I’m really feeling some kind of way today so I am ready to say too much on social media. To share too much. To rail at the sky with the unfairness of it all. To take out an ad in a local newspaper or hire a sky-writer to do a little large-scale truth-telling. To rail at the injustice of life for those of us stuck in contact with sociopaths.
My daughter missed her preschool graduation last night because it was her dad’s night with her and instead of taking her, he sat her down and explained to her that mommy lies a lot.
He also told her the graduation was ‘too late’ for him to take her to . . . it wasn’t. I left home forty minutes after he picked her up for visitation and was early for the event. I left the school five minutes before the cut-off time for the party and still made it to my house before them.
I stood on the curb outside the event waiting for them to show up. I said hello to her friends and their parents. I spoke to the director who was so sad she wasn’t there.
She was so excited today at school talking about it.
I know, I said, I’m trying not to cry about it.
My daughter had tried on three dresses and had me put her hair in twists. She was bouncing around and did a mirror check in the giant mirror in my room. I heard her tell her dad she needed to get to graduation when he picked her up, as they walked over to his car. She made me promise I would be there and bring her heart sunglasses.
The director tilted her head and gave me that COVID-era imaginary hug with her eyes as I fanned my hand in front of my own eyes to keep tears from building up. Just in case. Just in case x showed up with my daughter so I wouldn’t be crying at that moment.
As the last kid got announced and walked in to the gated area and everyone present applauded for him, the director and I both stood at the curb and looked up and down the street.
Do you think he’s coming?, she asked.
No, I said, he’d already be here.
Well, send her tomorrow in her dress and with her hair done and I will do a little ceremony for her.
So I did. I washed all of the clothes she wore last night before we went to bed. (I even had to wash the underwear, at her insistence, as it all had to be the very same stuff she wore last night).
But first, before I could do anything that at least felt productive, I had to get through the first crack of the heartbreak for her.
He let her believe she was still going when she got home. So she was happy when she got out of his car.
I had to tell her she missed it.
He, of course, set it up so I had to tell her, as though that would make her upset with me and not him.
It was a movie face-fall body-freeze moment and then the giant tears streamed down her face. She wouldn’t move. I had to walk to her and pick her up and carry her inside as her cries got louder and the tears just kept falling on my shoulder.
I looked at him as I picked her up and he was standing near the bumper of his car, taking it all in, and smiling at me.
That’s what I keep thinking about this morning.
She’ll be ok. I can’t shield her from how disappointing he is and will always be for her. I can only prepare her and comfort her when it happens.
I held her. I cried with her. I let her punch a pillow and refuse hugs until she was ready for one and then I held her tight and told her to cry until she was ready to stop crying.
We snuggled and watched TV a little too late in my bed. And this morning, we did all the same moves from last night. Hair twisted; dress carefully over head; princess undies and pink shorts under her dress.
She tried to tell me to put on what I had on yesterday and she started to falter when she realized I wouldn’t be there this morning for the ceremony, still struggling to understand that this is a facsimile and subpar substitution for what she missed.
He is supposed to have visitation this weekend. But he gave it up to spend the weekend with his girlfriend whose birthday is today. He doesn’t have visitation the next weekend. So he could have scheduled something then. We’re all adults here, right? Birthday weekends can happen three days OR ten days after the real day when time with your kid matters to you.
In his message to me that he wouldn’t be taking her this weekend, he said I will not be able to watch her this weekend. Watch her.
That smile. Almost a smirk but I could tell he was holding the smirk in a bit in case my daughter turned around.
He stood there smiling at least until I had turned around, her limp body in my arms, and faced my porch and started walking toward my front door. How much longer he stood there? I don’t know.
This morning I’m feeling a certain kind of way about how I made the mistake of falling for his bullshit and my daughter will have countless moments like last night because of it.
Feeling a certain kind of way about how hard it is to forgive myself – over and over and over – for how my gullibility continues to affect her.
I’m feeling a certain kind of way about it all because he also sent me another message right before picking her up last night that my psychosis is acting up again and making me compulsively lie. All because I told him under no circumstance was I OK with him sitting our daughter down to accuse her of lying about the things he’s saying to her about me.
I’m feeling a certain kind of way, for the first time in a long time, about the way he’s convinced his friends and family and girlfriend that he’s a great dad and I’m keeping him away from his daughter and I’m crazy and angry and abusive and he’s so so victimized.
None of them were standing on that curb in Oakland last night, biting their upper lip and fanning their eyeballs to keep from falling apart at the certainty that a little five year old’s heart was about to be broken in a whole new way in less than an hour.
None of them were standing on my porch as that perfect little child’s body froze in place and her face collapsed in sadness over something that did not need to happen. Not at all.
Something he did to hurt her to prove something about me that it doesn’t even prove. To hurt me. Through her.
They weren’t holding her on their lap as she pushed their arms away and did the hyperventilating cry that gives you the hiccups.
They weren’t at the breakfast table this morning when she said she can’t ignore what daddy says about mommy and just let it go and not worry about it because you are my favorite person and I love you and you do tell the truth and so I want him to know.
They didn’t see that smile.
They probably never will. It’s reserved for those of us who have seen completely behind the mask. A menacing, pathetic attempt to feel powerful by hurting others. An inept I’ll show you.
I’m feeling a certain kind of way today about the unfairness that parents like me live with each day.
With the sadness and disappointment that peppers the lives of children like mine.
I’m feeling a certain kind of way today about what we have to teach our children for them to survive the wreckage that is their own parent.
A certain kind of way. About that smile.