Friday, January 2, 2015

Staying for the kids.

So often when you hear about bad marriages and wonder why two people who are so obviously ill suited for each other stay together you'll hear the same reason: "They are staying together for the kids."  I admit that is why I stayed in a bad marriage for so long.  When I gave my husband his ultimatum in January 2013 that he needed to find a job in Oregon (among other things) or I'd leave him I hoped it'd have a good effect on our kids.

What happened is probably what you'd expect.  He had no idea how to parent the teens they'd become while he was mostly gone.  Watching him deal with our children so ineffectually was part of the reason I decided that maybe we'd been better off without him.  When he first moved back our son was 20, had been away for a year of college and then developed two autoimmune illnesses.  During the nearly year long ordeal to get a diagnosis I realized that I couldn't lean on his father for support, he was leaning on me for support.  One time I needed to be at work and since the ex was unemployed it made sense for him to take our son to his appointment with his gastroenterologist.  After the appointment I asked him what was said...he had no idea.  My son had no idea either.  My son has an excuse, several actually.  One is that he is autistic and doctor's appointments are very stressful making it difficult for him to process the information; that is why he needs a parent there to help him.  The other is that he is still young and not used to navigating the myriad medical questions and opinions he's been subjected to in the last year.  How many young men are?  The third reason is that he has social anxiety which is common for autistic individuals.

Later on in the year my son had a liver biopsy scheduled for the same day that I'd volunteered to help at my daughters' camp.  I asked ex to take him to the hospital and told him that I'd be there as soon as I could be.  I assumed (yes, I know what happens when I assume something) that he'd stay with our son until I got there.  Nope, he dropped him off and ran to work.  Our son was visibly relieved when I arrived.

My older daughter has always been very headstrong.  She is very loving, empathetic and caring and the child most likely to clean up after herself or help me when I need it.  She also hates to be ordered around.  If you phrase a request the right way then she'll go to the ends of the Earth for you, if you make it a command, be prepared for a very long day.  Ex made hints...then got passive aggressive if you didn't pick up on the hints.  "Gee, that popcorn bowl has been there a long time" turned into a week long stand off between them.  When I asked her why she wouldn't take care of it she said "because then he'll make a comment about it."  What could I say, she was right.  If I'd said "Hey, can you bring that bowl into the kitchen?"  She would've done it quickly and it would've been over.  Ex didn't know how to parent her.  Not long after he moved back in with us she started spending every spare second in her room.  Maybe six months after he arrived she asked to see a counselor for anxiety.

My youngest daughter is very happy-go-lucky.  As a toddler she had a love for shoes that continues to this day.  She currently has pink hair and refuses to wear pants.  She has always had a love for fashion and is learning to sew her own clothes.  She loves her dad and missed him when he was gone.  She was the happiest to learn he was moving back.  I'm not sure if it was the tension between her parents that caused her anxiety.  None of the kids could've missed that dad was sleeping on the couch every night.  In September she had her first panic attack.  I noticed that she was getting annoyed with him and starting to talk back to him, but then she was 14.  I also noticed that she was also starting to hide in her bedroom.  Once again, she is a teenager, what is normal and what isn't?

I realized that all three of our kids were dealing with anxiety and hiding in their rooms.  Some of it could be attributed to their ages, but the suddenness of the change and the fact that it coincided with their father's move was not lost on me.  After we moved into our new home my older daughter saw her counselor.  She'd recently started a low dose of Zoloft for her anxiety and was telling everyone who'd listen how much it was helping her.  Her counselor thought that it was the move more than the very low dose of medication that helped her.

I'd been staying for the kids...and it was hurting them far more than I realized.

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