Last week it was my younger child’s birthday. I had been feeling guilty that I hadn’t organised him a party, so at the 11th hour I invited ‘a few’ people and then suddenly found myself with a houseful of relatives, kids and an ex-husband!
Despite my ex-husband’s decision to disallow me from seeing my children on Christmas Day, I decided to rise above petty vendettas, so that ‘our’ son could have both his parents sing him Happy Birthday, and see him blow out the candles on his cake.
I’ll be brutally honest. After his behaviour at Christmas, I don’t even want him to set foot in my house. If the children were taken out of the equation, never seeing him again would be too soon. But we do have children. I know he cannot see the impact it has on them when a parent is missing on a special day, but I can. And I feel it my responsibility, as a mother, to do the best I can in the situation (ie to grit my teeth and wherever possible, invite him).
As ever, my friend Sarah showed up and surpassed herself. She helped pass drinks to the ‘grown-ups’, entertained my Dad and the ex-husband, and when the kids had finished their food, started to clear plates.
As Sarah started to stack the dishwasher, my ex-husband’s booming voice was having the same effect on me as nails on a blackboard. So I started to take over from her. I knew she was trying to be helpful… She insisted that she should help, and I could see that she thought I was being ungrateful. But I wasn’t! Her help was invaluable, but not help of the ‘dishwasher stacking’ variety!
As I assured her that I was happy to stack the dishwasher, the room full of people prevented me from explaining that, by keeping my ex-husband entertained at the other end of the room, she was helping me more than she will ever know. I just wanted her to keep him away from me!!! I would happily stack dishwashers all night long, to avoid needless conversation with my ex-husband!
Finally, the candles on the cake were lit, the lights dimmed and a dozen voices sang out “Happy Birthday” in various different keys! My son’s face lit up as he blew out the candles, only to discover I had sneaked in a couple of magic candles, which re-light themselves after they’re blown out.
After shrieks of laughter, he plunged a knife into the middle of the cake and screamed to get the devil out. As the adults tucked into chocolate cake, there was a frenzy of unwrapping presents. Then, no sooner had they all been opened, the ex, with all the pomposity he could muster, announced “Right, got to shoot.” By which he meant he had to rush home to pack for a two-week holiday.
I don’t know what my son made of his father leaving his party early, only to pack for a holiday that my son was not going on. Whether he was too busy to notice, or just concealing his feelings, I can’t say. But I do hope that in years to come, he is conscious of the fact that both his parents were there on his special day.
As for me, it seems a bit of a Pyrrhic victory. Whether it makes me the better person or not, there are no prizes. But it does make me feel like the better person and I guess, dealing with an ex-husband like mine, that’s probably the best I’ll ever get…