I currently work at a Montessori Preschool with a mixed group of children ages 3 to 6. There’s this one boy, one of the oldest, that enjoys playing “bad guy” games in a “too intense” way. It usually involves scaring friends as he walks by and stuff like that, which pisses everyone off badly. He has a blast, though, so he doesn’t care.
One day, and this wasn’t the first time, this little girl came up to me in tears because she was terrified of this kid making faces, and the boy had the guts to tell me she was making things up. It just needed to stop, but if you’re familiar with the Montessori method, you probably figured that I couldn’t approach the child with a negative sentence such as “Stop doing that”, “Don’t scare your friends”, “Enough with that game”… Instead, I had to reinforce positive language, go down on my knees to his eye level, and tell him how he could be using his imagination for something else. “It just doesn’t make your friends feel good when you do that” I said. Long process to say “back off”, right? Well… He walked away as if I wasn’t talking to him.
However, what will happen if I’m not around next time? With the same boy or someone else? In preschool or in college? Or with his partner in life. She didn’t need me, she needed tools to protect and defend herself:
Speak up for yourself. If something makes you sad or you don’t like what he’s doing, you tell him, you let him know. You ask him to stop. You might be smaller and perhaps physically weaker, yeah. But it doesn’t matter, because your words are more powerful than anything else. So don’t let him get away with it.
Of course the boy had to come back to her, despite my previous eye-level speech, and scare the shit out of her for the sake of it. I watched from the distance. The little girl didn’t even cover her eyes this time, she surprisingly built up her courage and told him that she was TIRED of seeing his face. Impressive.
In my marriage, I trusted until the end, even though it was obvious that he was cheating on me with a student (like taken out of a movie, right?). “You’re crazy, you’re making things up in your head” and “I can’t believe you’re jealous of a 21 year-old girl” were some of the lovely sentences I had to face month after month. What game were we playing? I don’t know, but I wish I could tell him a couple of things now:
I have never been jealous, love. Not to brag, but I am a 30 year-old woman who speaks 3 languages, holds a Law degree from one of the most prestigious universities in Spain, traveled to almost 30 countries, brown belt in Judo, independent, open minded, strong, good at sports, friend of her friends, and mother to 2 kids (YOUR kids). I work at a preschool to provide inexpensive childcare for our family (you’re welcome), I came to your country (more than 4,000 miles away from mine) to support your professional career (you’re welcome), and I speak your language because you were too lazy to use mine (even though you’re fluent… you’re welcome again). You’re not helping much, I have to say, but tell me, how in the world would I be jealous of a 21 year-old college girl whose lover cheats on his wife? After I work so hard to make this family work… That just isn’t fair, is it?! I guess I’m just jealous.
Long story short, and since we’re here talking about my drama life, he starting passing out at night from whatever substances he was ingesting. Fun. He would “put the kids down” by lying on the floor in their bedroom and eventually falling asleep before they did. So basically, they put him down 🙂 He would sleep with his phone just in case I’d stalk him. Good for him because I would, not gonna lie! I tried once but he had set up a lock-screen code, dang it.
We even spent Christmas at his parents’ house and he still had to leave just to go text the girl. Then I found cigarettes in his bag. I mean, shouldn’t I know that my husband smokes after 6 years of being together? According to his Mom, “he’s a adult and can do whatever he wants”. So I guess not. I begged him to help me through this weird tough phase, I just couldn’t understand anything anymore. To work things out with me, to try to fix our marriage.
I remember I ran upstairs and called my Dad on Skype, coordinating the 9-hour time difference, and started crying my eyes out talking about my feelings and my lack of trust and confidence. He sure snapped me out of it: “You have two boys that love you, you’re the rock in that family, and they need to know that they can rely on you no matter what. You can’t fall. You’re stronger than this and only you can make yourself happy”.
I needed people to remind me about the good things I should be thankful for, just to momentarily stop focusing on the bad ones that bring you down. But he was right with that piece of advice: I needed to make myself happy without the help of others.
One day we got into an argument. One of those nasty ones where things get thrown on the floor? Yeah, those. Since it was obvious that he was unhappy at home, I asked him to pack his stuff and go. There was so much anger going on that he just left… and I locked the door. He came back a couple of hours later, when the kids were in bed, and started kicking the door. I could see him all angry through my door’s peephole, as I was holding my breath so that he wouldn’t hear me. He took his phone out of the pocket, and traced the pattern to unlock the screen. Right in front of these eagle eyes that I inherited from my Dad. I storaged the code in the back of my retina: “I am gonna get you” I told myself with a nervous inner laugh. I dragged him to marital counseling instead, though, because 1) I’m stupid, and 2) I wouldn’t forgive myself for not trying anything possible! He is the father of my children after all.
I waited. I asked him for hugs everyday as a routine. I got shitty hugs -as a routine, too. I waited, and waited. One day I opened the mailbox and apparently, he had so much free time that he had found a lawyer and filed for divorce. What the heck? We don’t have money for that!!!! I thought the therapy was working! In fact, the therapist actually thought that he’d call it off… Very little did we know.
One night, he came back from work -should I say “work”? I mean, come on. He made dinner though, and put the kids down “as a favor”. I had to be thankful because hey, it could be worse. Maybe he was actually trying to make things right! But it had been a while since he walked into the bedroom. Everyone sounded asleep. I opened the door and he was laying on the carpet with the phone in his hand, just like every night, completely unconscious.
Oh yeah, you’re damn right I took it. I even left the house in case he’d catch me red-handed. I typed his passcode because I’m the biggest bitch in the world and I had it in my head like it happened yesterday. My heart was beating super fast, so hard I could feel it pumping in my chest. My hands were shaking as I was going through his text messages. I was right all along. I WAS RIGHT! –I screamed out loud all sweaty. So… this crazy woman that “was making things up in her head”, made screenshots of all those disgusting pornographic messages and, embarrassed enough, sent them to Dad… his Mom… my lawyer… and his boss. I then came back home, woke him up, kicked him out, and the day after, he got fired.
All the love that I had for him… vanished. It just did. And as I was working with my lawyer through the process of discovery, I realized that he had been no good and that he was actually doing me a favor by divorcing me. He had been using our money to pay for his debt and making new ones with his girl, because why not. He never gave me access to a credit card because he was the one working at the beginning and “everything belonged to him” (to the point of making me feel guilty if I bought yogurt because “I was the only one that ate it”), so he left me with zero credit history in his country. He would drive for 5 minutes everyday to get to work and leave me and the boys with no car in case of an emergency. He would stop at Starbucks every morning for a coffee (because I guess yogurts are too expensive). He would work out, play the guitar and get piano lessons after work because who cares what I’m doing. Most of the time, he would come home way past the kids’ bedtime and immediately leave to hit the bar because “he deserved it after a long day”. He would buy expensive clothes while we’d buy ours at Goodwill. He bought our car for $7,000 cash and sold it a year later for $800 -two days after he left, and of course, he kept the money. We got $5,000 as a tax refund and he kept that, too. I mean, what did I see in him that disappeared (or perhaps was never there)?
My lawyer was charging me $240 per hour (which made me think “WTF am I doing working in a Preschool?!” 😛) so I stopped that and started gathering all the documents on my own, and eventually represented myself in Court. His parents were paying for his lawyer and I felt like an undefended freaking immigrant.
So when the day came, you see me waiting outside my courtroom texting my Dad about how I was going to have severe diarrhea in the middle of the process, or how I didn’t want to cry in front of him, or how I was terrified of not finding the right word for what I wanted to express, because it’s not my first language (as you may have noticed). But my Dad… Man, he’s the man. Did I mention him already? 🙂 He always encourages me to do anything I want to do because if I believe I can, and I work hard, I’ll get it. Even in the distance, I know he has my back. I know that when I feel down, he’s always there to cheer me up and change my mood. Life is beautiful and everything happens for a reason.
If there’s anything in the world that I am proud of, other than giving birth to two beautiful children and giving them a badass Grandfather, is walking away from my ex husband. That moment in Court when I asked him questions directly and his face turned red as he knew he had fucked up big time… Priceless. I ended up winning everything I asked for, and of course sole legal and physical custody of our children. He moved to the other side of the country, to his parents’ house 2,000 miles away from us, and also far away from his still girlfriend. He sure could’ve done things in a different way, but he chose not to.
I don’t know if you knew that I was excited about sharing my life with you, I married you and carried your children in my womb. You kicked me out of your life, in a country far away from mine and with two young kids that I was scared to lose. You sure were having fun, but like I already said: I don’t like those “bad guy” games. It took some time for me to be strong in my skin, I waited patiently and swallowed every lie you had for me. I am glad you’re finally gone and that you cannot hurt me anymore, because like my dear student would say:
I am TIRED of seeing your face.