About six years ago, one of my best friends (who was also on the eve of her own impending divorce) asked me,"What does that man use to think with? Tapioca?! Because it's clearly not a brain!" Yeah. It stuck. And I'll apologize to anyone who actually LIKES tapioca. (I, personally, am off the stuff for life.) I'm sure it's nice and all when properly used or consumed but for thinking with? Not so great.
From then on, my friend and I have kept each other up-to-date on our respective tapioca forecasts and reports. Sometimes the tapioca reports are funny and sometimes they are scary. (And often, they're both at the same time). A memorable one is when she wrote me to tell me her TH (=tapioca head) had decreed that the best thing to do for the children would be to each get their own apartment - but keep the house they'd had during the marriage. That way instead of the kids moving back and forth between mom's and dad's, it would be the parents who moved back and forth. He'd be in the house with the kids one week and she would be the next. In their 'off' time they'd live in their own apartments. He said all of that seriously. With a straight face. Like it was the most brilliant and workable solution. Ever. I think she almost peed her pants laughing at him. Laughing at him to his face. And then again while laughing at him as she typed it all to me. And then she cried, wondering how she'd ever been married to someone so imbecilic.
Yes, someday, when our children are all over 18 and out of the tapioca flood zone, we'll be able to laugh without crying in the next moment. Right now - with just under 11 years to go for both of us - we share these reports with each other (and now with you, lovely internets) so that we can laugh and have someone right there to help us climb back down out of the fear tree.
Back here I think I described my own TH's cycle. We've been in the phase where he plays stupid games (with the kids in the middle) in order to prove he's a good parent and I'm a bad one. I've been civil and used every de-escalation technique I know.
(You want an example? He sends me an email about the children looking like trash because they have holes in their jeans and what a bad parent I am. The problem with this assertion is that the jeans with holes in them came from his house. Not mine. My seven year old, when first asked about his jeans, said, "Oh Dad had me wear these to get you to replace them." I said, "Well we better replace them then. Where are the two pairs your grandmother got you last month?" Later my seven year old came back to me and said, "Mom, you know those jeans with holes? I just remembered. I must have ripped them at recess. It's my fault, not Dad's." Now, I was out of town, but I had already heard from people who saw him at school as well as from my Sweet Hubby that Havoc did NOT have on jeans with holes in them when he went to Dad's. Look at my poor kid who would rather take the blame for himself than have his parents angry with each other! I told Havoc not to worry about it anymore: it was time for everyone to have an update. We made an outing of it. I bought the boys each two pairs of pants (jeans and khakis), a polo shirt, socks, underwear, and a new pair of shoes to take to Dad's and leave there! We also bought Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and had a family movie night. Was I required to do this? No. I would have been 'justified' in writing a nasty letter back asking where all the nice clothes that I send end up. I could have dressed the kids in the rattiest things they have and sent them back to him the way he sent them to me. But why on earth would ANYONE do stupid things like that? No one benefits. Least of all my kids. Did I have the money for this shopping spree to purchase clothes the kids don't actually 'need' and which I'll never see again? Heck no! Especially when I'm racking up the legal fees answering his petition for custody and making counter-petitions! Maybe my 'caving in' and sending a whole bag of nice clothes plays out in his mind as him 'winning' a round - but it's so STUPID. I wish I had a better word. Pointless? Silly and mean? Small and petty? If he had asked me for some clothes for the boys I would have sent some! I've offered before. I've sent some before. Of course, he didn't do that because it wasn't about clothes. It was about the court case. He lies and plays games and thinks his children aren't going to notice? Or tell? Or be affected? I. Don't. Get. It.)
Last night? Maybe because Mercury went retrograde (<--I don't actually know what that means but all my astrology-inclined friends are talking about it) or maybe just to get a jump start on full moon craziness - my Tapioca Head's ex-wife called me. Out of the blue. To offer me support. To say that she will willingly 'testify' in court on my behalf.
Warning. Warning. Danger Will Robinson.
*Backstory: She's a nut case. Their whole, two-year marriage was bizarre and drama-filled. I mean, cops called to their house in the wee sma's because of fights. Him taking off with the children (my babies!) and swearing never to return and then returning and pretending like nothing ever happened. I spent the entire time trying to shield my children from their emotional roller coaster. My mother spent the entire time asking me if the surgery he had six weeks before he left me hadn't perhaps damaged his brain permanently. She was serious. And she has a point. He was a VERY different person after that surgery. More than one person remarked on the personality shift and asked me if I had searched long and hard for the pod.
Almost twelve years we were married. Maybe four fights the whole time. No drama. Lots of hard work, good times, and there at the end? Illness. And surgery. And just when everything seemed like it would be better than ever before - he decided he was done. He wasn't 'happy'. He began to date women who were drama factories. Twelve years and I had no idea that his idea of 'happy' involved booze and car wrecks and changing jobs six times in four years and trumping up court cases. What a boring wife I was. But lucky him, after only a few years of 'fun' on his own, he found a woman who made him all kinds of crazy, I mean, happy! And after two years too many of so much happiness, I was MUCH relieved when he left her last summer. He moved 40 miles away from her and lives closer physically to his children (and unfortunately also to me) than he's lived since our divorce. I had foolishly hoped that would end his ridiculous, perennial attempt to take my children away from me. After all, it had started when he met her. Maybe it would end when he left her. But no. Even without her, he has continued, apparently now addicted to drama in his own right. But wait, the ex-Mrs. Happiness is on the line! *
She says I must be very upset about what happened Friday night.
"What happened Friday night?" I ask, warily.
She said that he said... wait! Do you see how quickly this shit devolves to the level of middle school muddle? Let's start again.
The story he (supposedly) told her:
He came to pick up the boys from my house and they were hysterical and refused to go with him. Chaos called him a liar and he slapped Chaos in the face. I allowed Chaos to stay with me but let Mayhem and Havoc be forced into going with him. In fact, I stood with my arms crossed, smirking as they drove away.
What really happened:
My ex arrived at 6:15. I helped load the boys into the car with their bags from Target, their bag of school work/report cards, and their medicine. I gave the boys kisses - except Chaos who prefers a wave. I walked back inside. Sweet Hubby and the Ninja Princessa and I all left two minutes later to grab a quick bite for supper and made it to the 7 o'clock movie. No drama. Anywhere. That I saw.
I told this woman that somewhere someone was telling big whoppers. In addition, I told her I couldn't imagine what kind of mother she thought I was, but that it would have taken an Act of God and a SWAT team to get my children away from me if I'd seen my ex slap one of my children and/or they were hysterical not to leave me.
My ex's ex turns out not to be so ex. Yet. Even though he told me he was filing for divorce months and months ago. He didn't. In fact, they've been seeing each other again. Dating. According to her, they have been planning to move back in together. And she called me because as of that moment, she was done with him. She was done with him. He told her that the children hated her and also that when he told them he was moving back in with her - they became hysterical and didn't want to leave ME (hence the driveway scene). He told her that he was having to choose between her and them and he was choosing them. So she was done with him. And called me. To offer her 'testimony' for my case.
Riiiiight. Because that's just what I need. Testimony from a crazy woman. A mad, scorned, crazy woman. That will help my 'case'.
But I listened. And wrote down everything for my lawyer, including the part where her teenage daughter threatened to kill herself if he moved back in. Nice, eh? What are these people (tapioca heads both!) doing?? She told me about her cocaine use (OH MY GOD!!!!!!) and she told me about the court-mandated things he has not done or kept up with. She also told me that he was already going to drop the custody case - but each of the three times she told me this in the hour that she talked, she gave a different reason: he was dropping it because they were back together; he was dropping it because he was interviewing for a job out of state; he was dropping it because he couldn't pay his lawyer. Who knows what the truth is with crazy people??
I was shaking and ill, but I was civil and calm with her.
I thanked her for letting me know about things that affect my children. I let her know firmly, in no uncertain terms that I would NOT be needing her to appear in court. Thanks anyway. My lawyer and I have it under control. My mother, a therapist, who has said from the beginning this woman was boderline said, "Two will get you ten that she's at this minute calling him to tell him how badly she just screwed him."
Sure enough, an hour later my ex calls. Says he's 'dropping' the custody case 'for now'. Says he knows I talked to his wife and he feels betrayed. Admits he lied to her. Admits he made up the whole 'scene' in my driveway. Get this. He says he told her this story "to spare her feelings". He says he used the children as an excuse because he couldn't think of another way out of the relationship. There is so much wrong here that it's like someone dropped a wrongness bomb. He had already gotten out. He got himself back IN to a relationship with her and then couldn't find a way out that didn't involve ridiculous, crazy lies - and MY CHILDREN?? He's dropping the case FOR NOW? My lawyer has told me to keep writing it all down, but that she can't imagine we need any more ammunition in court. I keep waiting for that to make me feel better. On any level. But it doesn't.
It's not just tapioca. It's rancid tapioca. Perhaps my friends are right and instead of a brain there is pulsing, putrid scum from another world in my ex's head. Something so vile and ludicrous is happening in there that earth languages just aren't up to the task of describing it. I think my lawyer is doing a great job but I worry she's out of her league. After all, she's used to dealing with humans! What do you think it would take to get Will Smith to help her? He's great with aliens!
Peace. Peace. Peace.