Forever Friends

It is not a new story. The ex starts seeing someone. The allure of the new love is stronger than any other force, stronger than commitments made in the parenting agreement, and stronger than even the pull of his own kid. I’m sure it happens all the time.
I just didn’t expect it to happen to Tee.
He and Bug are such good buddies. One of Tee’s finest qualities is the fact that he lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes family. In all the years we were together, we never once took a vacation that didn’t involve spending time with at least one member of our extended clans. He has continued to argue that part of the reason he has no interest in making a greater commitment to his career is because he want to be there for Bug. Hell, Tee is even a Room Mom for Bug’s kindergarten class.
So wiggle my whiskers if Tee didn’t just up and skip out on a prior commitment to our son so he could spend the weekend in the company of his new chicky.
This is all understandable. It’s not as if I have been entirely virtuous over the past 2 1/2 years and I still grimace as I remember me putting Bug second in line behind some swelling passion for a man. Still, it stings to know Tee is letting someone else eclipse his attention for his boy.
The fact that this occurred on a weekend that I have to work has inflated the whole thing to epic proportions. My mother is out of town, my father isn’t really the babysitting type, and I had to be at the office at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. This is exactly why I worked out a plan with Tee WEEKS ago to have Bug with him for the day. When our alternating weekend schedule got a little mixed up, Tee simply said, “Well, can you just find a sitter? You know I don’t like getting up early on Saturdays.” Also, he was to be spending the night in Maryland with the gal.
In that flash, I considered all the ways I could argue this point. He had just violated our parenting agreement by taking Ms. Lady-Friend and her two kids to New Year’s family camp along with Bug. This all happened well before they reached the serious-for-six-months requirement we mapped out for introducing new partners to our son. They are already traveling as a family for weekend trips to the Catskills? There are a gazillion reasons this just seems wrong but a good half of them are just me being nostalgic and bitter about that lost life.
So, I decided to let it go. “Forget it,” I said. “I’ll figure something out.”
And that was that. He couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.
So here is the thing. Going it alone as a single parent requires either money I don’t yet have or skills I have not yet honed. I have friends with nannies. I have friends with well-developed networks of other parents. I have friends with significant others.
I am the friend with a great deal of gumption but not much in the way of a backup plan.
I am also the friend without a sitter for a work commitment less than 48 hours away.
So, I called Giovanni. Sweet, always accommodating Giovanni. Yes, the Giovanni with whom I have broken up a dozen times over the past year and about whom I am still in turmoil. The one who bade Bug and me farewell before Christmas. The one who I hate to keep needing and hurting and wanting and abandoning. That Giovanni.
He was more than willing to let us stay over Friday night and to watch Bug all day on Saturday.
Except that as soon as I asked, I felt a riptide of resistance pull me the other way. Not because Giovanni is not a perfect friend and a great companion for Bug, but because I had a sense that I was missing something really important here. Isn’t the reason it hurts so much to consider Tee drifting away from Bug because I don’t want people entering and leaving his life willy-nilly? Isn’t that also part of the reason I have tried to cut ties with Giovanni? Because I want Bug to have strong, healthy relationships with adults other than me so that he can grow up with a strong web of love and support?
As a single parent, I must owe my kid that much. I mean, I can’t give him a big college fund or a house with a yard. I can’t give him a nanny or a bunch of siblings. At least I can give him friends and grownups who will be there for him no matter how loony his mama is.
I may have a thousand excuses for why I don’t reach out to friends on a regular basis. All of them boil down to me being too pooped.  Just like fatigue begets fatigue, isolation breeds isolation. Every day of putting it off is another kilo added to the resistance. The way around it is not to give in to it but to grit your teeth and do the opposite.
The reason I don’t have a strong circle of friends for Bug is because I have not developed them. Relying on Giovanni to fill that gap only pushes me further away from those friends. If I need to nurture them, then I need to reach out.
So, I did.
After hearing from Tee that I was on my own to figure this out, I left work, sat on the metro and silenced the panic hissing in my ears. I made a list of all the people I know in the DC area who would probably love to watch Bug for a few hours. Then I picked up my phone and started going down the list.
The first two friends I called both said yes. Less than 10 minutes into this monumental undertaking, I had two options in place.
How do you like them apples?
So, Bug and I spent a fabulous Friday evening in the company of a married couple we adore and their menagerie of small rodents. We enjoyed loopy conversation and home-made pork chops, Bug played Rock Band with the resident big kid, and we slept in a cushy guest room. I woke and headed out at the crack of dawn. Bug crept downstairs to mess with the chinchillas and chatter with his waking-up friends while coffee brewed in the kitchen. As I sat in a campus computer lab proctoring an exam with seven frantic doctoral students, Bug was hanging out watching Hugo and manhandling hamsters.
I have relied on Tee to keep Bug central in his life during this closing chapter. He has. I am grateful beyond measure for their bond. I also know I cannot control what Tee does. I found that out the hard way during our marriage. The past couple of years have been dedicated to getting a better handle on trusting and surrendering. This may just be a funny, love-saturated intermission for Tee, and he might turn out to be as dedicated as ever once the first flush wears off. Also, he could decide to give up shared custody to move in with the lady-friend once his rented bedroom becomes too small for his chosen future.
No matter what story unfolds, I get to learn to rely not on another man but on myself. In that funny way life has of forcing our hands, I now have to turn that self-reliance into inviting other people into my care and attention. The scared little me that would prefer to hide inside her illusion of control simply can’t be at the helm anymore. My kiddo needs me to stop being super-Mom.
It is time to practice being the friend that is a friend: present, caring, proactive, reaching-out, and interested. I have much to learn. My earnest hope is that Bug’s circle expands along the way. Also, I aim to help teach him how to grow for himself a web of loving relationships that expands well beyond his two parents.
I may never be able to will my child a lavish estate. An inheritance of friendship may be worth far more.


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