Powerlessness in Co-Parenting

One of the scariest things about divorcing an addict or alcoholic, or maybe just anyone, is having no control over what happens with your kids half of the time. Are they eating? Sleeping? Being disciplined too much or not enough?

Are they bathed properly (damn how I wished I’d opted to circumcise my kids, if only so I didn’t have to worry about cleaning the foreskin, something I really know nothing about) and read to? Are they being fed vegetables?

Who will their stepmommy be, and will she be kind? Love them?

Scratch that stepmommy stuff. I’m a selfish, petty person and I want no other woman in my kids’ life. Even if she’s awesome.

Which, knowing my ex, she probably is. Because he is sweet, kind, handsome, and an amazing father. Never mind the addiction, which he’s super good at hiding: I’m sure he looks like a catch on Match.com. (He does. I’ve stalked him.)

Recently Zach, the ex, texted me on a Sunday night, twice. I was on the phone with my boyfriend and didn’t get to see them right away. When I hung up, here’s what I saw:

Text #1: I had a great time tonight!

Text #2: Sorry, that was meant for someone else.

Wow. Really? Keep it classy, dude. But then we joked and I said something like, “Hey, I don’t want to know anything about your dating life, unless you’re serious enough about someone to introduce them to the kids and then we should talk.”

Experts (ok, my therapist) say you should wait six months to introduce your kids to a significant other. While this is a tricky feat to pull off as a single parent, this makes sense. You don’t want them to remember their childhood as an endless parade of husbands-on-audition. My friend Gina can recount all of her mom’s boyfriends from grades 1-6: Bob, Lou, Greg… You get the idea.

Plus, I kind of like being a sexy girlfriend. I’m not ready for my boyfriend to see me as a mommy. I want him to fuck me (often), not microwave his kids’ hot dogs, you know?

So I was completely floored when Zach emailed me last night: He’s met someone. It’s getting serious. They’re going to set up a play date for her boys to meet our boys soon. He thought I should know. Love, Z.

My boyfriend was downstairs. I was in the kitchen making a snack to share when I absentmindedly checked my phone and found the aforementioned message. I was stunned. Angry. Heartbroken. I couldn’t move.

Boyfriend found me standing in my kitchen, staring at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree. What’s wrong? He said.

I didn’t answer. Couldn’t. He wrapped his arms around me and held me for the longest time. I told him some things. Left out others.

Told him I was worried about our kids, how would they handle it, how can he fool another woman, he already fucked up my life, how can he do this to someone else.

I didn’t say: I’m still so sad. I don’t want a broken family. I don’t want to be replaced. Why couldn’t he get himself together to save our family? How could he have moved on so fast?

I was held and comforted by a boyfriend who said some really kind, smart things, including: I can’t control the choices Zach makes, don’t I want him to be happy, this is too much for me to worry about. It’s not mine.

I am powerless.

And it is painful.