed to be aware of all their commitments from this point forth. Yes, I do have an email sent by the team manager with the schedule and shame, oh! shame, for not triple checking. It’s not as if I’m juggling three major life changes at the moment.
Oh, wait. I am.
I think the dudes will survive. They won’t be blackballed. T-ball will go on. And if they have to run a few extra laps, I’ll do them, too.
I broke the cardinal rule and engaged with TG via text over my utter failure to make it to T-ball. In so doing, I solved a mystery! When I put up my hand and say, this isn’t right, acceptable, appropriate, he says I’m rude and mean, and wrong. This has been going on for months.
I just figured out why.
It’s the boundaries.
Throughout the build up to the move and since our arrival at The Calmmune, I’ve taken great care to create a fun, adventurous mood for the dudes. From wake-up through the many drives, in the midst of looking for shoes and socks, and while eating dinner on crates, I’ve gone out of my way to up the fun. Too far out of my way. As a result, I’ve gotten in the way of proper parenting.
At some point the whining and complaining moments after an adventure, or having a nice meal or treat began to weigh on me.
They’re not being grateful. The dudes are creating expectations I can’t meet.
I have created expectations that I shouldn’t be meeting.
This realization hit at the exact same time as the ‘you’re rude and mean’ grenades were being lobbed in my direction from TG.
These are trying times for the dudes. Especially the tall dude. He feels the divorce. He told his principal, during a meeting called by his teacher because he was being disruptive in class, that ‘it was so right’ when Mommy and Daddy were together. For him it was so right. It was all he knew. He was sad. He has every right to be.
In light of the emotional eruption that has spewed all over him, there is the danger that I will over-compensate. That I have over-compensated to make up for the implosion of the family he knew and loved. And to insure that this move to Bolinas helps to create adventures and fun, and not anxiety.
To over-overcompensate is to take away his freedom, to hijack his journey.
So there I sat. On the patio. A curved extension of the kitchen, wrapped in Calla Lilies that surround a young, blossoming apple tree. There’s a dip in the bank of trees at the bottom of the lawn. Through it the Sutro Tower blinks red and the city glows amber. The rich, earthy shade colored a low blanket of clouds tumbling in from the Pacific. Above me the sky was ink. As I looked south, over Stinson, amber streaked the black, east to west. It was the most gorgeous night sky I’ve seen in West Marin.
And all I could think about was how mad the dudes were that I wasn’t as fun as I used to be, and how angry The Genius is at me. For everything.
While I may be capable of redirecting an asteroid with only my gaze, I am not capable of resurrecting that which was killed by deceit and betrayal. I am, however, massively motivated to make certain that I raise the dudes the way I would have raised them while married to The Genius. In the last 48 hours I have learned that to do so requires me to be absolutely present and steadfast with boundaries.
So, with all the benefits of establishing and enforcing boundaries, why does it feel so bad?
Because I was raised to not hurt other people.
Flipping over a fence that was never there, at full tilt, hurts.
This should sound harsh – That’s not my problem. It’s supposed to hurt. That’s why they shouldn’t be breached. That’s why they’re boundaries.
Over the last 24 hours I’ve implemented a few boundaries with the dudes, (using manners at all times, asking, not telling, and daily gratitude are must do’s) and I censored any language like, I can’t believe you would do this after I just got you that treat, or How could you speak to your brother that way? I now understand how those types of phrases complicate the situation. And worse, create a codependent relationship. As if our state of being is affected without invite by every word, emotion or act of the other.
Parenting should not be an emotional tug of war.
Life should not be an emotional tug of war.
Setting boundaries goes deeper than a consequence for a bad behavior. Boundaries are reflections of our self respect and self love. If we allow them to be climbed, and weakened and finally destroyed by another, we contribute to our own demise. And we don’t do any favors for those who scaled them. We set boundaries for own selves. Out of love and a desire to simplify and create peace.
But be prepared for anarchy first.
If it’s like what I experienced, the worst was over in 24 hours and the best started right away. The dudes became centered, happy and actively worked on improving their behavior through thoughtful communication. After being mad at me, angry and telling me they weren’t having any fun. At all. Ever. In life., they smiled, laughed, and enjoyed themselves in age-appropriate ways. They weren’t testing or pressing buttons. Just having fun and being responsible.
I felt like I had arrived at a parenting milestone. Having boundaries not only makes me feel good but it also makes the dudes feel good. After making them feel bad. For a little while. I learned to be okay with them feeling bad.
In my quest to become consciously competent with boundaries, I’ve also learned that focusing on the creation of boundaries is like hiking – serene, grounding, fun and productive. When those who collide with my boundaries get angry, it’s not because I did something wrong or hurt them in some way. I don’t have to fix it. Or make them feel better. Or apologize their behavior away. I did something right. I got engaged with life, and demonstrated self-love and self-respect, which I have every right to do.
I feel free. And I’ve never felt more confident.
No wonder I urged Mr. Viking to move to Los Angeles, and straight into the home of his former wife, so they can spend hours together writing a masterpiece.