Do Jerks Get Second Chances?

I’ve been thinking a lot about second chances lately.

Today was a very difficult day. My oldest child, Big Brother, was evaluated for special needs and found to have not one, but two severe delays. The good news is he will qualify for free preschool and transportation, and they have a lot more to offer him at the new, district-run preschool than his home, church basement preschool. Early intervention is the key to success, they say, and I believe it.

But I was devastated. My kid has always been a big challenge, but I kept telling myself that hewould outgrow it, or it’s not that bad, or sometimes he does what he’s supposed to. But the early childhood experts who evaluated him today were serious and firm: Big Bro has serious emotional/social delays and needs special help. And that is heartbreaking for a mom to hear.

I did the only thing I could think to do: I called my ex and co-parent, Zach. He came over and I cried on his shoulder. We discussed the diagnosis and treatment plan. And that’s when Big Brother lost it. I want daddy to stay! I want to go to daddy’s house! He threw fits and punched his little brother in the eye. He was more dangerous and uncontrollable than I’ve ever seen him. He’d had a long day of tests and treats (bribes) and visits. I, on the brink already from his diagnosis, didn’t feel safe being on my own with two rowdy boys. I asked Zach to stay.

He sighed.

He checked his phone.

Please. Just five minutes. Stay, I said.

Fine, he muttered, but I have plans and I’m already late.

On his way out I gently asked, can’t we put the children first? Sometimes we will need to put them ahead of plans.

His reply: I always wanted to put them first, you’re the one who chose this.

And there it is: tossed back in my face. My single parenting, this divorce, our struggles: my fault.

Yes, I played a part. I managed, I controlled, I denied, and I enabled. I did what I had to do to survive.

I gave him a second chance, a third chance… I lost count. Maybe eight chances? Nine? I honestly can’t remember how many times I found drugs or suspected drug use. It was so painful.

And still, I wonder, did I try hard enough? Is this my fault? If I’d been more patient, more loving, kinder, something… Could I have avoided the pain of this divorce?

Tonight I got an email from Mr. Outdoorsy Tech, the second of its kind this week. (this is the boyfriend who dumped me two weeks ago. See here and here.) Please take me back, he says. I will change. I will be different. I won’t walk out on you again. I promise to give you space. I promise to be a better boyfriend.

Promises.

I’ve heard a lot of them over the years.

But do boyfriends really change?

I know my husband didn’t.

He is different now, since I kicked him out of our home 17 months ago and stopped enabling him. He is better. Still moderately drinking, he says, but his drug tests are coming back clean.

I feel for Mr. Outdoorsy Tech. I really liked him. I hoped that it might work out. But I’m not sure jerks get second chances with me, not anymore.

I don’t know what to do about this guy who wants to be my boyfriend again, so I’m going to use a few tools that I’ve picked up in the last year or so through therapy and Al-Anon.

I’m going to detach.

I’m going to wait.

I’m going to feel my feelings.

I’m going to pray.

I’m going to sit on it and turn it over to God.

I’m going to do nothing.

I’m not going to reply. Or call him after a few drinks.

I’m going to do nothing.

I’m going to focus on myself, as I’m the only person I have control over, anyhow.

I’m not doing nothing out of spite for Mr. Outdoorsy Tech. I’m doing nothing out of love for me.

If Mr. Outdoorsy Tech and I are meant to be, it will happen.

If he’s really going to be a better boyfriend, either to me or someone else, he can figure out how to be a better boyfriend.

On his own.

I don’t need to help him with that. I’ve got my own life, family, recovery and feelings to manage.