Friday, March 28, 2014

The Critical Mom and the Crumbling Parents

First, the phone call from one of my daughter's best friends:  "My daddy's moving out.  He fell in love with another woman.  I'm very sad."
I'd just seen this girl's mother at the birthday celebration of another girl in my daughter's class, and when I said we'd chosen Gymnasium A instead of Gymnasium B, since B is run by nuns, and I don't go for nuns, the mother had loudly defended her husband's aunt, "who is a nun!  And a highly educated woman! Very intelligent!"  Which of course left me grinning foolishly and agreeing that indeed, many a nun is highly educated and extremely intelligent.  I kept to myself the rest of my thoughts on that matter, including that I think any woman who volunteers to give up love, sex, makeup, the delights of color-coordinating her clothes, and a pagan sense of joy has big problems with all of the above, and since I think those things are pretty important in any girl's development, I didn't particularly want her influencing my impressionable child.
So I thought back on the now-abandoned wife vouching for her husband's nun aunt, as if defending his honor, and I was pretty sure this new development had completely gobsmacked her, that she hadn't been prepared, that she'd never have been defending his honor if she had any sense that he doesn't have much.  He's leaving her with three children under the age of ten, including a two-year-old.  I can't say we knew them well--we saw them whenever we got our children together; we offered cups of tea and laughed about what the children had said or eaten.
A day after the birthday party, but before the phone call, the mother running the party, who had also been earnestly discussing schools for next year with me, announces as I run into her at the elementary school's circus, that she is "getting a divorce."  Since I'd just seen her with her very courtly husband, who was making sure every guest got some birthday cake, I was surprised.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"Well, no, not really, because I am a Catholic!"  Now, there's an answer that leaves me gobsmacked.  My husband's a Catholic too, but I'm sure he wouldn't answer the question, "Are you happy in your marriage?" with "Yes, because I'm a Catholic!"  He'd say he had a good relationship with his wife.  In any case, further conversation didn't leave me a moment to ponder her answer.  The phone rang shortly after the school circus.
"This is X.  My husband is doing bad things.  Can my daughter stay with you tonight?"
"Uh, sure!" I said.  Because I'm not a Catholic, I almost added.  But didn't.  Now, the daughter didn't stay for one reason or another; the police were there, deciding where she could stay.  But the phone rang again this morning.  At seven, or before.  Could the daughter come there this morning?  
"Uh . . . "  As it happens, I have a very bad cold today.  Crawling into bed and sleeping it off is not consistent with calming a child I don't know well at all whose mother somehow trusts me . . . when I don't know either of them very well. 
"I mean just before school."  The kid's dad is apparently now not allowed in their house but keeps phoning every two minutes, and the daughter is scared.  Says the mother.  The kid was grinning from ear to ear by the time I saw her.  I introduced her to our guinea pigs and gave her a tour of our garden.  She walked to school with my daughter and my husband, and that was the last we saw of them.  Today. 
Is it parental breakdown week at the elementary school?  Just a full moon?  Are my husband and I the only sane parents?  I asked him this, and he pointed out that we do know one other sane couple with sane children.  Possibly two.  But there do seem to be an awful lot of angry, despairing single mothers and single dads out there in our city, more in the last two days than I expected to see.  I did spend some time explaining to my daughter that daddy and I are not divorcing, that I do not want another man and he does not want another woman, that we love each other.   And I feel very lucky.

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