Monday, February 22, 2010

Is It Perception...Or Mere Fluke?

I guess it should come as no surprise to me that I still feel a little discombobulated (God, I just love that word).  I have told  several people that I am moving home (US friends' reaction: Oh NO!  UK friends and family: About Bloody Time Too...which I have chosen to interpret generally as YIPPEE!).

I haven't yet said a dicky bird to the boys, of course.  There are still too many balls up in the air, too many plates wildly spinning, too many more 'sleeps' for them to even begin to really comprehend the timing of it all.

But whether by fluke or simply coincidence, the morning after The Big Conversation with my ex, Johnny Drama begins to have a complete meltdown about moving back to the UK.  I'm not sure how the subject arose, but one minute we are gathering a bag full of plastic tat their favourite toys to take on a half term play date and the next JD has lost the plot, resembling a real life Chicken Licken with the sky about to fall on his head.


Of course this rant is interspersed with me reassuring and rationalising, to no effect.  If anything, it just made the whole thing worse.  I can't believe the subject has been raised, today of all days, and I feel filled with guilt at my plan to take them away from everything they know and hold so dear.

Ultimately (after attempting to console and hug and acknowledge that I totally understand he loves his school and his friends) as my real life Chicken Licken continues to gather steam I decide ignoring him is the best policy.  Truth be told, I don't really know how to handle this situation.  He is so upset and there appears to be no reasoning with him.  "Has daddy talked to you about moving back to England?", I ask.

Captain Underpants, in all his 6 year old wisdom, has been watching from the side lines with his mouth firmly shut, totally unruffled.

"No, daddy hasn't said anything", he shrugs.  His younger brother continues to wrestle invisible monsters, throwing his body over the back of the sofa, tossing cushions left, right and centre while shouting and crying at the top of his lungs.  He's not nicknamed Johnny Drama (on this blog at least) purely for comic effect or to reflect a secret infatuation with an Entourage character, that's for sure.

"I think I'd quite like to go back to England", says Captain Underpants, thoughtfully.  "Then maybe we can just get one house and maybe we could all live in that one house.  Me.  JD.  You mummy.  The cats...and daddy.  Just all in the same house.  Because that would be really nice, wouldn't it?  In England."

This line of conversation succeeds in stopping me in my tracks.  This topic hasn't been raised for months and it breaks my heart to hear it voiced like the simplest solution in the world.  The lightness of his tone belies the deep seated yearning underneath.

My inner voice is panicking...why today?  Why are we talking about this today, of all days?  What do I say?  How can I possibly explain the complicated intricacies of their mummy and daddy's relationship, which has brought us to this point?  If it doesn't make any sense to can I expect it to make any sense to them?  And of course, it is on the tip of my tongue to say, "well, you need to talk to your daddy about that one.  Personally, I think that sounds like a tip-top idea.  Shame your daddy doesn't see it that way..."

Of course, I bite my tongue, say nothing of the sort - gently and lovingly repeating ex and I's agreed mantra: mummy and daddy will live in 2 houses but we will always be a family and we will always love you and be there for you...blah blah blah.  A little later on whilst driving, sensing that an air of calm had resumed, I talked to both boys about the quandry of liking Chicago, yet not liking having to live so far away from my mummy and daddy, sister and brother and friends.  I'm a grown up, I tell them, but that doesn't mean that I don't miss my mummy and daddy.  You like to hang out with your mummy and daddy, don't you?  Well, I really like to be with my mummy and daddy too - and it's very hard to do that while we are so far away.  I have been away from them for nearly 10 years and that is a long time.  Maybe one day you will live away from your mummy and daddy, even your brother, for a long time (cue instant disbelief and fervent denials from the back seat) and that's okay.  But I want to live near my mummy and daddy again now because I love them and like being with them.  And even though I am soooo incredibly old and grown up and a mummy myself...I am still their little girl.  Just like you will always be my little - sorry, big, BIG! - boys.

They nod sagely, in a vaguely disinterested way, and go back to bickering over the winner of their pirate/clone trouper battle.  I continue to feel a little sick and agitated, knowing that more difficult conversations are bound to come.  Trying to find a way to explain it all in a language they understand is difficult.

And God knows how I will explain to them that they are moving back to England with me and that daddy is staying in Chicago, probably for several months.  If he moves home at all.  During The Big Conversation he casually mentioned that he might move to Europe and what did I think of him living an hour or so away?  Er...I think that is a rotten and completely selfish idea?  I think we should live near each other while the boys are young.  I think they need you to be there.  I think you should just suck it up, get over yourself and do what's best for your children.  But again, I say nothing of the sort.  I know that my opinion doesn't carry much weight anymore where he is concerned, and that the last thing he wants to hear is me telling him what to do.

I wish I had developed this art of keeping shtum during our marriage.  Things might have worked out a great deal differently.  I am learning that my silence and compliance is more persuasive than the most informed, passionate argument where he is concerned.  Yet like a lot of things in life - that is a little bit of knowledge...learnt a little too late.


  1. When we moved to the US a couple of years ago my boys were in tears. They sobbed as we navigated Heathrow and I felt like the worst person on the planet.I kept telling myself that they'd make new friends, would love it here but that didn't stop me from tearing myself apart with guilt. Now they struggle to remember things from our lives in the UK and have completely moved on. I'm sure there are so many positives to you moving back and before they know it, they'll be settled with new friends. It sounds as though you'll have a lot of support back in the UK, and if you're happier, I'm sure the boys will embrace that.

  2. I think Johnny Drama just needs to hear that YOU are his stability, and that all will be alright because YOU will be there and will look after him.

    I would go for 'reassuring' and drop 'rationalising' for the time being.

    This is a huge step, so you're bound to have bumps along the way. Perhaps this pre-tantrum will mean that he is easier about the whole idea when you do tell him? It's odd it's come out of the blue.

  3. I don't have the answers and I wish I did. I understand the torment of those questions and comments, because I get them too. And you have The Move on top of it all...I feel for you. So much. I am reassured by friends and those who are the children of divorce that it does, in fact, get better and easier, but it is not a fast thing. I wish it was, for both and all of us. And as for the pick up on unspoken cues very very well. I would perhaps start introducing the idea to them a little bit now. I don't think surprising them with the news is a good idea.

    I will say this about you and your ex: silence at times is wise. But I think you would have found, if this had been what you had done all along, that you would have felt shut down and stifled and destroyed in the marriage. Ultimately, while learning healthy ways to handle conflict is healthy, one has to be able to be oneself and EXPRESS oneself and one's ideas and opinions. So. I know it's "easy" to stand from my place, where I am the one who has more clearly and firmly let go, to say "Let Go"...but perhaps I should keep saying it. Because until you do, you will be unable to truly move on, and it will be harder to help your children adjust to the new reality. YOUR new reality.

    And with that, ((((HUGS)))), because OH GOD yes this is hard.

  4. oh boy, it must be so hard. I have no advice or sage words, sorry. I guess you can just do the best you can. ((hugs))

  5. Hi, Iota said it perfectly - as long as you're around, they will be fine. I know its hard but they will get over it - you're not ruining their lives, you're going to be making it all better, because you'll be feeling better. Believe me, have been there!

  6. Yep, people have siad it much better than I can, I dont know on the keeping stum though!!

  7. You are a self absorbed twat who is putting her own needs well above those of her children with little or no regard for their future development.

    You want to be with your mummy and daddy. You're a grown woman. Give it a fucking rest. Your small children don't want to be ripped out of THEIR lives, either.

    YOU are their stability, as one commenter has said?! What a joke!


  9. No one likes change. I hated it, and I had enough of it moving schools every year. But a stable, loving home life makes up for everything.

  10. Please ignore anonymous. Do not for one minute entertain what they have said. You need to put yourself first sometimes. Children are happy when they have happy parents.

    My parents got divorced when I was 10. They lived near to each other for a while. All was well. Then my mom wanted moved in with a guy and we moved 1000km from my dad. We were devastated and hated it. So she moved back in with my dad. That year was the worst year of my life. I quickly realised that having a happy mother and a happy father living apart - even if it meant we were far from my dad - was a better solution. Kids adapt. We made new friends. And I feel I learnt so much from the whole experience.

    Your consistent love is all your little boys need.

  11. I think everyone else has said it, but I agree; YOU being with them is what matters. Yes, undoubtedly they hate the idea of moving but children are really adaptable - my boys can hardly remember London now. And better that they are with you, happy, in your home country, than you unhappy somewhere you don't really belong.

  12. Lorna - yes, and in a way a move to the UK will be easier because we go every year and they love being there around family etc. It's not exactly the great unknown. But I can't kid myself that there won't be a difficult transition nonetheless and that both boys will feel trepidation at starting afresh.

    Iota - wise words. JD is far more contradictory about everything in life. He particularly loves to take the opposite view of his brother in most circumstances and will express himself loudly and with emotion. Yesterday his world ended because we found out that CU needs glasses and JD doesn't...can you believe life is so unfair to a four year old?? To have perfect vision? Well, JD can't. His response to most things is very over the top and you're right - rationalising it doesn't work with him one bit. Allowing him to express his view and repeat it back, so he knows he is being heard, is more effective.

    Teacher Mommy: Oh so wise. I will tell the boys as the time gets nearer and there are more definite things to tell them about where we are going to be living. A bolt out of the blue would not be a good thing...although we have talked about moving back to the UK for so long that I know it will not come as a surprise to either boy. As for the silence part - I hear what you are saying. And I don't mean I would shut up forever. I just think that my ex says things sometimes to get a reaction from me and what I have found over the past year is that when I bite my tongue for a few days he tends to come round to a shared way of thinking without me having to say anything at all.

    Heather: thanks vlog queen!

    Footballers Knees: I know being back at home will improve the quality of their lives dramatically - they have so much to gain from it. Thanks for the reassurance.

    The Madhouse: It's hard to not voice my opinion, because I have strong opinions on many things. But I don't think ex has any real intention of living anywhere other than near his boys. We always agreed to go back to the UK at this time and if he starts to waiver and consider other options I know his family and friends (and the boys) will influence him far more strongly than I will.

  13. Anon: Wow. My first vitriolic comment. It's always good to hear another point of view, because this isn't a simple situation and there is selfishness on both parts of the parenting fence: mine and my ex's. My life revolves around my children and it's hard to make decisions that ultimately serve every member of the family, not just a 4 year old. If I made all my decisions based on what he felt most strongly about then I am pretty sure he would never eat a single fruit or vegetable, would certainly not go to school (because most days I HATE SCHOOL MUMMY AND JUST WANT TO STAY HOME AND PLAY!), and would never go to bed at a reasonable hour to get the sleep, that at the age of 4, he needs. I make a ton of selfish decisions daily on their behalf, which serve their best interests in the long run and some of which they may thank me for and some of which they may not.

    And in fact the timing of the move home has been made purely with the boy's needs in mind - from a school and acclimation stand point. Even their dad agrees, which says a lot in my book. Not that it makes any of it easy, and not that the transition will be easy. On any of us. But the boys' needs will continue to influence our decision making first and foremost. Although at the age of 4 and 6 I am sure ex and I will be making decisions on their behalf for a little while yet. We might not be brain surgeons but combined we have the good sense and experience to weigh up ALL the pros and cons and make informed decisions on their future development more effectively than our primary school aged children.

    The Dotterel: I moved too as a kid - once to America for a year and then when my parents divorced. And you're right - as a kid it is never what you would ask for. But the experience really did help me as an adult - to know that change is unnerving but that everything is okay in the end. And my focus is definitely in creating a stable environment for the boys - it is a priority to just get home and be settled once more. I need it just as much as they do.

    HOM: Your story about your experience with your parents is very interesting and makes me consider even more carefully my potential future with my ex. I always want the boys to be close to their dad - both physically and emotionally. But if we are apart we need to live our own lives too. I will always do everything I can to encourage their relationship and time together - wherever he ends up living. In my vision of utopia, we will live close by and share our sons' experiences as they grow up. If he chooses differently I need to remind myself that we just have to make the best of the situation - and I will do everything I can from my end to facilitate that.

  14. NVG - I am hoping the boys will adapt quickly. They are not moving to a totally new country but to a very familiar one - with 4 sets of grandparents and aunts/uncles/friends that they already see regularly. I know they are likely to be terrified and resistant to the change - but I am sure they will settle fairly quickly. It's so good to hear your boys are doing so well! That's really great (and reassuring) news.

  15. So you're very good at dreaming up broken analogies and false dichotomies but not terribly good at parenting and self-awareness.

    In your defense, most aren't.

    Too bad for the children, though.

  16. To clarify, I'm not saying that the emigrating is what you're doing wrong. What you're doing wrong, in my humble and worthless opinion, is to dismiss your children's ideas and feelings simply because they are children.

    You're paying lip service to considering their needs and their development but you don't really seem to be doing much of that. There's a lot of "I" and "me" in your post there.

  17. """I think you should just suck it up, get over yourself and do what's best for your children. But again, I say nothing of the sort. I know that my opinion doesn't carry much weight anymore where he is concerned, and that the last thing he wants to hear is me telling him what to do."""

    For instance, you seem unaware of the thick, thick irony in this paragraph.

  18. Anonymous, if you want to be quite so emphatic in your views, perhaps have the bravery not to hide behind anonymity

  19. The views are what's under debate, aren't they? Not my identity.


  20. Anon: Hello again! You're right. I'm not the perfect parent by any means. Like most parents I am doing the best that I can in difficult circumstances. And yes, I did ignore my lengthy 4 year olds tantrum ultimately, which was not my finest parenting moment to date. But I am concerned about his thoughts and feelings, hence the post. His views unnerve me. I struggle with how best to address them. I need to get better at it and, so help me God, I will keep trying. Because I love my boys and their views do influence me and are important.

    As for this blog being all about 'me' and 'I'...well, duh. It is MY blog! I try to reflect the thoughts and actions of some of those around me but some of that reporting is bound to be inaccurate and biased because, try as I might, I am not in their head, I'm in mine. So I try to focus on how I think and feel about things because that is what I know to be accurate in that moment in time. It would be wrong of me to speak on behalf of someone else - even my children - because that is not my right to do so.

    As for irony - oh I appreciate the deep contradiction of my words. It is incredibly petulant of me to expect my ex to do for me what I have been doing for him the past several years (ie. live somewhere that he doesn't really want to, for the sake of our lovely kids). Which is why I kept my mouth shut. I appreciate his situation because I have been in it myself for so long.

    Maybe we should both stop being so selfish and move to the kid's first choice. Which is probably DisneyLand. And he can get a job dressing up as Mickey Mouse and I'll get a job dressing up as Cinderella and we can all live happily ever after. Or maybe the North Pole and we'll be Santa's little helpers. I'm sure the boys will have many more ideas. I'll ask them.

  21. Why are you bothering to respond to this troll?? S/he obviously doesn't have small children (or if so, is a crap parent) because any parent knows that you can't live according to the ever-changing wants of a 4 year old. S/he also obviously hasn't read any of your previous posts otherwise would know that your life has been on hold while your ex has a great time here. You are not American, have no roots here, have a husband who only ever thinks of himself and seemingly will go on doing that ad infinitum, and are taking the boys back to a loving extended family. Sounds like a great parenting decision in my opinion and well thought out.

  22. Ad Absurdum is not much of an argument.

    By all means continue to consider your children as fashion accessories and their feelings as piffle. I've no doubt that they'll make fantastic ASBOs once you get them home.

  23. Expat mum - I just can't help myself! Probably an indication of what a self-obsessed twat I am but I am quite amazed and amused by all these strangers opinions. Must admit my respect for Anon was reduced a little by his comment about me not letting them watch zombie movies or play violent video games due to possibly psychological yep. This crap selfish mum is going to steer them away from those things for a few more years yet. Bad parent!

    Anon: Yes, I am thinking of turning them both into handbags at some point in the future. Or possibly shoes. I think their perfect skin tone will be an excellent accessory for the Spring.

  24. >>because any parent knows that you can't live according to the ever-changing wants of a 4 year old

    Nobody is suggesting any such thing. You are all foolish little hens.

    Go back to your circle jerk. I weep for your kids.

  25. Hey Nicola,

    If you are going to take the advice of Anonymous and allow my nephews to make all of their own decisions, then does that mean I can marry Captain Underpants as he so wishes? Even though I am 33 years older than he is, and although it is slightly illegal to marry your aunt, I am, as he says, very good at Lego which I think is crucial for a long-lasting relationship.

    We moved to the US for 8 months and then back again when I was 7. I was scared stiff. I have no ASBOs (okay, so the ten years in Rehab was a bit of a slip, and this heroin addiction really has to go at some point, as does your penchant for Crack Cocaine). Clarkie was moved all around the air bases throughout her childhood and even her though her hobby is joy-riding and drunk driving, this doesn't seem to have prevented her becoming a top lawyer. Tom lived in Germany for two years as a small boy and was schooled in a different language, and apart from a nervous tick, ten ASBOs and a gambling habit, he's a pillar of the community.

    You and I both know that JD will be the first to settle in and have adventures. But yes, what timing!! Psychic, or what?!

    Anonymous - Oo, somebody needs a hug.

  26. That must have been awful, but you realise he'll be fine, right? And living closer to grandparents and family is probably the best kind of stability and rootedness you can give those boys. Don't let them shake you!

  27. Oh, and "anonymous" is an arse.

  28. Just ignore anonymous - and hopefully he'll go away. What Mwa said.

  29. You're doing what you feel is the right thing, for you AND the boys. Your gut is right on this Nicola, go with it. Yes, it will be a hard sell. I'm still dealing with Boy #2 telling me he wants to go home on a regular basis - but I know that is more to do with the fact that his toys still haven't arrived than anything else (because he has told me so). And your lovely commenter must surely realise that their remarks say much much more about them than they do about you?

  30. For the moment, all I can say is OH MY GOSH!!
    Could someone please remove Anons self-rightious soapbox and take whatever is stuck up his a**e out.
    Might help make him more human.
    What he seems to be forgetting is that this particular blog is here for Nicola to express what SHE is feeling. Right or wrong, it is a platform for the simple pleasure of self-reflection and observation, her perspective and NOT Anons.

  31. First of all big hugs! Glad I found your blog-kind of a blog to blog treasure hunt thing. :-)

    I have to say the thing that bothers me the most about anon (aside from the fact that we don't know who it is, or see their blog and their views) is the fact that it is okay to disapprove of something someone is doing. You can make your views known (probably in a nicer way though), but then let it be.

    We need to learn to be able to not agree but accept people for what they are and that's it. Changing a person's opinion by force leaves the person with the same opinion. So really let it be. If you beat at a mum for being a crap mum and doing the wrong thing for their kids, do you think THAT serves the kids' best interests? NO because you leave them with a mum who feels crap about themselves and the kids learn from that by example how to feel about themselves.

    But I digress.

    I don't know the situation with you and ex. One insight I do want to give you though is this. Communication is important. I kind of get the feeling (maybe wrongly), that you suck up a lot of your feelings and don't let them be known to ex.

    As far as your silence and compliance comment as far as ex is concerned-if it suits your personality and feelings okay. But if it is something that does not come naturally to you I think it is not right. (again correct me cause I don't know all the facts) We need to be true to ourselves.

    I used to stay quiet about stuff and what made me see the light was that I was told that by keeping quiet about things affecting me I was doing disservice not only to myself but also to hubby. How? Because there are things he needs to learn by example and by shutting myself out from him -he was not learning it.

    Stay strong. Do speak to a professional if you can-I highly recommend it.

  32. One more thing-can you please contact me through the email on my site. Thanks!

  33. This post has been part of my inspiration for my blog post today. Hope it is okay by you-linked this post in my blog post.

  34. WOW big post and big on comments too. Beautifully handled I may add. No one can walk in your shoes (or those your kids) we can only offer advice from our own point of view and experience. We can offer suport even if it's just to say HUG so you know that we feel for you and your predicament. I know when people offer me Virtual hugs it does help, I feel a little stronger to carry on.
    As far as advice or opinion goes: in my experience you have to do what's best for you. Your kids will be OK.

  35. Nicola, as always you are an inspiration. Not only do you write great posts, you respond beautifully to trolls too.

    If you're moving back to England, does that mean we can be real friends? xx

  36. I'm with More Than Just A Mother. Dignity in the face of uncalled for nastiness is a skill. And real friends would be great. My boys would love your two too. x

  37. I'm brand new to blogging so maybe I don't understand the way the comments work yet, but I cannot understand why an anonymous reader would stoop so low as to unleash their vitriole on you. It's sad and hurtful.

    But I read your post and, while others before me have been far more eloquent, I just wanted to add something. It may be trite but, as someone who has looked at divorce from all sides now (as a child, etc.), I know that if you find a way to be happy your children will be happy. I honestly believe that. You are obviously a mother who loves her children very much and that's the best gift you can give them.
    You are their rock and they will know that you are there for them. Good luck.

  38. I love to read this type of stuff. Good and attractive information I take from it..Thank you for posting such a nice article.