I just want my boy. I’m feeling really Ethan-less today. I keep looking at pictures of him. It’s not always this bad, somedays I really don’t miss him that much. It’s fun to go be a single bachelor and to party and to see movies and to never get dressed and to just do nothing. But then there are days like these, when I just miss him so much and no matter how much I tell myself to take advantage of this day to myself and not to sit around and mope, all I end up doing is sitting and moping because really, I don’t want to do ANYTHING but hang out with Ethan.
I just want to cry about it.
Here’s what sucks about co-parenting: in order to get to the person that I love most in this world, the person who makes me happier than anyone else, I have to go through the person that makes me sadder than anyone else in this world. There’s no way around it. So it makes all my feelings towards Ethan way more complicated, and all of our interactions bittersweet. Take a phone call for instance. I can technically call him whenever I want, but in order to do that, I have to call HER. And that’s painful. It is. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. It hurts. It hurts just to press call on her name (her NEW name a great reminder of how easy it was for her to separate herself from me). It hurts to hear her voice when she picks up. It hurts that she has to give me permission to talk to him. And it gets way worse if she wants to talk to me, even about little, tiny, innocuous things, before she LETS me talk to him. It hurts that she keeps it on speaker phone. Like, is she worried about me saying something bad to him? Am I on supervised visits now? WTF? Or is it just to bother me? Because I’ll tell you oh my GOD it hurts to have her interject into our conversations. This is my time to talk to him because I miss him. That’s all I want. I don’t want to hear your voice. Because it HURTS. And you are ruining the happy feeling I’m trying to chase with my son right now.
And it hurts to know that he’s at Jeff’s house right now, and to know Jeff is somewhere in the background, and that Jeff can hear me too CUZ IM ON FUCKING SPEAKERPHONE, and then wondering about what Jeff thinks of me, etc. etc. et.c e.tc ETC
Tradeoffs are the same way. I hate her coming to my house. I hate having to see her because I want to just focus on how happy I am to have my boy back in my arms but it’s impossible for me not to notice how different she looks and then wondering why she didn’t dress that way before. Why did she stop wearing bras and shaving her armpits? Did she not like doing that? Why did it take a divorce to change that? Was I holding her back from living the way she wanted? Was I an oppressive husband? Did she feel a need to submit to my patriarchal will? Does she know that I don’t give a fuck about armpits? Should I have told her that? Why couldn’t she be her “true self” with me? What was wrong with me? Why is she happier with Jeff than with me?
“I missed you daddy!”
“Hm? What? Oh yeah, I missed you too buddy!”
Then we go inside and try to have fun. But it always takes me a little while to shake off all those doubts and questions and insecure, sad, lonely feelings. But by the next day, I’m totally good and we have a blast together. I. Just. Love. Being with him. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, often it’s just running errands, but it’s so great to do it with him! He loves me so much and loves everything I do, and I feel the exact same way about him. You know your best friend that you do everything with? The person you feel comfortable doing absolutely nothing with? You don’t really need to make plans, you just drop in unannounced and enjoy their company? That’s Ethan for me. I know we’re not supposed to be our kids’ “friends” but I don’t really care. He’s my best friend.
I love when we’re walking across a street or in a parking lot, he never holds my hand. I just stick out my index finger- I don’t even say anything- and he just instinctively reaches out and wraps his whole little hand around my giant finger.
Sometimes when we’re driving I’ll just reach my arm back and we’ll hold hands while I’m driving. Or we’ll play a game where my hand is a spider on the back of the passenger seat and he tries to smash it with his feet. Or he’ll say “Dad guess what?” and I’ll say “what?” and he’ll say “CHICKEN BUTT!” and I’ll say “NO! YOU GOT ME AGAIN!” and he’ll laugh and then immediately say “Dad guess what?” and we do that until he gets bored (spoiler: he never gets bored).
Bedtime is the best time. He loooooves reading books, and I love reading to him! We’ve got ourselves a little nook in our room with some pillows (Danielle’s favorite pillows actually, which I pettily kept. Is pettily a word?) and we lie down with three or four books and he sits perfectly still and suddenly has the longest attention span in the world. After that, he climbs the ladder to his bed and I sing him the weirdest collection of songs because they’re the only songs I know all the words to and he holds onto my arm until he falls asleep.
Oh my god can I tell you about the arm thing? Cuz it’s my favorite thing in the whole world. His entire life he has loved touching your arm when he’s sleepy. That’s how we used to know when he was ready for bed/a nap. He’d get in your lap, and sort of nestle his head in your chest/armpit and then start running his tiny little fingertips over your bicep. When we were co-sleeping, that’s how he’d fall asleep. In the mornings when we would snuggle in bed, he would just stroke our arms. And he still hasn’t grown out of it, and I am so happy about it. He’ll ask for it and it makes me smile. “Dad I need your arm!” Sometimes when he’s falling asleep in the car (I do a lot of night driving), he’ll get fussy and demand my arm. So I reach my hand back to hold his, but that’s not what he wants. So he tries to reach as far as he can, but all he can grab is my forearm so he whines “I want the big part! I want your big muscle!” and I smile every time. I love it. I tell you, kids are great for your self-esteem.
But even during these great days, I get texts from her and they hurt. Ethan tells me all the cool stuff his mom did with him, and that hurts too. Makes me irrationally jealous and I immediately have the childish desire to one-up her. Ethan tells me how cool Jeff is and that hurts. He calls Jeff’s kid his brother and that really hurts. And Danielle misses him too and wants to talk to him like I do, so I gotta see her face pop up on my phone every day and it hurts a little every time. She wants to talk to him before bed every night, so while I’m sitting on the pillows with him during my favorite part of the day, my phone starts ringing and I know who it is and I get upset instantly. It’s not fair of me. She wants to talk to him the same way I do, and yet I get upset. I think, “This is MY time. I get him two nights a week! I only get to put him to bed twice! Would you just let me have this time? Do you have to ruin everything? EVERY happy moment we have? We called you this morning!! You’re gonna have him back tomorrow!! Isn’t that enough for you? Aren’t you already living your dream life? Can you just let me enjoy this one happy moment??”
The last morning together is a lot like the first night. Bittersweet. Still trying to have fun, but with this cloud hanging over everything, knowing that I’m about to see her again. And dealing with a clingy, upset Ethan who doesn’t want to leave yet. Who cries and says he wants to stay. And I can’t tell him how I really feel! I have to smile and say “What? You LOVE mommy’s house! You’re gonna have so much fun with Jeff!” And it fucking hurts. But I do my best to smile through the pain and be as supportive of his mom as possible, and I can go cry/mope/smoke/box after she picks him up.