Saturday, 20 December 2008

No Matter What...

Some time ago, Ro wrote a piece called 'Suffer the little Children' and talked about the damage caused to those offspring caught in the middle of warring parents.

I was the older child left behind who tried to step into her mother's shoes and took on the running of the house when I was just 17. Looking so like her, I took the full force of my Dad's drunken grief at her desertion. Looking back as an adult, I know he would be mortified if he realised that that was what happened because that would never have been his intent. He did not physically or verbally abuse me personally but I had to listen repeatedly to his outrage at her 'abrogation of her responsibilities'. He didn't need to tell me. I had already had to grow up pretty damn quick in order to make sure that people ate properly and that some semblance of normality in terms of housework and the observation of festivities, such as Christmas and birthdays, was observed. I was, in effect, her whipping boy for several years.

I am also the mother who, when asked by her children about the more obviously distancing behaviour of their father towards me, tries very hard to rationalise and make light of it. I have accepted that I cannot do what I always wanted and provide them with a good role model for how to be part of a tactile, loving and affectionate partnership. It is impossible to achieve when only one of you has that ability. But that does not mean that I cannot shower them with affection and assure them of both their parents' love for them. I refuse to let them think that there is a possibility that I will desert them because of it. I have my cake and eat it too in an attempt to maintain some sort of stable and secure upbringing for them, just as much as to achieve sexual and emotional satisfaction for myself.

Through friends' separations/divorces, I have seen the wrangling that goes on over maintenance and access with each side using the children as pawns and filling their ears with nastiness about the other parent in an attempt to give/receive more or less of their presence. I am sure there are two sides to each story but, sadly, so many supposedly amicable separations deteriorate into acrimonious recriminations.

I will do whatever it takes to avoid entering into an arrangement where that type of behaviour could become a possibility. I would hate for my children to think that their time with either parent equated to how much or little money should be exchanged between those parents.

People repeatedly tell me that I am selfish. Selfish to make Ruf wait. Selfish to take my husband's money and live under his roof whilst having a relationship with someone else. Selfish to spend one weekend in four away from my children.

Many of them tell me that they left their children when they were babies and manage to maintain a good relationship with them through weekend access. Others tell me that my children will have a better upbringing splitting their time between two happy parents.

Babies and even young children under five are often not emotionally capable of feeling the same level of resentment and abandonment as a hormonally unstable teenager in the face of the dissolution of their family unit. They adjust more easily and they are certainly not able to enunciate those feelings either verbally or through (self-)destructive actions to the same venomous degree. It is totally different. I know from bitter experience how damaging it can be.

I refuse to do it.

Maybe I am selfish. But I simply will not run away whilst their living environment is not a war zone and it is still possible to maintain at least an approximation of a 'normal' life.

I am quite sure that they are well aware that their parents' marriage is rather different to those of some of their friends. They have already commented on the lack of affectionate gestures between us and the distinct difference in parenting style in terms of attitudes towards their behaviour. They are not blind or deaf to my open-mouthed astonishment at some of the stranger exchanges. But for as long as it is possible for me to suck it up and carry on regardless, I will continue to be the best parent that I can be and attempt to bring them up in accordance with principles that are designed to turn them into loving, free-spirited, considerate adults.

Steering them through the vicissitudes of their teenage years is probably the most daunting task that I have ever undertaken and doing so as part of a non-united couple makes these troubled times even harder. The addition of the seasonal festivities only compounds the problems.

But, for now, my children will continue to live with both their parents, who love them in their own way... no matter what.

No comments: