If I attempt to peek at what lies beneath that anger, I catch a glimpse of fear, jealousy, and worry. What if he (my MC) never knows that truth? What if he just thinks she's a nice person forever? What if he grows up to act like his father? (Honestly, as heartbroken as I am now, I think I will be even more so if my sons grow up to be shitty husbands and fathers.) What if he likes her better because she doesn't place any expectations on him, can just be like a cool auntie and gives him one-on-one time (his most desired gift!!!!!!!) while I have to actually parent him while parenting two other kids while doing so with a broken heart. The injustice of it is enough to eat out your insides.
Meanwhile I get them back and expect them to follow directions, adhere to rules, and accept logical consequences, such as you decide to bring a bunch of stuff downstairs and build a crazy obstacle course, ok, that's fine, but you're going to have to clean it up and put it away when you're done before other things can happen. Or, what, you have no clean clothes? Even though I've been asking you for weeks to bring down your dirty laundry? Yes, you need to separate the clean clothes from the dirty ones that are strewn all over your floor; you may not just put all the clothes in the laundry. Etc. Etc. Etc. All day everyday. I'm not anywhere as fun as Daddy and J-----, I'm sure. So fucking hard.
All day it was like this, plenty of nice good moments, plenty of them, but whenever I ask anything of them, instant roadblock. Looked like the evening was going to be a shit storm of unpleasantness. In the middle of it all, I had a very frank conversation with my NO. I made dinner and had called them, but decided to sit down by myself and eat it because all three of them were refusing to do the picking up that they needed and/or come to the table. I told him, calmly, intimately, not in an argumentative way, that the reality was that I was jealous and sad. Because I wanted to do fun things with them too. I would have liked to go to see that movie with them. I wanted to have a movie night at home with them tonight. But they continually throw up roadblocks to accomplishing the simple things we need to accomplish before having rewards like a movie. And I'm jealous because I feel like the will get to do that with her then and not me and will think she's fun, and I'm just the mean mom who makes them follow rules and take care of responsibilities. I don't think I said anything inappropriate in that. I wasn't critical of her or their father. I didn't say they shouldn't like her. I was just honest. And my NO got it. He indicated that he knew I wasn't a mean mom. And he wasn't just saying it to be nice. You could tell he meant it.
A little bit later sitting at the kitchen table with just him (the other two having not chosen to cooperate yet), we talked a little bit more about the whole thing and he said that wasn't the case at all. That it was the opposite (his word choice). I said, "What do you mean opposite, she's nice to you isn't she?" And he said that he was afraid that she was going to be like his mom. I told him that she would never be his mom, because I'm not going anywhere. He's stuck with me. He smiled at that. I asked him if maybe it was kind of hard because part of him likes her and part of him doesn't want to like her, and he agreed.
I want her to know, that if my sons are nice to her it has everything to do with me, because I have the power to make them treat her like crap, by telling them the truth about everything, but I have and will continue to refrain because it's what's best for them.
NO and I continued to talk just the two of us at the table about the challenges of transition days and me feeling like the "mean mom" for expectations that are reasonable. I told him that other people (my counselor, our extended family, our friends and neighbors) have given me every indication that my expectations for their behavior is appropriate. He said he knew that. And you could tell he agreed that what I'm asking for is reasonable. I asked him if it feels different in the two houses or if Daddy expects about the same from them as I do, and he indicated that he thought it was pretty different (no shock there, but I think it helps that he's aware of it.) We also talked about how his brother (MC) has never cried once over "The Divorce" as they call it. He brought it up and said how strange he thought that was because MC is so overly sensitive about everything else. He'll cry at the drop of a hat about other things, and then be utterly stoic and detached about things like this. Pet cat dies, he just wishes it could have happened a week earlier so he could have a ghost cat for Halloween. Parents get split up and he's "fine with it." He gets more time to play on the iPad! I can't figure him out.
But the good news, the point to this post, is that eventually, all three of them decided to cooperate and they came to the table, ate, and took care of the things they needed to attend to (without me turning into a mean Mama). And when I discovered that there were still a number of things to pick up downstairs, I made my MC (who was primarily responsible and had contributed the least so far to the pick up efforts) take care of it while the other two headed upstairs to start getting ready for bed. NO really led the way by modeling the right behavior. And but the time MC and I got upstairs, NO and LO were nearly ready for the movie night. And even more significantly, NO and LO even got to start the movie without MC because he still had responsibilities to take care of, and he DID THEM WITHOUT A MASSIVE MELTDOWN even though he was missing out on the move in the meantime. That's a huge accomplishment for him. It was really too late for a movie night, so I told them they could watch until 9:00 (about half) and then we'd finish in the AM. Even better, when 9:00 rolled around, they didn't make a single fuss, but turned it right off and came downstairs without a fuss or negotiation! So, after all that, I'm feeling victorious here!!! Screw him and his inability to parent. I can show them love and discipline!!!! They will love me and appreciate what I've done for them as their mother. At least eventually.