Disclaimer: I love my kids.
I am still getting used to having kids. I’m getting better, my uncanny patience has improved even still. Having a baby myself helps me to be more inclined to taking a nurturing approach with the kids. The grown ups all together will discuss ways that we can be more fair to the kids and try to ensure that we’re singing from the same sheet of music when it comes to praise and punish procedures. I’m the only grown up with a traditional job (40 hours a week in a cubicle) so I miss out the most on these meetings and have to play ‘ketchup’, which usually looks like me getting reprimanded when I’m reprimanding one of the boys.
These factors all contribute to my desire to want to hide when faced with the daunting task of keeping an eye on the kids, which can be as few as two at a time or as many as seven. I have improved in the past three years, but I still get moments where I start to panic- children or not, I’m naturally an introvert and get overwhelmed around people. Lately the triggers to my panic episodes are primarily repeats of circumstances that the petitioners have criticized.
“Gabe parents his siblings, this means that they’re neglected.”
“The boys’ clothes are always mismatched, they’re forced to fend for themselves.”
“Gabe wanders the streets without supervision.”
To the jury we look like horrible, selfish people. It goes unsaid, mostly because of the motion in limine, but the picture painted is that we put our sex lives before the wellbeing of the kids.
Then comes cross examination, and the jury is shown how normal we are. Boys are boys, they’re going to bully each other and boss each other around. Gabe is an alpha, and naturally tries to herd his siblings and enforce his own sense of justice (he and I get at it sometimes and I have to remind him when he falls out of line). Geraldine is also an alpha, and despite Gabe being eight years her senior they can clash sometimes. The Ladies’ parents were controlling, Alice’s mother would still pick out her outfits when she was in high school, so we give the boys the freedom to wear what they want. We do tell them when their outfits don’t match quite right, and they’re stubborn about not fixing the problem, hoping that we’ll forget about it. For some reason the boys like to go without a shirt, throwing it under the desk or in the middle of the kitchen, and Gary especially hates putting shoes on before going outside. You’d think our sticker burrs would have taught him a lesson by now. And it may be unnatural in my mother’s perspective as she’s naturally a hermit, but in our neighborhood especially kids will wander the streets. Ours only do so under the condition that they let us know exactly where they’ll be and check in every two hours.
The bad thing about being normal is that we have flaws. You can’t have flaws when you’re fighting for your kids in court. My mother even testified against me. Remember when she came to visit in “Baby Steps”?
“Guinevere wasn’t wearing a shirt, and she was six days old. I brought diapers as a present, and Charlotte said that they only had two left…”
Then the cross examination.
“Did you breastfeed Charlotte? Are you aware of the benefits of skin to skin contact?”
“Have you ever run out of something at your house?”
For some reason when you turn the smoking barrel on the hunter, the relevance is gone.
We’ve informed the boys of how their actions have contributed to jeopardizing our custody of their sisters. Disclaimer: we’re not shaming them when we do so, instead we try to teach them cause and effect and responsibilities. Initially they’re stunned and agree to try harder. Then they’re back to their normal ways, which is fine, I just need to learn to calm down and not hold it against them.
Edward, on the other hand, gets most of the blows and carries the (undeserved) guilt. I think it’s mostly his mouth that gets him in trouble. His humor is dry (my favorite flavor), his voice is loud, and his ideas are big. He is highly intelligent, and it goes over everyone’s head. This must mean that he’s controlling! A narcissist! He’s abusive! God, who was it that said she feared that when his daughters grew up that it could be possible that he would molest them? Yet he’s the complete opposite of the monster they describe. These people haven’t even seen him in over three years. Three years ago he was recovering from the emotional trauma of nearly losing a son to cancer, of recovering from bankruptcy, of having been cheated on multiple times in previous marriages, divorces, moving across the country, etc. I didn’t know him three years ago. Alice says that it’s fortunate, because he’s come a long way. Naturally he was short tempered, but not only has he recovered financially and emotionally, but there’s the three of us to support him and help carry the burden. One of the parables he uses is “many hands make for a light load”. He’s the most generous, considerate, selfless person I know.
The commonality shared between the Ladies is that before meeting him, we were children, despite being adults, and he was the first to tell us that we were free to be who we wanted to be, and that we mattered. I hope this was obvious when Edward cross examined my mother.
“You called Charlotte your ‘little girl’, correct?”
“She’ll always be my little girl.”
“Are you aware that she will be turning twenty one this month?”
One evening Edward crawled into bed and collapsed under the weight. He asked me to get him his drink from his desk. Then he corrected himself, explaining to me that I didn’t have to, he wasn’t telling me what to do. Again he asked for a small favor, and then interrupted himself to apologize and explained that he was only asking for a favor and that I didn’t need to feel obligated to do anything, and then dismissed it completely with a ‘nevermind’.
“Stop apologizing. I see myself as your wife. You see me as your wife. You don’t need to explain yourself. I love you.”
“You’re right. I just don’t understand how they can say those things about me. I try so hard. I do everything for my family.”
“I know, I see it. And I appreciate everything you do for us.” I combed my fingers through his hair to help him to sleep.