It took me a really, really long time to get this one.
Every once in awhile, my ex gets a bug in his bonnet and thinks he needs to control everything that goes on in my house. He asks the kids what they’re eating for meals, he calls more often and asks details about what the kids did that day, including what we bought at the mall. Once he’s armed with information, he begins the email attack on me.
Usually, it’s one email per subject, and he demands to know what’s being done to ensure the kids’ healthy eating habits, and what future activities and sports I have lined up for them for the next season to make sure they “stay busy.” He’s been known to voice his concerns about my son’s toilet habits or the length of his pants. One time, he wanted my daughter to start keeping a journal of every piece of food she put in her mouth.
I bet if I kept track of the timing, he’s pretty damn predictable. The new year always seems to trigger a cycle.
I used to take all of this as a personal attack on my mothering skills, and I would completely fall apart, stressing and making excuses, and feeling embarrassed that my kids weren’t perfect. I worried that he would try to make some dramatic claims in court and that I would lose my children. So I would yell at them and try to control them, just like he did. I didn’t want him to have anything to complain about anymore.
Then one day, I realized… it’s him, not me.
My guess is that he cycles through his addictive periods, and when he feels completely out of control with his food, or his drinking, or whatever else he does in excess, he decides to clean up his act. And not only does he feel the desire to fix himself, but he thinks he needs to fix everyone around him, as well. Because, after all, the kids are a reflection of him, right? Poor things.
They maybe suffer more than I do during these episodes, especially now… the girls completely understand when he starts pushing them, and they aren’t shy about voicing their feelings to me.
I answered today’s email with the current agenda, and I’m sure he’s pissed that Niki is not playing Lacrosse this spring, especially since he bought her a stick and a book called Lacrosse for Dummies for Christmas. She’s 12. She doesn’t want to play. And he’s probably very upset that the other daughter is not starting Weight Watchers any time soon. (He recently complained to me about his own weight and said he was really going to try harder to eat more healthfully.) He also wants her to take up fencing, which would probably require a 45-minute travel time each way for lessons on that, since I live in the middle of Nowhere.
Now his emails are so easily identifiable, practically flashing red lights, saying, “Caution: Now Entering Purge Cycle, Read at Your Own Risk.”
I feel obligated to answer his questions, in the name of good co-parenting, but I ignore the rest. It’s a sad indication that he’s hit some kind of bottom, and he’s doing his best to scrape himself up off the floor and start over. More power to him.
But the rest of us won’t be dragged into his battle with himself.