Friday, September 28, 2012

Successfully Raising Short People Since 2002

I like to think of myself as an involved parent.  Even though I work full-time I am still able to attend most school functions, help nightly with homework. . .*

*Although the math is getting a little sketchy.  "If a bus leaves Memphis at 3:00am traveling 65mph due east and passes a car traveling 45mph. . ."  This math/reading skullfuckery makes me more uncomfortable than Ann Romney at a Mapplethorpe exhibit.

. . .take my short people to church youth group, Cub Scouts, violin lessons, and any number of medical professionals, and still find time to chill with the shorties over a coloring book or yet another viewing of "The Avengers".*

*Watch Jeremy Renner and Chris Hemsworth again?  Oh...if I must.

Sure, at any given point in time my apartment may be trashed harder than Tommy Lee's room at the Chateau Marmont, and my short people might be bouncing off the walls like Capuchin monkeys after a cocktail of Red Bull and Mountain Dew. . .*

*Otherwise known as Honey Boo Boo "go-go" juice.  "You'd betta redneck-o-nize!"

. . .but by and large, I am a good mom.  I set reasonable limitations, demand proper etiquette and grammar, and  (despite the veritable plethora of snark I spew on my blogin person I am actually so freaking upbeat and happy-go-lucky I make Zooey Deschanel look like Sylvia Plath so through sheer osmosis, my short people are pretty damned happy too.  I wasn't always this way. . .I mean, I was always a good mom, but more in the Stepford-homemade-meals-around-the-kitchen-table-soccer-mom kind of way, not in the Taco-Bell-in-the-backseat-driving-from-daycare-to-the-dentist kind of way.  Since my divorce I am a "traditional" parent in the same way that Panda Express is a Chinese restaurant.  That is to say, not so much.  But, despite life being a little more frenetic, I'm finally happy, and the short people are too which goes a long way in my book.

My ex husband, Gil, has never been terribly involved in the boys' lives except for the odd spurts of hyper-involvement which generally preceeds a ham-handed threat to sue for custody.  The first time he pulled that shit I felt like I was walking around trapped in an IMAX version of "Dazed and Confused"; I was terrified that he would find some way to take away my reason for living and then I remembered that he was the cheapest son-of-a-bitch on the planet and would never actually spring for an attorney.  As my eyes slowly opened after ten years of drinking my way through a shitty marriage I finally saw Gil for who he truly was.  It was both a terrifying and freakishly enlightening moment, like I had just found out the ingredients of a ten-year Soylent Green diet.*

*"It's peeeeeeeooooooople!!!" 

Over the last two weeks he's been calling daily to "check on the boys", dropping by the school to introduce himself to other parents and teachers, downloading articles on our son M's autism, and offering to pay for violin lessons and a private tutor.*

*Cue sound of my stunned ass hitting the floor.  

At first I got all excited because I thought maybe he was dying but then I remembered the last few times Gil acted this way and my bullshit detector started beeping like Charlie Sheen's house arrest bracelet. Sure enough, Gil called the school to inquire as to how many afternoons the boys were attending the after-school care program and sent me a link to an article stating that 50% of custody cases against working mothers are now giving custody to the father, along with an email informing me that Four works from home and can be there for the boys 24/7.*

*I've stopped learning the names of Gil's wives.  It seems far more expedient to number them.  Oh, and for the record, his name isn't really "Gil".  That's just the name my friend Jess came up with: it's short for "Massengil" because he's such a tremendous douche.

I was skeptical of Gil's "50%" custody statistic until I read the accompanying article.  If you can stomach it without totally losing your shit, the link is HERE.  Are you freaking kidding me here?  So, let me get this straight:  a man walks out on his family or is so sadistically abusive that a woman has to run away, then she is forced to go back to school/work so that she can feed and clothe her children without government assistance and then she gets punished for it?  I may be just a scootch too close to the topic at hand but I haven't seen judgment that bad since Justin Guarini made the final two on "American Idol".  What the hell are these courts thinking?  Do they think that all working mom's WANT to be away from their children as much as they are?  Do they think that we LIKE spending every spare moment working, commuting, and praying to God that this month's paycheck is going to cover rent and utilities?  That's like saying your poodle LIKES dog food; if it's the only thing available at the 24-hour canine buffet then what fucking choice does he have?

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. My work is challenging and fulfilling and makes a genuine difference in people's lives.*

*And my coworkers are rad as shit.  ((fist bumps))

But if you think for one second that I wouldn't give anything to spend more time with my children then it's time to crush the tinfoil on your helmet because the crazy is starting to leak in.  It is easy to look at a working mother in the abstract as someone who isn't in the public eye handing out organic juice boxes at the T-ball game or volunteering for the bake sale/book fair/gangbang school fundraiser de jour but the list of things we do behind closed doors is longer than the transcripts of the Manson trial.  Yeah, it makes Gil look like a walking remake of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" when he makes a cameo appearance at the Cub Scout Banquet when I'm on the road for work, but no one sees that I ironed their uniforms, helped them earn every patch on their chest, spent countless hours teaching them the Cub Scout pledge, attended every mind-blowingly boring pack meeting, stood outside for four weekends in a row in selling shitty popcorn, and spent hundreds of dollars on hats, scarves, handbooks, camping trips, and scouting supplies. . .no, all I'm judged on is one missed evening.  One.  Whereas Gil has been M.I.A. for months and is practically canonized for sainthood for finally showing up.  To me that's kind of like waiting at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, taking a Tonya Harding billy club to some poor bastard's patella at mile 26, and traipsing across the finish line to jack his medal.  That is a dick move, my friends.

Do I think Gil will make a play for custody?  Absolutely.  Not because he is suddenly awash with fatherly devotion but because he knows it will hit me where it hurts.  Do I think Gil will actually TAKE custody of the short people?  Not a chance in hell; because the bottom line is: he has no goddamned clue how to be a parent.  Parenting is serious business, folks.  We live in a world that is more fucked-up than Gary Busey on a three-day weekend and it is up to us to help our children navigate the minefield of life without winding up living in a basement asking coeds to put the lotion in the basket.  What Gil, and apparently 50% of the family courts in America fail to realize is that single working mothers are, first and foremost, mothers.  We are the ones who had to step up when the other one stepped out.  We are the ones who left abusive marriages with the change in our pockets and the clothes on our backs and created a better life for our children.  We are the ones who are awake at 3:00 a.m. making an asparagus costume while packing lunchboxes and tending to a vomiting toddler.  We are the ones who haven't had a social life or a new car since the Bush Administration (Sr., not Jr.) and don't see either one in the foreseeable future.  We are doing the best that we can.  Wait, let me repeat that because goddamn it, it bears repeating.  We.  Are doing.  The best.  That. We.  Can.

It is easy to look at parenting from a narcissistic "I could do better" lens but the point is that being a parent is a hands-on experience.  God knows I read all the books and did the whole "When I have kids I will never..." spiel, and guess what?  I did every single one of those things by the time the boys were two.  Parenting is like hang-gliding or bungee jumping: you can read about it and watch all of the YouTube videos in the world but it isn't until you step off of that cliff that you know if you're truly screwed.  And while I've been careening against that rock face for the better part of a decade, Gil is yet to even peer over the edge.

I don't intend for this post to turn into a whole ex-husband bashing tirade. . .*

*Although he makes it so damned easy.

. . .nor do I want it to turn into a "Who's Better: Working or Stay-at-Home Moms?" debate because quite frankly we need to cut that shit out.  Being a mom is tough enough without us constantly tearing each other down and arguing over who are the coolest Sneetches on the beaches; we should have each other's backs because despite my seething white-hot hatred for that sociopathic Hobbit Hillary Clinton she was right about one thing: it takes a village to raise our kids.

Parenting is not something you can pencil into your schedule.  It is not something you can cram into a two-week time frame to make up for years of neglect.  It is loud, and sticky, and smelly, and frustrating, and both the hardest and most rewarding job in the world.  And it is the one job you absolutely can NOT fuck up.  So, whether you are a stay-at-homer, a part-timer, a full-timer, or even an out-of-towner, all I ask is this:  be there.  Even if you can't be there physically, be there with a phone call, or a note, or Skype, or a text, or something.  Just be there.  Jesus, if they could bring Tupac back from the dead for the VMA's you sure as hell should be able to find a way to shoot your kid an email from time to time.

Just be there.

Much love to all of my fellow moms and dads out there who are fighting the good fight every day.  And an extra hug to those of you with a child on the autism spectrum.  Trust me, it gets easier.  Always remember that our children are not problems to be "fixed"; they are lives to be celebrated.



Leauxra said...


A good friend of mine was raising her sone alone for 8 of his 10 years of life when all of a sudden the father wanted custody.

Of course, the father is in FREAKING JAIL, but whose counting?

I would really like to punch your ex in the gonads.

Brandi said...

I grew up in a "good" home with both parents, who are still married 30 years later, so I never experienced seeing one parent have to struggle to do it all. However, my sister was involved with a guy for an obscenely long time, and it wasn't until a few years ago that she finally realized that she deserved SO much better and that he deserves to choke on a hot bowl of dicks for being an absentee father and probably just a shitty person in general.

Anyway, I just wanted to stop by and applaud you (and anyone else) who does what they need to do in order to provide for their kid(s) with little to no assistance from the other party. Though I have no desire to pop out a crotch parasite of my own, y'all get much respect from me.

Jen said...

LEAUXRA- You'll have to get in line. And I warn you, Gil's gonad-punching line is a long one indeed.

BRANDI- OK, "hot bowl of dicks" made me laugh so hard I tripped over a homeless guy by the schwarma truck. I think I love you.

Frances Gronlier said...

**sigh** I see my cousin and brother go through raising their babies (both still married). And I think the kids are a handful now I cannot fathom doing it alone. I think kids bring the best in us and allows us to make the impossible possible. I think this stunt Gil is pulling is because he couldn't cut it as a husband (for the 3rd time) and now he needs a new title. He can try , but boy I can't wait to read that he got is ass handed to him. Big hugs to mothers (single or married).

Erica Burns said...

My sister and I were raised by a single mom and we turned out "fine" (mostly) my parents got divorced when I was 1 year old and I haven't seen him since- she never remarried or really a boyfriend that I remember and did okay.. a problem I find that I have now is that by her being super woman all the time, I too, need to be super woman and have such a strong sense of needing to be independent that my husband's neediness drives me bonkers. I also find being married and parenting with another person a hard thing for me to tackle because I had no previous experience with it. I also suck at being communicative even though I can talk up a storm... My sister and I were both talking about how we are 'damaged' because of what we weren't exposed to when we were younger... HOWEVER I applaud every single parent out there who has a d-bag of an ex because it is TOUGH to do it with a spouse and it has only got to be TOUGHER to do it alone!

and don't get me started on d-bag of ex's who steal kids from their moms because that is what happened to a dear friend of mine because of his manipulative ways and lies... and Texas laws which suck donkey balls

Erica Burns said...

On a side note- I like your nickname for Gil. but does that make him a d-bottle or a d-squirter (as they don't make them with bags anymore) ??

Jen said...

FRANCES- Thanks for your support, Chica. xoxo

ERICA- All I hope is that I fuck up my kids as minimally as possible... It is the dream of all parents. :)

Kari said...

I was a single parent for ten years and I still have a level of loathing for my ex that I can't explain anywhere near as eloquently as you have. I love your writing/venting and I'm pretty sure karma will find Gil at some point. You're obviously an awesome mom and he's equally obviously a useless douche.

Tiffany said...

You're a badass. Truly.

And I hope you're right about it getting better, because I want to punch my Aspie 15 year old in the face... then again, most parents of 15 year old boys probably feel that way. But hormones + autism spectrum + ADHD + general lazy attitude = a very stressed momma.

I also want to punch the lady that wrote Proverbs 31 in the face, too. Superwoman doesn't exist, and she didn't exist 3000 years ago. Thanks for setting us up for perceived failure, lady!

And yet, we do our best, and we are both badasses.

Jen said...

KARI- Big hugs to you my single sister. Karma will take care of our exes in the end. ((fist bump))

TIFFANY- Trust me, we all want to punch our kids in the face from time to time...that's called being a parent. And I'm with you on Proverbs 31; douche move Bible.

Leslie said...

Jen, My heart just hurts for you and I am all teary-eyed reading this. I was a single mom for years, and I am soooo blessed to have a wonderful ex who is very involved in my son's lives, but I have seen what friends go through, and I feel your pain in every keystroke. I identify with everything you expressed about parenthood, mommyhood, and single womanhood. And I wish I could give you an awesome hug and a blank check for the best attorney on the planet. I can't do either, but ya got my prayers and thoughts of good energy headed your way. Hang in there chickie!

Jen said...

LESLIE- I'll take prayers and good vibes over a blank check any day. Thank you. :)

Rachael said...

Oh good lord, this pisses me off no end. Why would they award custody to Gil. It's just wrong. You can't disappear, move in and out of their life at will and then suddenly decide it suits you to be a custodial parent. He can't commit to a wife #4 you say, what would make anyone think he can commit to parenting children?
Angry, Angry, Angry.

But you, my friend deserve all the kudos - raising kids is hard, raising kids while in school and working is hard and isn't rewarded enough. Both my parents worked full time and busted their butts to give my brother and I a solid upbringing. To do that on your own shows your strength.

TheChickIsRight said...

Thank you, Jen. You are absolutely fantasmagorical. My heart goes out to all single mothers, but especially to those with asshat exes. And those who make it happen without aid from the government or said asshats? Mega fistbumps. I hold so much admiration for those women who would walk over hot coals to ensure their kids are fucked up as little as possible. So, again, thank you. :-)

Side note - The "hot bowl of dicks" comment from Brandi totally made my day. I nearly hurt myself laughing. That's my new favorite phrase!

Jen said...

RACHAEL- I remember your parents; they (like mine) were rad. :)

CHICK- I'm still laughing my ass off at Brandi's turn of phrase. Brilliant!

Brandi said...

I'm so glad I could put a little smile on you guys' faces.

Suniverse said...

Oh, sweetie. I'm sorry your ex is a fucking douchebag.

I'm always impressed with those who can handle dealing with the exes with such grace and dignity.

You are a star.

CLR said...

And to this, simply


Anonymous said...

You already well know what I think of both a) your ex, and b) your parenting skills, but it bears repeating.

Gil's nads will some day, soon I hope, be on the business end of my steel toed boots, I can promise you that. He is the biggest douche that ever douched a douche and I wish someone would finally flush him like the huge turd that he is.

You, ma dear, are a rockstar parent. You are kind and loving and giving and caring. You are fun and funny and silly and wrong in all the right ways. You are a teacher, a mentor, a counselor and a scholar. You are everything those boys need and deserve. They are truly blessed to have someone like you to guide them and fight for them. All 3 of you are perfect together and I love the hell out of you. I will always be in your corner and am here any time you need advice, legal or otherwise, or just a shoulder to lean on or 2 ears to listen. You keep doing what you're doing, because you are doing the best job you can and are rocking the shit out of it. You are my hero and what I want to be when I grow up. Love you hard, my sistah!

Jules said...

Jen-sometimes I get a little, I don't know, protective of the term "single mom" because I am TRULY a single mom----I adopted a child as a single internationally--orphanagem no known birthparents. There is no shared custody, no child support (seriously-what I wouldn't do sometimes for a regular week or weekend "off") --but there is a village, that's for sure--my fantastic family and friends.

However-when I hear stories like yours I feel kinda lucky--I don't have some d-bag trying to screw things up, punish me (or the kids) for his bad decisions. That would definitely be tougher than my situation. From what you report-there doesn't sound like a chance in Hell that he'd get custody, but there's always that little "what if?", that really crappy day in court where everything is misconstrued that you worry about.

Hat's off to you girl-you're doing good!

TheOtherLisa said...

*standing ovation*

Again Jen, I think you rock. Sucks like hell to be living all the way over here and not being able to hang with you.

Jennifer Clark said...

All I have to say is....I have met your children. They are remarkably well behaved and polite. Much, much better than mine. Who have two full-time parents.

'Nuff said.

HeatherRose said...

So, let me get this straight: a man walks out on his family or is so sadistically abusive that a woman has to run away, then she is forced to go back to school/work so that she can feed and clothe her children without government assistance and then she gets punished for it?

Welcome to the Democratic party. This is what gets me about the evangelical patriarchical right wingers who have seized control of the Republican party - they sell you this tagline of doing it yourself and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, but then call you lazy and punish you for being a woman if you don't marry your next meal ticket and mold yourself into their biblical interpretation of perfection.

You are an awesome mother and an awesome person, and just like every woman you deserve not to be subjected to the pervasive woman-hating that is becoming the norm in our society. Good luck...