When taking the high road sucks

My eight year old just called me on FaceTime from her dad’s house. I hadn’t heard from her all weekend, and I’ve been a little worried since she usually calls me every night. It’s the first week of a new custody schedule where she spends significantly more time with her dad, and I know it’s probably been hard on her.

Seeing her on the call was hard. My kid, who usually has the energy to power a small city, seemed listless. Tired. Sad. At one point, she said in a sad, small voice, “I miss you.”

I miss her too. But I’m afraid that telling her I miss her too will only make her feel more sad and make her miss me more. Ugh. It’s hard. It’s so hard.

It’s especially hard because I know that more time with her dad is not what’s best for her. It’s hard because I fought in court to maintain the schedule we had — and lost. It’s hard because I know that in that moment of missing me, all she needs is a hug and reassurance, and it’s so fucking hard because I know she won’t get that at her dad’s.

In fact, the opposite is true. After talking for a few minutes, I heard her dad say in the background, “Time to end the phone call, kay?” She shot back a terse, “I haven’t talked to Mama ALL WEEKEND!” And he replied by saying her name in a very threatening voice, the type of tone that implies, “Do what I say without arguing, or else.”

Of course, then she said to me, in a sad voice devoid of her normal spunk, “I have to go, Mama. I love you.”

It breaks my heart. All she needed in that moment from her dad was connection, attunement, acknowledgement that this transition is not easy and that she’s struggling and she misses her mom. Instead, she got a warning, a veiled threat — comply or else.

Case in point why it kills me that she has more time with him.

It’s moments like these when I realize I can’t stop fighting for her, not now, not ever. Yes, the most recent round is over. But I still have to stay vigilant and keep documenting everything — while at the same time, providing her with that attunement and acknowledgment that she doesn’t get from him. I have to acknowledge that he’s her dad. I have to acknowledge she loves him. I have to acknowledge that she should love him, no matter what my feelings are toward him.

What a bitter pill to swallow.

Taking the high road seriously sucks sometimes. Nights like tonight, when I hang up with her and my anger boils over, I don’t want to be the bigger person, and I sure as hell don’t want to have to keep fighting. I’m tired, too. So goddamn tired. But I don’t have any choice. I have to fight, because it’s not about me. It’s about that exhausted, sad kid on the other end of the phone, that kid whom I love more than life itself. And since it’s for her, I’ll muster up the strength to keep going.

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