Thursday, August 28, 2008

Exes and Hexes


I just need to vent here.

My oldest son, Tyler, is from a previous relationship. He visits his dad and stepmother for a month in the summer every year and comes back with a lot of general information about how I am viewed by my ex and his wife. I like to call it "Melinda Said". As in:

Melinda said you should send me to public school because she went there and turned out okay.

Melinda said you are ripping off companies by ordering freebies. She says it's fraud. (This came after the question, "what is fraud?" and I said, "well, it's when you steal from a company in a sneaky way. Why?")

Melinda said your house must be a mess with so many kids. (Tyler said he tried not to laugh because I keep a very clean house and he can't get through their living room without tripping four times)

Melinda said you don't feed me healthy food. (At least I feed him at all.)

Melinda said you shop at thrift stores because you are cheap, and that all Jews are cheap. (Melinda's of Arab descent and has a lot of opinions about Jews, Muslims, and the interaction between them.)

Melinda said I don't have enough socks. (I only sent a few pair because he wears flip-flops all summer. And then she bought him a package of socks to prove how dire she felt the situation was . They came home brand new and unworn. Thanks for the socks, guys. He already had about thirty pair, but it's a nice thought.)

And it goes on and on. It's not worth picking a fight over, and it really makes Tyler dislike her. It actually has the opposite effect than what I think Melinda intends, because most of it is obviously untrue. When he tries to argue with her, he gets scolded and told not to talk back. Fair enough; he shouldn't be sassing his stepmother. She's still an adult authority figure.

It's been a good lesson for me, because it makes me realize how easy it is for a well-meaning person to say things to a child that are upsetting. For instance, several years ago I bought some square white dinner plates. I bought them at Macy's for a hefty price (for me), and I was really proud of them. So, the first time I served dinner on them, my stepson informed me that I should have bought black. Why? Because his mom has square black plates.

His mom is one of those people who over-shops at cheap stores. Know what I mean? Some people buy plates once a decade at Macy's; others buy them every year at WalMart. They end up spending about the same. It's a matter of habit and perspective. And I should have said nothing, but I instead said something like: Who wants to eat off black plates? How unappetizing. And they don't even have that stuff at the stores where I shop.

In retrospect, it was very bitchy of me, and I'm sure it was carried home to mom and made to sound like I mounted a detailed attack on her dinnerware and her preferred retail establishments. I don't feel too guilty, though, because I know she uses her visitation to indoctrinate her children against their dad and me. And the kids see it as : look how much these people upset Mom, what is wrong with them? Or else, they think she just needs a friend and they should try to be there for her. So totally not a kid's job, not even an adult kid. And she knows it.

I try to keep my mouth shut. I try *so very* hard, and most of the time I succeed. But I'm getting it from both sides here: his ex and my ex.

It's more important that the kids be spared this crap than for me to come out 'right'. I just have to keep that perspective.