When it comes to this crazy whirlpool of emotions in which the Boy seems trapped, one of the most difficult things for me to deal with is his inability to just get over it. Something will happen, something seemingly insignificant--a pencil taken away, a small slight--and he fixates on it. He can't just let it go. Instead, he brings himself to the point of fury or tears because of some moment that can't be changed and that now is long past. He can't just put it down and walk away.
Friday was a hard day. The Fixation (as I like to call it) took its toll at school, where he and a friend got into a disagreement, which disintegrated into a fistfight. As is typical now, after the kids were separated and both were reprimanded, after they made up and shook on it, the other child went on with her day--not so the Boy. He seemed fine, but the slightest upset triggered this underlying muddle of resentment, which continued to snowball until finally the teacher had to send him "up front" out of fear that he would break into another fight. When we talked later, she seemed at a loss to understand. "I told him, 'Honey, sometimes you just need to walk away. You have to learn to walk away!'"
After school, the afternoon was fine--for a while. I hung the outside lights while the kids played. But at some point, the breakdown began, and within a half an hour, The Fixation was in full swing. Usually, I cope pretty well; today, I lost it. This is my baby, the little boy who just 6 months ago would get on our case for saying "stupid", who tells me over the phone in his little-boy voice that I'm his favorite mommy and he loves me, and here he is, his face contorted with rage, shouting that I'm not his real mommy and that he wants to kill me. I know the issues behind this--emotional, mental, behavioral, monumental. Usually, I know how to deal with it, I know how to diffuse the situation. Today, I just burst into tears. I handled it, but not as well as I knew I could, which made me feel even shittier. And in the middle of it, Ex called.
"How're the kids?" he asked, and then, "What's wrong?" I am so tired of carrying this load, so tired of trying not to upset him, of trying to hold this world by myself out of fear that if I ask him to share the burden, he will disappear or be crushed under its weight.
Tonight, I tell him. Crying, I tell him that I don't know how much longer I can take this. I don't know if the things we're doing to help him are the right things, but I can't bear to move ahead with the other options, either. I feel paralyzed and helpless. "He says those things to you?" Ex asks, astounded; the Boy's behavior around him is not necessarily better, but it is different. Ex tells me, reasonably, "We have a good idea what's wrong. And we're doing things that seem to help. And if they don't help enough, well, there's medication out there. And it's okay to use it." "I know," I sob, "but I can't help but feel like he's so unhappy because his world has gone to shit, with everything, with the divorce..." "You know," Ex says, quiet, "I have a lot of issues around that. Around the divorce. Because I'm the one who left. And I...I've been talking with the doctor about it, and I'm really having a hard time. I keep thinking, every day, what if...what if I really..."
"...what if I've really fucked up our kids by leaving?"
And I start breathing again. And I tell him, of course, that he did the right thing. Staying in a marriage with someone you realize you don't love is much, much worse in the long run, for everyone, than walking away. And I believe that. But as I say this to him, in my head, what I say to myself is,
"Oh, honey. Why can't you just learn to put it down and walk away?"
* This is the title of some book that I've never read but damn, it's a good title.