Friday, June 22, 2012

A Happy Father's Day (except for . . . )

One would think that Father's Day would be a bummer around our household. I certainly thought it would. The week before, the daycare teacher told me that they were making something special for Father's Day and asked who Elise should make her gift for. I instructed her to make it for Grandpa (Jake's dad). I asked the teacher if that would be weird, but she said, "A lot of other kids don't have dads either." The idea that my kids aren't alone in their fatherless state is sadly comforting, but it still haunted me the rest of the week.

Understandably, Elise talked a lot about Daddy all week. She asked me again and again where he was and when he would come back. I used to tell her that he was on a trip or working. A while back she had commented on how long his "trip" had been, so I decided it was time to let the truth start creeping in. I told her that Daddy had gotten in trouble. I told her that he had made bad choices and because of those choices he couldn't come home. She parroted back something like, "Being in trouble means you can't come home . . ." I didn't want her to think that she would be banned from our home when she got in trouble next time, so I tried to clarify that it was only the kind of trouble that grown-ups can get into. She didn't care, she just wanted to know when he'd come home again. I told her that he was the only one who could make that happen by making good choices. She seemed to accept that and stopped worrying about it. I just wish I knew what she was thinking.

Anyhow, the week before Father's Day, Elise made up all sorts of sweet stories involving Daddy. She would tell me almost every day about things she did with her Daddy and absolutely none of them were true. But they were all happy stories, like how Daddy gave her a pet frog. I let her indulge in the stories because it made her happy, although I secretly worry that someday she'll think those are real memories and hold it against me for taking her away from such an awesome dad. If only she did have a dad that good.

Well, the weekend came. One of Jake's sisters brought her family to visit and we planned a big dinner on Sunday. I expected Jake's parents to be real downers because we just haven't gotten along well lately, but they really were fantastic. They came over to my house Friday evening just to help me inflate a kiddie pool. They didn't have a "shopping list" from Jake or any other motive to come over other than to help me - I almost cried with happiness! They even kept mention of Jake down to minimum all weekend, although they just had to brag about how great his wood carvings are. And on Father's Day there was just happiness among all the family.

It was a really good time and I am very thankful. It felt so good, in fact, that it made me think twice about keeping my divorce plans a secret from his family. I don't want to alienate them with this horrible surprise. I started thinking that I was probably being paranoid in thinking that Jake would ever try to hurt us. So that night I prayed that God would give me some reassuring dreams about this whole situation and set my mind at ease. Instead, I had really disturbing dreams in which I was living all alone in a very different life without my kids and without any purpose - depressing, but not scary. I started coming out of the dream, just enough to know that I was dreaming, but not quite awake. Then I heard a truly frightening sound that had me awake in an instant. It was the sound of someone walking through my house and into my bedroom. My eyes flew open and my heart was pounding in my throat. I stared at the foot of my bed a few long moments, trying to see who was standing there because I knew - I KNEW - that someone was there. Not having any better idea, I decided to turn on the light and face the intruder. No one was there. I was really scared the rest of that night. I was scared the next day, too. I don't have any weird notions that it was a foretelling of the future or even a sign from God, despite the prayer that led to it. It was just enough for me to have my subconscious reaffirm its fears.

So, the weekend as a whole was truly wonderful, except for that night. I will keep my plans to move as stealthily as possible toward this divorce. Simultaneously, I will try to indulge in the family love that really does exist here and hope that those ties are lasting.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Stoic Woman

In another life (or what feels like it), I lived in Riverside, California. I was young, single, childless and basically had very few worries. I lived with two other young singles in a house in a nice-ish neighborhood. It wasn't a fancy block of houses, but it was comfortably middle-class. Across the street lived a tall, sophisticated looking woman about the age of my own mother. I imagined that she was an utter snob because she was always dressed like Martha Stewart and she had two beautiful dogs that trailed along obediently. And she never ever smiled.

The only thing that didn't jive with my image of her was the two-year-old girl that she seemed to care for on a regular basis. Such a perfect snob of a woman, I thought, would never volunteer to babysit anyone, even a grandchild. It was even more strange that I never saw the child's parents.

One evening, a search helicopter was circling above our neighborhood. Things like that were always going on in Riverside, so it wasn't a big shock. We locked our doors and ate our supper while watching curiously out the windows. Then we heard the police car sirens. My roommate waved me over to our front window as the police cars came chasing a car that screeched to a stop almost directly in front of our house! We crouched down with just our eyes peeking above the sill of the picture window to see the action. A man jumped out of the car and ran into the woman's house just across the street. It happened so fast that I barely saw the man.

The police got out of their cars with their guns pulled and crouched in wait. It was just like a movie. Next, the SWAT team arrived - no joke! My roommate and I thought that the snobby woman was being held hostage or something . . .The SWAT team entered the house - again, just like the movies, although they didn't break the door down. We held our breath.

Then the woman came walking out of the house, calm and cold as ever. She didn't seem surprised or hassled at all. She was carrying the little girl, too, as if they were just on their way to the grocery store or park or something. Moments later, the SWAT team brought out a very tatooed individual in a wife-beater. He looked as criminal as the woman looked polished.

I remember being so stunned by the whole scene, but mostly by the woman. How could a person be so stoic in such a terrible situation? I was sure that she must have known the man somehow and so she wasn't terribly surprised that he entered the house. That would explain why she wasn't scared, right? But wouldn't a normal person be shaken, angry, embarrassed? Wouldn't a normal person be crying or yelling or hiding their head? Yet, she had the same demeanor that evening that she did every day when she walked out to her mailbox. It was just such a puzzle to me that her cool image is burned into my memory.

Today, that woman came to my mind and I realized that I understand her now. I know why she was so cool. She definitely knew the man and his ways, which is why she wasn't surprised. But, more than that, she had been through this before or something similar. She had been through this scene enough that she was tired of it. Maybe the first time something like that happened she had felt fear and shame and sadness. She had probably reacted with passion back then. But how many times had he disrupted her life? More than three times, I'm sure. Regularly, I'd guess. When it keeps cycling around to the same drama and same pain a person grows scarred and stops feeling anything. She just went through the motions and went on with her life.

I get it now.

I've stopped being embarrassed by the monthly news article featuring my husband's mugshot on the front page. I don't cringe anymore when someone says, "You've been through so much. You're so strong." I even manage to keep my head up when I walk past the same police officers that once rifled through my home and accused me of child abuse. I'm not sure the shame will ever fade, but I'm done reacting to it. I may not have become that cold woman yet, but we have similar scars. I know that I have faced godawful moments with the same stoic face.

And that's yet another reason I need to get out of here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feeling Territorial

This last month has been horrendous. Besides the dog dying, the water heater breaking, and the daycare incident, I haven't had the chance to tell you the more on-topic stories.

Before the water heater stuff happened, Jake had asked if his woodworking tools could be moved from our garage to his parents' shop. I arranged a day and asked some neighbors to come help. It was actually quite uplifting that so many people were willing to pitch in for my sorry husband (or maybe it was despite him). Most of the activity was in our garage, but I also had to go to our basement and pack a box of his woodworking books.

The next day my mom came to visit. A few days into her visit and Jake's parents said they were coming over to say hi to my mom. It was less of a friendly visit and more of a shopping run for Jake, since they arrived with a list in hand of all the things that had been forgotten. It was annoying, but I tried to be understanding. I did some barely audible grumbling when they said, "You forgot some books." Not, Oh please go look to see if there are any other books. Whatever, I soothed myself by thinking about how I'm unloading his stuff from my life.

My mom and I went away for a few days because of the broken water heater. When we came back, my mother was trying to put away the stroller and found the storage area locked - I never lock that door. I had to go find the key.

The very next day, after my mom had left, I invited Jake's parents over to visit the kids. They came with another list. This time, more of the items were in our house and basement instead of the garage. They barely looked at the kids. I stayed calm by imagining that this was the LAST time they would need to do this.

While they were collecting items from my house (without any please or thank you or do you mind?), I happened to mention the storage area being locked and asked if they had gone in there last time.

Kay said, "Oh, I must have locked it when we came over the weekend - you were gone then." Steam started blowing out my ears, I swear, and yet I smiled because I didn't know what else to do.

I said, "Well, I was really freaked out because I wasn't sure that I knew where the key was."

Big Rev shrugged, "That's okay, we had a key."

Are you kidding me people? They acted totally at ease with coming and going from MY residence without notifying me or getting permission! And they were completely unconcerned that I would be able to have access to my own possessions (but THEY had access, so it was okay).

Finally, before they left, I got up the nerve to say, "Next time you're coming over, let me know. The locked storage area . . . that was a little wierd."

And they did ask the next time. How many more times will they do this? I'm feeling threatened and encroached upon.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I'd rather be the paranoid mom

This was a very interesting comment I just received and it hits at the center of many of my struggles right now, so I thought my reply was worth a whole post:

Not that this is an excuse for what happened, but as a child (probably around 9)I played a game with my neighbors called "the rape game." The game basically had each of the girls take turns and pretend to be sleeping. One of the boys would pretend to break into our room and pretend to take our clothes off. I don't think much happened beyond that.
I remember thinking that the game was naughty but knew that it was also safe. In fact, I had forgotten about it entirely until I was in my 20's and thought, ohhh my...I used to play "the rape game."
I think kids have to find their own way to explain complicated adult situations. It's possible these girls have see their parents shower together, so a group "pretend" shower might just be their way of understanding or just thinking that this is very normal behavior.
I think it's definitely something to keep an eye on but I'd be curious to see how many other adults have had similar playtime experiences."\

You know, I was bothered the daycare staff trying to reassure me by saying "It was all probably just innocent playing." I actually agree with the innocent part. As long as the kids don't know why the game is bad then they are still innocent. I remember kids showing each other their private parts when I was a kid in daycare and it was all innocent. However, even innocent play can cause problems for children in the long run.

Of my concerns, the mildest one (but a very real one) would be that my daughter would start to take lessons from these games as to how relationships work. Basically, she may think that sex has to be a part of every meaningful relationship or that it has to be the foundation of a meaningful relationship. That disturbs me greatly. On the same thought  line I would be concerned that the "rape game" would have taught some of the players that boys are aggressors who "take" sex and girls are helpless victims. That lesson can be instilled without any clothes being removed. Besides the inequality of genders in that situation, there is the added ingredient of violence that I never would want my kids to associate with sex.

Another problem comes with prolonged game playing in which the children start finding excitement and escapism in these games that lead to more mature forms of sexual escapism and addiction as adults.

Then, of course, there is my largest concern that my child might be coerced into sexual acts by someone older. The mother of the child who is starting this game should be asking herself this same question. There is a chance that her daughter just created this game to explore her curiosity about body parts OR she could have created it because someone has been coercing her into sexual behavior. 

I think the shower game up to this point was very innocent. However, I'm terrified to think that any caregiver would lean on this idea of "innocent curiosity" to avoid having to take any more action.

Back to the rape game, it sounds like you came out of that situation unscathed, so I'm glad. But it leaves me wondering, where were the adults who were in charge of those children? Nine-year-olds don't need constant supervision, but there should have been someone checking in often enough to interrupt a game like that. Someone should have noticed and stopped it with gentle guidance for all of you. Just because you didn't take any harmful lessons from it doesn't mean that one of the others didn't.

The consequences of sex play, even when it doesn't involve true abuse, can be serious. I don't want to be that mom who is always paranoid about this stuff . . . but I'd rather lean that direction then be the mom who blows it off as innocent while her child is learning the wrong things about sex and relationships.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Playing "Shower" - Part 2

At the same time I created my blog post about the "shower" game, I also posted this on Facebook:

"I think an older kid was trying to play an inappropriate game with my 3yo. I asked my daughter not to play that game anymore, but she seemed defensive. How do you explain this stuff to a little kid? She was hardly willing to tell me about the game, probably because she realizes I disapprove. How do I help her understand that I'm trying to help?"

I made it non-specific to place or people involved on purpose. I got several responses from my friends that are not part of our community.

The next morning, as I dropped off my kids at daycare, I went straight to the director to talk to her. A member of the daycare's board was also waiting for me. I was happily surprised thinking, "Wow, they're taking this seriously." But no, she was just there to explain to me how my facebook post could have damaged the daycare's reputation and endangered the children involved. Ugh.

I was horribly offended, of course. They seemed more concerned by my facebook post than the possibility that children were engaging in sex play. We argued a while over the facebook crap. She said that I signed an agreement with the daycare that I would take all problems to the director first. I told her my facebook post wasn't about the daycare, it was about me trying to talk to my child. "Do I have to ask the director's permission every time I post a parenting concern on facebook?"

"Of course not!" she said. But then she continued to compare what I did to a hospital employee breaking the HIPPA (sp?) privacy act. The more I think about, the more that pisses me off because I am NOT their employee and I broke no code of privacy! Grrrr.

She also explained that the comments following the post jumped to conclusions, which could make parents start to think that there is a real predator at our daycare. I'll let you all read the comments below and see if any are inappropriately scary (because I think they are dead-on appropriate).

In the end, I did apologize simply because we live in a small community, so any local parents reading my post could reasonably guess where this incident occurred.

And then we were finally able to steer the conversation back to how the daycare will handle this issue. Let me say that I really like the director and I do trust that she will work to prevent any sex play. The board member is also a woman I generally like, but I hope the director ignores her assertions that "It was probably all just innocent!" Well, it might be innocent, but it could easily start sliding toward the dangerous.

I had the bitter taste of politics in my mouth the rest of the day.

The following are the comments following my post:

From an old high school friend and mother of 2: " that's a tough one. at 3, not sure if I had to have a talk with K-, but we did have the "it's your body" talk and "no one can touch you" type things. but we've been lucky"

From me: "We've talked a lot about body parts and how we don't let others touch us. This game involved pretending to take a shower, including pretending to undress and wash, in a secluded area. When I told Elise that I didn't like that game because I don't want her taking her clothes off with other kids she said, "It was just pretend!" I told her that sometimes pretend stuff becomes real stuff. Then I suggested that we find her better friends to play with and she said, "Yeah, friends that don't want to take clothes off." I practically screamed HALLELUJAH!"

From a college friend and mom of an infant:" i swear that is one of my biggest nervous-ness-es (how's that for a word?) of parenthood.... figuring out the best way to address personal privacy, without going overboard. i would much rather have a girl that is ready to kick some a** for people getting too "friendly", than a girl who is in any kind of trouble and afraid to talk to me."

From a teacher and mother: "Evie, if they were acting secretive it can only be because the older child told them to keep it a secret. I'd be more worried about that child than how you handled it with Elise. It sounds like you handled that perfectly. If you can, you should share your concern with the other child's parents. Sometimes if a child initiates that kind of play with younger children (especially when they stress the secretive nature of the activity which indicates that they know that the activity is inappropriate) it can be an indicator that the child is working out some issues of their own. Many of the children that abuse younger kids have been abused themselves. You might stress to Elise that she needs to play where you can see her at all times. What a frightening incident!"

From a mother of grown children and wife of a teacher: "I agree with [above] and have the opinion that a three year old is too mentally and emotionally immature to plays out of sight unless she is with family or friends that you know extremely well and completely trust"

 From another mother of 2: "sounds like you did the right thing. and making it about talking instead of getting in trouble is ALWAYS the way to go." 

Finally, from me: "When I wrote this post, I intentionally left out details about the location and children involved. It was not my intention to scare any local parents. I was only trying to get some ideas on how to talk to my daughter about the situation. I want it to be clear that the organization in charge of the place where this occurred is taking the appropriate steps with care and concern for everyone involved. My family will happily frequent this location in the future because of how well they are handling it."



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Playing "Shower"

My kids go to a great daycare. I feel very comfortable with the teaching style of the teachers. I'm even more happy with the very open layout of the facility. If there is a door, there is a big window in it. There are multiple teachers in the facility, constantly rotating classrooms, and there are parents coming and going at all times. The visibility helps set my mind at ease that there will be no funny business. Basically, I don't have to worry about sexual abuse.

However, when I picked up my kids today, I noticed two older girls, around 7 years old, coming out of a bathroom stall together whispering. I let the daycare worker know before I left.

At home, I asked Elise if she ever played with Casey, one of the girls I saw. She said yes and I proceeded to gently ask her what kind of things they did together. The more detail I asked for, the less Elise seemed willing to tell me. Finally, I asked her where they played and one of the places she listed was the "shower". I don't recall seeing a shower in the stall, so I asked her where the shower was and she said it was with the bathrooms. I asked her what they did in there and she said they took off their clothes to wash themselves. She quickly followed that with, "It's just pretend, Mom!"

I hugged her and asked her not to play in the shower with Casey anymore.

I feel rather sick about this. I'm not sure what to do. I guess I'm going to explain this to the daycare staff. At the least, I don't want Elise playing with Casey any more. I'm leaning toward asking them to have a talk with Casey about the inappropriateness of her play. I'm more than a little concerned why Casey came up with this game . . . What do you all think?

Pregnancy Dreams

One of the women that I share an office with is pregnant. The other woman is trying to get pregnant. Every day is seems like another member of the staff comes into our office to announce that they are pregnant! I'm getting really sick of pregnant women, especially since I've started having pregnancy dreams.

Last night, my pregnancy dream was enhanced by the full moon. Not only was I pregnant, but I met the leader of a cult and agreed to move in with him . . . to his remote cabin with no running water or electricity or heat . . . where his twenty children also lived . . . where they were expecting to be raided by law enforcement  . . . and I was due to pop at any moment.

That's not the end, though. When the sun set on this cult cabin, it was hard to see since there were no lights. After a little while, my eyes adjusted to the full moon (still in my dream) only to realize the place was crawling with alien caterpillars about the size of cat!

Lately, I've been looking at myself in the mirror and saying, "Evie, you are all grown up now. You have made foolish decisions, but you won't any more. You will be careful and discerning with all future choices."  But this morning I looked in the mirror and said, "You moved in with a cult at full term! Are you psycho?!" Okay, I don't think I'd really ever do that, but I think maybe my sub-conscious was warning me that I am still rather foolish.

It was also trying to tell me to watch out for alien caterpillars.

And no, I am not pregnant.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Water Heater Drama

I never knew a water heater could spark so much drama. Well, mine died a week and a half ago. My mother was visiting, so she volunteered to call a plumber while I was at work (after a very cold shower). The plumber discovered that the water heater had some serious problems, including the possibility that it had become a fire hazard. Basically, it was time for a new water heater.

I have been avoiding talking to Jake, but I felt the need to let him know about the water heater. I consider this house to be HIS house and, thus, HIS water heater and HIS cost to replace it. I thought it was a simple enough message that I could just tell his dad.

I called Big Rev and started to explain the issues that the water heater was having, including black smoke coming out the exhaust pipe. I told him that I had a plumber look at it. He said, "I wish you hadn't called a plumber because I can tell you how to fix it."

"Oh really," I said, "how's that?"

"Well, go down to the basement."

"Uh-huh." I wasn't moving.

"Now climb up on the counter beside the water heater."


"Unplug it from the battery back-up, wait a few seconds, then plug it back in."

"Are you kidding?! I just told you that BLACK SMOKE is coming out the exhaust and you want me to just unplug and replug it?!"

We exchanged a few more angry sentences and then he hung up on me. That did me in. I felt like Big Rev was representative of Jake, which meant that I was alone with the water heater problems. I was ready to move out on the spot! Unfortunately, it just couldn't be done in a day. After a frenzy of stamping my feet and cussing loudly, I ended up crumpled on the floor sobbing with my mom hugging me.

A little while later, Jake called and I answered it. He was calm and - dare I say it - comforting. This was the man I fell in love with. The man who solves my problems. The man who is on my side. He listened to my water heater problems and agreed to buy a new one without my asking. The conversation naturally moved to other things: his court date that I didn't attend, his treatment that he feels is not helping, and our relationship.

He acknowledged that I have a lot of reasons to be mad at him, but he wants to resolve our problems and move forward. I felt like such an ass while he was saying these things. He doesn't know that I'm planning on divorcing him. He's concocting dreams of our future and I'm planning my escape. I tried to gently tell him that I don't know if we'll have a future together. He suggested I come over and spend time with him so that we can know if we're "still compatible". I told him that we are as compatible as we've always been, but that didn't change the situation he's in, the damage he's done, and his inability to be a father.

He took a lot of offense to that part about being a father. I told him that, from what I could gather, he was likely to go to prison for at least a few years. He cut me off to say that he thinks he could just get probation. We bickered about the reality of that for a few minutes and then the conversation went on with him trying to explain how things can get better, if I can just give him that chance . . .

I had previously made up my mind not to tell him about the divorce until I file. Jake has never been hostile in my presence, but he's been deceptive so many times now that I feel I can't even trust my own belief in his apparent non-violent demeanor. So I have been mum about the divorce out of fear that he would react in a dangerous way. As we talked on the phone, I softened up to him. I never lost my determination to divorce him, but I started feeling bad that I was keeping it a secret. I started imagining the day that he would receive notice and how heartbroken he would be. I had to really struggle during the conversation to keep from blurting out, "I'M LEAVING!"

Somehow, I managed to hold it in, but I allowed myself to repeat what I've told him before, "I don't know how long I can stay here. I can't afford the mortgage and this isn't good for the kids. I might have to leave." We were both crying.

Anyhow, it ended with him asking me to call him again some time. "Sure," I said. I really meant it, too.

I immediately called my therapist because I felt deeply disturbed about the whole conversation - mostly because of how much he could soften me up with just a few kind words. She listened kindly and then asked me if I had read his psycho sexual evaluation. She asks me that every time I talk to her. For the longest time I had the excuse that no one had given me a copy. So she gave me a copy. Really, I didn't want to read it. I felt like I had already accepted that he is sexually disturbed and a likely danger to his own children, so why did i need to read the details behind those facts? Well, this time when she asked I felt moved to actually do it. I sat down and read about all the ways he is a sexual deviant.

The report was nauseating and sad. A few things stuck out to me. First, he is attracted to every age and gender. They have a special device to measure that, you know, but I don't really feel like getting into that.That part actually didn't disturb me as much as the next part about how he doesn't have proper empathy for others when it comes to sex. Basically, he is not able to distinguish if a person is desiring sex or not. This is dangerous enough when you're dealing with adults, but he could possibly misinterpret a child's innocent affection as a sexual advance. I thought about how he used to sit with Elise on the sofa and watch T.V. Did he make any misinterpretations then? Luckily, the next part of the evaluation summarized the polygraph in which he was found to be truthful in denying any sexual contact with his own kids. Thank God. The most painful part of the report was reading the statements of Jake and of the victim. The victim's statement was so damning. I expected that Jake would downplay his bad behavior - and he did. I was equally expecting that she would exaggerate it. But everything she said rang true. He came on to her and said inappropriate things to her. Everything she described had him down to the letter. I had previously believed that he had just got caught up in the moment with her, but now I know for sure that he was actively pursuing her. He was planning it and following through . . . and he was enjoying it. As if he was living out his favorite wet dream.

But wait, there's more! He told the evaluator that he had an affair when he was 33. That would be the second year of our marriage, about the time Elise was one year old. If I needed something to solidify my resolve in divorcing him, that would do it! Sure, I knew he had gone to massage parlors and had internet sex with strangers, but he wouldn't have called any of those affairs. And I think I know who it was with, which makes it doubly hideous, but that's another long blog post for a different day . . .

As I reached the end of the report, I was absolutely sure that this marriage was over and that our kids needed to be removed from this situation. There was just one thing that made me sorry about this decision. It was a line in the evaluation summary: "Periodically sad, empty, and lonely, he is likely to have deep frustrated yearnings for social acceptance." That is the kind of thing that makes me want to stay and give him the love he obviously needs because he will never have that social acceptance.

But every bit of energy I spend taking care of Jake (who can't return that love and care properly) weakens me and lowers the chances that our kids will have a healthy childhood. Our kids need me - and deserve me - more than he does.

The water heater, the phone conversation, and the psycho sexual evaluation left me emotionally drained. I spent a good portion of that afternoon unable to function, holding on to a cup of tea, and just shivering. Thank goodness my mother was there. When I resurfaced from my emo-coma, we made plans to get away for the weekend and get away for good. It's going to take a few months, but the plans are solidifying and I am looking forward to it.