The chicks are back in the nest.

My nerves are finally starting to settle, but it didn’t happen until late yesterday evening.  I’m staying on my toes, though, since we all know that my roller coaster could gain momentum at any moment.

Super Dad ended up buying tickets to the Texas A&M vs Alabama game, so the kids were excited that they weren’t just driving three hours to tailgate and watch the game on tvs outside the stadium.  Since they were leaving at the buttcrack of dawn (The Ex can’t miss a moment of drinking time, I mean tailgating time), they decided to spend Friday night at his house.  No, go ahead and turn the knife one more time, so it’s good and snug.  They came by the house to pick out the perfect outfits, even though MonoBoy said that they would probably buy new stuff when they got there.  Of course, they would.  They were both excited and getting along.

I was surprising calm on Saturday despite the fact that the boys would be trapped in a car with a drinking man who LOVES to bash me, and who knows what would be said.  I went to my friend’s daughter’s soccer game, then went to another friend’s house to watch the game and a movie afterward.  (“Poltergeist” is highly recommended to take your mind off of your own problems.  Now those people had some problems.  I mean, their house was infested with creepy clowns.)  I did, however, constantly scan the crowd of 105,000 people to see if I could catch a glimpse of my two little Aggie fans.

I was going to go to a Octoberfest in the Park event with my mom and sister afterward, but after screaming at the tv over multiple interceptions, I decided that a beer tasting event was NOT the best plan.  I settled onto the couch to catch up on Scandal while I nervously waited to see if my boys would come home.  [Pauses DVR] Was that a car door?  [Strains to listen] I guess not.  The dog didn’t move.

By the time LoverBoy walked through the door, I was watching through my eyelids.  He walked by without saying a word.  Uh-oh.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said that he was worried about how to pay for it.  “College?” I stupidly asked.  “No, the other $24,000 endeavor I’ll be embarking on next year.”

You know, you want to raise intelligent children, but when they are old enough to use it against you, you start to rethink that and wish that you hadn’t read “Goodnight Gorilla” those thousands of times to him when he was a toddler.

LoverBoy has been so stressed out about the cost of tuition.  It started the day that his dad came over to discuss on campus living vs off campus living.  He knows that student loans will be in his future because his parents got a divorce and his dad lost his mind and there’s only so much that a single mom can accomplish.  This known fact has caused more anxiety than you can imagine.  He has a binder of printing out scholarships arranged by monthly tabs so that he can keep track of deadlines.  He’s written more essays than he did his entire three plus years in high school combined.  He has been searching for part-time employment to try to save money.  Although I appreciate his ambition, I hate that it’s stealing his joy.

It’s partially why I was happy for him to make this trip over the weekend.  I wanted him to be there again and remember all of the things that he has to look forward to.  I just didn’t think it through that he was going with The Ex, and that in itself can be a joy stealer.

I told him once again that he didn’t need to worry about it so much and that I was going to do everything that I can to reduce his burden.  “Plus,” I said ever so earnestly, “your dad said that he’s going to pitch in.”  I know, right?  I didn’t even crack a smile when I said it.  I decided to jump on LoverBoy’s dad’s-gonna-pay bandwagon.  Apparently, LoverBoy jumped off the wagon, however.

“No he’s not.  He’s going to spend his money on stupid stuff.  All he talks about is buying season tickets and getting a trailer for tailgating.  He only cares about having fun at football games.  He won’t have any money for tuition.  He’s going to blow it all.”

(Oh, so you’ve met him.)

I asked if he had talked to his dad about some of this anxiety.  “Every time I bring it up, he talks about scholarships as if they are a done deal.  Like someone is going to just hand them to me as if it’s nothing.”  (Seriously, he does think that.  He also thinks that MonoBoy is a shoe-in for admission.)  I was at a loss, standing there and searching for the right words.

“So how much more child support did you get?”

Oh crap, what did he just ask?  How in the heck did he know that?  Oh yeah, three hours in a car with the man who hates me more than Satan.

“Not much,” was all I could think to say.  He doesn’t need to know anything about it at all, let alone how much.

“Will it benefit me in any way?”

Are you kidding me?  Every cent that I get goes to benefit you and your brother.  Have you seen the car I drive?  Do you know when the last time I saw the dentist was?

Is what I wanted to say.  Instead I said, “Yes, the additional child support is going into savings for college.”

Needless to say, I slept none that night.  I wondered what conversation had been had.  I wondered what his thoughts about it.  I wondered if MonoBoy was buying it and if that’s why he didn’t come home with him.  I wondered how I would survive knowing that I have let my child down by not having enough saved for four years of college.

I finally pulled myself out of bed the next morning and went for a walk to try to clear my head.  When I got back, he was up and on the couch watching soccer.  I made him breakfast while he got ready for work.  It was going to be his first day of part-time employment at the facility I work at.  What if he hates it?  What if it’s just one more thing that he blames me for?

I decided to throw myself into some work for the day.  I’ve picked up a side job for extra money, you know, for college.  It helped to pass the time and distract me from my fears.  When he got home, he was in a great mood.  He loved the job.  Whew!

We watched the end of the soccer game together, then as we were watching Sports Center to catch up on the NFL games, MonoBoy walked in.  All of my chicks were in the nest and everyone seemed to be in decent spirits, so I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

 

 

PTSD sucks

PTSD sucks.  I mean, it really, really, REALLY sucks.  I’m trying to figure out how to explain it.

It makes mountains out of mole hills.  Normal situations feel like 9-1-1 situations.  For example, seeing your ex’s name on your Caller ID might cause you to roll your eyes.  The sound of his voice might feel as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.  That’s understandable with a messy divorce.  In my world, the sight of his name with a text message makes my stomach immediately cramp.  I can taste bile, and the urge to throw up is great.  My shoulders become tense and I find myself panting or breathing heavy, or alternating between the two.

The reaction just isn’t normal.  Of course, neither is my relationship with my ex.

Sometimes I am strong.  I can shrug off his contact and roll my eyes like normal people.  This is not one of those times.  You see, on the day that MonoBoy moved home, my ex was served with papers to appear in court (next week) for a review of his child support and arrears.  I saw a missed call from him that day, but I thought it was about MonoBoy, and since he didn’t leave a message, obviously I didn’t call him back.

He called me again on the following Monday and I answered the phone.  In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake.  Big.  Huge.”  I didn’t know about the serving of the papers and I’m sure I looked like a deer in the headlights.  He asked if I had filed for a review.  I panicked and said no.  I just wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible to throw up.

In truth, way back in May, I received a letter from the OAG asking for verification from the school of LoverBoy’s graduation date, as he will no longer have to pay child support for him after that date.  I got the information to them, and as a follow up, they sent me the standard “You are entitled to a review every three years or if financial circumstances have significantly changed.”  I get those letters every so often but I have NEVER requested a review.  I did ask them enforce the child support order when he was working and not paying it (resulting in almost $10,000 in arrears due), but I never wanted to place any additional burdens on him by increasing it.

In all actuality, when we first divorced, I agreed on child support based on his base salary, excluding his bonuses and overtime as a gesture of generosity.  (I secretly still wanted him back then.  Gag.) And when we went to court to reduce the visitation, my attorney told me that I was generous for not increasing it with his new job and lack of visitation.  At the time, I didn’t want to rock the boat any more than I had.

I can’t explain my momentary lapse in fear and generosity back in May.  Perhaps it was that MonoBoy woke up from surgery and told me that he hated me and I blamed my ex for it.  Perhaps it was the fact that I knew I would soon lose child support for LoverBoy, and HELLO, college is expensive as heck.  Whatever it was, for the first time in seven years, I checked the “yes” box and mailed the form back in.

I was probably proud of myself for half of a second, and then forgot about it.

Until two weeks ago when my ex confronted me and SURELY there had to be some mistake.  Pant, pant, pant.  I called the Attorney General.  I called my previous attorney.  I begged anyone that would listen to please get me out of this.  Make it go away.  I don’t want this to happen.  I’m not strong enough.  This will turn out bad for me.  It always does.

Things are too volatile with MonoBoy just coming home, and LoverBoy already nervous about college tuition, researching scholarships and financial aid on a daily basis.  Just a few weeks ago, he asked me if I thought his dad would pay for half, like he promised.  I said, “You’re putting me in an awkward position here.  What matters is what you think.”  He said that he wanted my opinion, which of course, is NOT NO, BUT HELL NO.  Although, I was thankfully able to refrain from stating it that way.  He asked me what I was basing my opinion on, and I simply said, “The past.”  He asked me to give an example, and I mentioned the medical expenses.  He responded with, “Yeah, but he doesn’t see the value in paying medical expenses.  This is different.  He’s proud of me for this.  It makes him look good.”  I simply ended the conversation with, “You are certainly right about that, and I hope he does contribute to college.”

Now I have given him the perfect scapegoat.  “Well, I was going to help pay for college, but your greedy mother took me back to court for more money.”  It’s on the tip of his tongue.  I know it is.

Of course, right now, he is too busy berating me about my “knee-jerk reactions” and how I thrive on drama” and so on, etc.  It’s more important to him that I lied when he asked me about it, than he is about the actual event.  He LOVES that I made a mistake.  Today, I think that I received a total of twenty texts in less than five minutes, full of snide remarks about it.  Oh, excuse me, those statements were “factual” not snide remarks.  He corrected me on that when I asked him to refrain.

Look, I know that I haven’t technically done anything wrong, other than the lie I told about not checking the box on that stupid, stupid form.  (I have kicked myself a zillion times for that, so I certainly don’t need him to remind me every twenty seconds.) I also know that I am entitled to a review of child support every three years or with financial circumstance changes, of which BOTH apply here.  Normal people are thinking that I am absolutely crazy for giving this a second thought.  It’s the law.  It was created for a purpose.

But being well within my rights of the law and being able to stand up to a bully and not believe all of the terrible things that he says about me and to me, are worlds apart.  No, galaxies apart.

He probably won’t believe it, but I have done everything I can these past two weeks to make this go away, despite my therapist friend telling me not to let my PTSD make decisions for me.  Today, the Attorney General told me once and for all that there is no way out of it because he still owes $8,000 in arrears.

Yeah, well, that’s news to him.  I mean, this is the guy that paid me $200 and thought that his 50% portion of the $1400 medical bill was done.  He remembers things in his own way.  The World According to Him is galaxies away from reality as well.

So for the second Friday in a row, I have been accosted through texts.  I have swallowed back the bile that threatens to spew out of my mouth and I have furiously wiped away the tears that have spontaneously erupted from my eyes.  He’s off on Fridays and has nothing better to do than harass me.  Or “get at the truth” as he sees it.

The truth is that we go to court on Thursday.  We could go in there and calmly agree NOT to increase the monthly child support despite what his new W-2 and check stubs say.  My PTSD is certainly pushing for that.  Or he could present his financial records and we could let the court decide.

My therapist says that there is no wrong answer.  I could let things go in an attempt to save LoverBoy from potentially being pulled into the middle, or I could stand by my rights and force The Ex to do the right thing for his kids.  I seem to be the only one in the world that holds that man to task and forces him to do the right thing.  It’s not like it wins me any points.  It actually wins me the title of “Vindictive Bitch.”  Do I really want that role?  My PTSD says no.  Stay the same compliant, good girl who generously keeps the child support the same despite rising costs and increases in his pay.  Don’t rock the boat.

But I did, and these choppy waters have me extremely seasick.

He came home.

MonoBoy came home.  It’s been two weeks now and I haven’t wanted to jinx it by announcing it.  I have no idea what brought him home, and I don’t have the nerve to ask.  He came by one Friday night to get a tennis racket and stopped into his grandmother’s room to give her a hug and kiss.  She sleeps much of the time these days, so he woke her when he bent down to kiss her cheek.  He said that she jumped up, so excited to see him and threw her arms around his neck.  She told him that she hoped he knew how much she loved him and how proud she is of him.

He said to me, “She was so serious that it made me feel like she thinks she is dying and it scares me.”

I said, “No, she just never sees you and she misses you.”

It just slipped out.  Truth or not, I have been so very careful not to acknowledge his absence or make him feel guilty for it.  I panicked a bit, but he didn’t seem phased as he bee-bopped out to play tennis.  (No, I have no idea what the tennis thing was about.  Add it to the long list of things I don’t understand.)

The next day before the boys soccer game, MonoBoy showed up with his arms full of clothes and announced, “I’m home.”  LoverBoy and I were on the couch watching an international soccer game.  He looked at me with questioning eyes, and I just shrugged like, “How should I know?”

The first week was a bit of an adjustment.  There was some awkwardness.  He went to his dad’s house the first few evenings and I didn’t say a word.  I didn’t really feel like I could.  I’m sure that he’s confused and there’s guilt both ways.  This week has been much easier.  He seems happy and normal.  Okay, so normal is stretching it a bit.  The poor kid is just so lost.  He hasn’t finished the modeling classes.  He hasn’t touched the music thing I got him for his birthday that he just HAD to have.  He still goes to golf practice for the school, but he doesn’t play every day like he did or seem all that interested.  He’s picked up skateboarding and spends time at the local skate park in the evenings trying to teach himself tricks.  And today, he sent me a text from school asking if I could find him a voice teacher because he wants to learn how to sing.

It’ll keep your head spinning, but he brought his grades up to A/B status and he seems happy, so I’m trying to let it go.  Perhaps next week I will approach the subject of SAT/ACT tests.  My Type A Personality is currently at war with this new Laid-Back Mom persona.  Eventually, Type A will break free.  I just have to try to keep her on a leash when she escapes from the backyard of my brain.

On Friday night, the boys opted not to participate in the school homecoming festivities.  They wanted to branch out on their own and go to a rap concert in Houston instead.  (Can you hear Type A Mom barking her head off in the background?)  I was able to call in a favor for free tickets for them, and their friend has an aunt that works at a fairly close hotel, so they were able to stay in a hotel room for free.  It was definitely a first for all of us.  Laid-Back Mom had to practically bound and gag Type A Mom.  I was a nervous wreck.  Four boys (ages 17-18) heading to the big city on a first-time adventure solo.  I told myself over and over that next year, LoverBoy will be driving 3 hours away to College Station and living on his own.  He’s responsible and he knows how to use Google Maps.  This is no big deal.  Gulp.

I must have checked “Find my iPhone” about 400 times.  They were always where they were supposed to be.  There was one closed ramp that caused them to re-route and they did so successfully without my help.

My boys are growing up and they had a blast in the city.  They were responsible and relied on each other (great bonding experience) and they didn’t fight.  They were so proud and felt so independent.  And I didn’t even suffer that heart attack I felt coming on .

The next morning, they watched a soccer game on the tv at the hotel and drove back in town in time for their own soccer game.  It was the perfect thing to welcome MonoBoy back into the house and to get LoverBoy to accept his being there.

After their soccer game, though, MonoBoy had a fight with his dad.  He left the fields immediately after the game to go eat with friends from the team.  I guess he had previously committed to spending time with his dad’s new family.  Or so Dad thought.  According to MonoBoy, his dad had offered a trip to the deer lease (about a 30 minute drive away), which MonoBoy LOVES, but then texted to say that there was a change of plans.  Daddio was going to try out his new bow (that expensive thing he must have to hunt), so MonoBoy could go play golf with the step-brother.  MonoBoy said that he responded with, “Ok. We’ll see,” which he believed to be noncommittal.  Not so much to his dad.

MonoBoy texted me as soon as he got to the restaurant asking me to come and pick him up because “Dad is freaking out!”  When I picked him up, he asked me to drive through Taco Bell.  While we were waiting on our food, he was texting furiously back and forth with his dad, and then his phone rang.  I couldn’t hear what was said, just the loud booming voice through the phone that gives me nightmares and diarrhea.  MonoBoy promised him that he was hurrying, but he hadn’t eaten all day and was starving after soccer.

By the time we got to our house (a very short distance), MonoBoy had EIGHT missed calls from his father.  He’s nothing if not persistent.  And annoying.  MonoBoy flew into the house and changed into his golf attire and headed to his dad’s.  About thirty minutes later he returned home.

“Quick trip.  I’m guessing that you’re not going to play golf.”  No, instead his father ranted on for 30 minutes about how he had held up the whole family and ruined their plans and that he had “f%&ked them in the ass.”  Nice.

The next day, all was forgiven and he spent the entire day at the dear lease with Mr. Sore Ass.

Whatever.  He came home.

 

Deliverance

You might be wondering where The Ex has been since MonoBoy’s return.  You know he’s always lurking somewhere.  To an outsider, it might appear that he is actually making progress and living a normal, healthy life.  Really making an effort for his kids.

He goes to church on Sundays.  TO CHURCH!  And it doesn’t burn down, if you can imagine.  (Ummm, hello?  Big Guy?  What the heck, dude?)  I can’t tell you the number of times I pleaded with him to go to church.  I even succeeded a few times, but regretted it almost each and every time.  It would end up that the boys and I would be sitting in the car in the driveway, waiting and waiting, as the start time for the service grew near.  We were ALWAYS late.  And he was always griping the entire way there.  I got tired of waiting and left him a couple of times.

He’s holding down his job and wearing new clothes.  He even paid off his old bounced checks to our hair stylist and started getting regular haircuts again, where he tells her stories about the boys and his involvement with them.

He has made an effort to make it to the boys’ sporting events, even sitting in the cold to watch soccer.  AAU Basketball is about to begin and MonoBoy informed me that his dad is going to be the Assistant Coach.  Wow, right?  He must have even reformed his racist ways.

Suckers.  I can’t believe you bought that outward BS.  He put on this dog-and-pony show with that horse-faced girl that he left me for.  Oh sure, it’s absolutely killing me that he is running around looking all legitimate around town.  ABSOLUTELY KILLING ME, do you hear?

But I occasionally get a phone call that reminds me who he is.  Like just last weekend, after AAU tryouts, he called me and asked if there was something going on with MonoBoy that he didn’t know about.  You wanna be more specific?

You know how I have an ongoing debate about what to tell him and whether or not it will later bite me in the butt.  With sharp teeth.  But since he was asking, I decided that I should tell.  I told him that MonoBoy seemed to be struggling with depression.  I said that the girlfriend was an issue and that he had lost focus on school and basketball and that his grades were suffering.  He’s dressing differently and wants to run away to New York for fashion design instead of going to college.  I even told him that I have scheduled an appointment for him to talk to a counselor.

He asked me the counselor’s name and where I had found him.  I told him that he was referred by their former counselor.  “Their what?  What kind of shit is this?  I didn’t know about a former counselor.”  And here we go, I thought.

But Bambi was in the background, so he refrained from starting a fight.  (Did I mention how much I prefer having her around?  You would be AMAZED at the difference in our conversations when she is within earshot.)  He asked the guy’s name again and repeated it for her benefit.  She must have given him the thumbs up because he said, “Yeah, yeah, I think I’ve heard of that guy.  Well, I think that I should talk to him before the appointment to tell him what’s going on.”

Oh?  And just what would you say?

Y’all, as he spoke about the change in MonoBoy and the underlying cause of the change, I envisioned him sitting in a white robe while his buddies burned a cross in the background.  He said that MonoBoy just needs to give up basketball and switch to baseball with the normal folk.  He used many colorful explanations of the root cause of the problems.  And he thinks that if MonoBoy lived with him for about six months, he could really straighten him out.  In fact, he wishes that he could kidnap him for a month this summer.  He’ll dress him in jeans and boots and take him out into the woods with a couple of his country buddies.

What is this Deliverance?  (I considered adding the movie clip of the famous “Squeal Like a Pig” scene, but I thought it would be in poor taste.)

Not-so-happy new year

When LoverBoy got home from his girlfriend’s, he told me about the fight and that he thought his nose was broken.  We went immediately to the ER for x-rays.  I was more worried about a concussion than anything, but I knew that he wouldn’t to even discuss that for fear that he wouldn’t be able to play soccer and his first official Varsity soccer practice was the very next day.  The x-rays showed a fracture, but no displacement, so they sent him home to rest.

Y’all, how did this happen?  How did our lives get to this point?  No matter what awful thing happened, it was the three of us against the world.  And now some terrible thing had divided us.

LoverBoy admitted to starting the fight.  Despite his broken nose, he reached out to his brother to apologize.  He told him that he loved him.  He received no response.

I can’t describe the torture of the following days.  It was like going through the separation and divorce all over again.  My abandonment issues were kicking my butt, and I just could not imagine what MonoBoy was feeling.  Was he hurt?  Did he think that I had abandoned him or betrayed him in some way?

I feared that I had lost him forever and that he would never speak to me again.  I told myself that he would return when school started.  I reminded myself that he isn’t allowed much contact with me when he is with his dad.  But knowing these things and believing these things when you are so devastated are two different things.  I didn’t want to push MonoBoy, so I only texted him at night before bed to tell him that I loved him.  He always responded positively with “I love you more” or something normal, so I shouldn’t have been so panicked and worried.

But I was dying.

Finally, on the Saturday before school started, I got a text that said, “I’m coming home, I just don’t know how to ask.”

It was definitely a not-so-happy new year, but there was hope.