Chapter 39, April
“Sometimes, things do not work out. Not because you do not deserve it, but because you deserve so much more.”
Once we arrived home after the hurricane evacuation, we were relieved to find that we had only sustained minor damage to our primary and rental homes. John and I considered ourselves extremely lucky as we witnessed the devastation that horrible storm had on our community. We spent the next few months getting our lives back in order. John and I did a large amount of reflecting while we were on our ‘hurri-cation’.
He and I assured one another that we would no longer allow outside entities affect our marriage. We were a team, and we had been through Hell. The work and time we put into our relationship would no longer be disregarded. Without the two of us, there would be no family. Therefore, our marriage had to be our top priority.
I struggled with the inadequacy of not being able to fully blend our families the way I expected it to happen.
Feeling hopeless and defeated, I could not understand how being a stepparent was so much harder than being a natural parent. As with everything in my life, I gave my all into being the best ‘mom’ I could be to John’s boys.
However, I always seemed to fall short…
It was as if everything I did was never quite good enough. I did not use the correct laundry soap, the clothes I purchased were not up to standards, and the care I provided was subpar. What hurt the most was knowing deep down that I was doing a good job, but the person that I needed to notice and acknowledge that most likely never would. It had been made clear that the harder I tried, the worse it would become.
I was not the giving up type, but like Kenny said, “You’ve got to know when to walk away, and know when to run”. The easiest concept for that situation seemed to be -RUN- far away from the chaos and stress. However, I knew deep down that was not the answer. I loved John, and I loved his children. Realizing what we had was special, gave me all the strength necessary to persevere.
Even with my insecurities looming in the background, my relationship with Loren seemed to have reached a plateau. Could it be the calm before the storm, or was she finally realizing that I was here to stay…or so I hoped. Either way, I was enjoying the peace while it lasted. We all seemed to be adjusting well to the new arrangement that had Jackson living with John and I full-time, while Jagger and Jett spent every other week with their mom.
Once I began changing my prayer that Loren would disappear from our lives so the nightmare would end, to praying that she would find peace and happiness, our situation metamorphosed into something much more positive.
It seemed that for the first time since our battle began, everyone was finally starting to work together. We were even able to reach an agreement to share the same nanny in both households, creating more stability and structure for the children. What made it even easier was the fact that Loren had moved into the same school district as John and me.
I attributed her new-found happiness as the reason for the temporary truce.
The joy I had for Loren was genuine; it seemed like things were really going well for her. She was in a loving relationship, they had just purchased a new home together, and in one of our brief conversations, she had even mentioned the idea of marriage and additional children. It was so interesting how situational experiences had so much effect on our internal well-being. Whatever the case was, I was just ecstatic to have some unity in our existence…while it lasted.
To say that I was not envious of Loren’s situation would be false. While John and I had an amazing marriage, the situation we were in caused unnecessary stress. Watching her enjoy her new relationship was bittersweet; they seemed to be carefree and in love. Her happiness seemed to spill over into our co-parenting relationship, but the fear of dissolution remained present.
My apprehension for a positive co-parenting relationship was not so much caused by Loren as it was her boyfriend.
It seemed that the moment things began to come together for us, his insecurities attacked Loren’s willingness to go further. John and I always felt that our communication with her was controlled and monitored by Loren’s other half. He seemed content if tensions were high between John, Loren, and me. When we were all getting along and co-parenting, her boyfriend would become agitated and attempt to distance our interactions.
Jackson’s birthday arrived, and since the therapist and judge still believed that it was in his best interest to have limited contact with Loren, we tried to make the day extra special. Luckily, he did not seem to be affected by the situation, or he was doing a great job hiding it. Jackson began thriving, in large part to us having the ability to give him our undivided attention. When all our children were visiting their other parents, Jack was living the life of an only child. That was a life he seemed to be growing quite fond of.
As a mother, I could not imagine the thought of not seeing my child on the day I gave birth to him. So, I extended the invite for Loren to come to our home and spend some time with Jack, to which she accepted.
When Loren arrived, I answered the door. I invited her inside, and she politely stated that she would wait at the door for Jack to get his shoes so they could go to dinner. I was confused at her statement and asked John to join us. He explained to Loren that she was welcome to spend as much time in our home with Jack as she desired, but he did not feel it was a good idea for her to leave with him.
Loren was adamant that she did not want to come into OUR home to spend time with HER son.
I assured her that we would give them privacy and she could make herself at home. Nothing I offered seemed to fit, and she became irritated. She insisted that she was leaving, and Jack was coming with her. At that point, I let the last two years of frustration and lack of acknowledgment pour out of me. I explained to Loren that we could go outside in the cold or she could come in the family room where it was warm. Either way, we were going to discuss the situation at hand, and this time she was not running away.
Voices began to rise, and words were thrown. I realized that there was not a single thing I could say to get my point across. The only thing I thought would get through to her was to ask if she had been in contact with her attorney. Loren stated that she had and that we should talk to ours because we were not allowed to keep her from taking her son. I asked John to go get the most recent court order, and I began reading it aloud, word for word.
Something seemed to change in that moment. It was as if Loren had been in denial for so long, and hearing the words out loud made it a reality.
She and John stepped outside to have a conversation. When they returned, Loren asked Jack if he would like to come into the living room and spend time with her. I excused myself to give them some privacy.
Shortly after, John approached me asking why I was not joining them. I explained to him that I had finally reached a point in our situation where I knew my place.
I no longer felt inferior to Loren or to the relationship that she and John had.
Gone were the days where I felt that I needed to assert my presence in order to feel like I belonged.
I was confident and secure in my place as a wife to John and a bonus mom to his children.
Christmas was fast approaching, and through the chaos and sadness, I was excited to carry out our traditions and have all my children under one roof. Even more exciting than that was the fact that we were celebrating Tyler’s first Christmas. The joy he had already brought to our family far exceeded my expectations. Ty seemed to be just what our family needed to brighten things up a bit.
The custody arrangement for that year had been agreed upon rather unanimously. Loren did not have pressing plans for the holidays, so she was fine with the boys being included in our festivities. After a day full of family, food, and laughter, we settled in for movies and hot cocoa.
John and I had a moment to reminisce on the day’s events. We reminded ourselves of just how blessed we truly were to have such a beautiful family. On the outside things were circus crazy, but on the inside, it somehow looked like we were making it work.
Sure, we were not a traditional or ‘normal’ family, but we were finding our happiness in one another. Most importantly, we were doing our best to make sure our children were content. At the end of the day, that was what mattered most. As adults, we had chosen divorce, but our children had not. They should not have to suffer because of our decisions.
John and I made a pact in that moment, that no matter what, at all costs, we would do our very best to make the upcoming year our best one yet.
The holiday festivities continued as John and I prepared for a night out to celebrate my office Christmas Party. Just as I was about to unpack my ugly Christmas sweater, I received a text from Loren. She asked me to call her, but requested it be when John was not nearby.
Fear swept over me and anxiety engulfed my body. I could not begin to imagine what could be so enigmatic that only I was privy to.
Was it merely girl talk?
Did she finally want to call a real truce?
Or, would it be like the time that she told me John was gay so I would not want to marry him?
Eager to put an end to the speculations, I slipped away to my closet to make the call. When Loren answered my call, something in her voice caused me to drop my guard. I sensed that this call would be unlike any of our previous interactions.
Once she began speaking, I knew my intuition had been correct.
“I did not know who else to turn to, I need your help.”
Those were the words Loren used to begin the conversation that would change both of our lives…forever.
I knew what she needed, and I was fully prepared to give it to her.