I was standing in front of the closet, folding clothing and hanging slacks and generally glorying in my neat-freak tendencies, when I heard her voice BOOM through the phone at Mr. Right’s ear:
“L~, WOULD YOU FUCKING STOP IT ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I froze. I turned. My tongue curled with readiness in anticipation of the yelling that I was about to start doing. ‘He’s four years old you unbelievable BITCH’ was running through my head, along with the stock ‘How dare you’ and ‘You call yourself a MOTHER?!?’ lines. And then my eyes fell on Mr. Right, who was laying on the bed with his hands over his eyes and a strange look on his face that somehow managed to convey resignation and physical distress all at once…and my burgeoning ‘That constitutes abuse – ‘ was swallowed in a gulp rather than voiced to the room. “It’s not your place” whispered the angelic little devil perched on my shoulder, “who do you think YOU are? It’s Mr. Right’s son, let him deal with it. Can’t you see how upset he is, if you get involved you’re just going to make things worse for him!” And I turned back to my laundry while Mr. Right continued talking as though The Incident had never happened.
For two days it ate at me; I didn’t do anything. Mr. Right didn’t do anything. I stood aside in the face of verbal, emotional abuse to a barely-five year old and I Didn’t Do Anything About It. After my own experiences with abuse growing up, I should’ve thrown caution to the wind and DONE something, but instead I let somebody else’s feelings or opinion or whatever matter. And not the feelings of the only person involved who did matter – L~. There are no words to express the shame that I felt, that I still feel, and the disgust that lingers like a bad taste on my tongue.
So last night I confronted Mr. Right about it, while he was driving to another city a few hours away for the Big Interview that he hopes is going to be his ticket out of the military and into a salary that sets him up for life. (And allows him to have the financial backing for a really good lawyer.) Yes, we talked about it on the phone, not because I’m a coward but because the shame and wrongness of the situation had eaten me up so badly that I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“We have to talk about something that’s been eating at me for the past few days. The other night when you were on the phone with ex-nonwife I heard – “
He interrupted, ‘I know’.
“Babe, that’s emotional abuse. What do you think that’s doing to L~’s sense of self-worth and ability to communicate effectively? He’s at the age now where he’s absorbing everything he does; or he should be, anyway. She Cannot Do That. Doesn’t she realize that his issues in Kindergarten are probably, at least in part, a direct result of this??”*
‘I know,’ he said again. ‘A part of the reason we broke up was because of that type of behavior, and I have tried to make her stop but nothing works!’
“It is unacceptable and I will not stand by and bite my tongue if she does that again. Either you tell her, or I will.”
And on it went, for about an hour. He told me about his sense of helplessness, how he feels much like David in the face of ex-nonwife’s parents and their goliath financial resources. How he concedes to her right now because if it ever became a fight, she would run to Mommy and Daddy and they would buy her the biggest, fastest-talking lawyer that money could find. And he would have nothing, and possibly even less time with his son if ex-nonwife was feeling resentful. As it stands, he told me, he feels like a deadbeat father only seeing L~ every weekend. And what happens if the military sends him away again for a month before he is released at the end of January? He wants sole custody, but he is nowhere near prepared yet for the fight that will likely result. He promised me that he will not continue to allow her to speak like that to L~, and that he is going to make arrangements to change their custody schedule in order to minimize the potential of The Incident happening again.
But if it was my child…
*Mr. Right got an email from L~’s Kindergarten teacher in which she detailed the difficulties that L~ is having in school as well as the behavioral problems that she’s been dealing with. I may blog more about this in future but for now, I just don’t feel like thinking about it.