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  • Writer's pictureCrys Raffa

Alone, not again...just still

I turned 39 a couple months ago. That ever "scary" number of 40 is looming on this year's horizon. I'm told it is scary. I'm told I should find it scary because I live in a female body. Mine is a vessel that says "childbearing" with no escape and no ability to hide the fact.

Yet scary is a word that has always been associated with living in this body. By definition being female is terrifying. I can not open my mouth, I can not write a thought down, I can not put an outfit together; none of it without the omni present fear of "what will happen as a result of me doing this?" My mother, who died when I was 16 and she was 44, was a repeated victim. She was raped twice and faced multiple sexual assaults. It was over the course of ages 9-16 I learned this from other sources as, understandably, my mother never spoke of it.

What my mother did say was about my body and my voice. Lessons about how to avoid being raped or attacked. Lessons on how "fat girls aren't worth attacking" and that was her justification for enforcing her diet guidelines on me. (Nobody knew I was neurodivergent most of my life or how that impacts diet and health.) What she did say was how my intelligence would get me in trouble and to stop "showing off" and being such an "egghead" all the god damn time. She told me how being smart was no excuse for not following her orders and being right was irrelevant to the fact that she brought me into this world and therefore, she had every fucking right to take me right the fuck back out of it if she so god damn chose. She did tell me often, and at length, how I had no say in my life until the law told her she no longer had one. I was hers till 18 and then I was out the house.

No great surprise then that when she died, me being 16, I sang. I left voicemails on every relevant machine (this was Feb of 2000) singing loudly "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead". (My dad kept his voicemail cassette for many years.)

Honesty and open communication, full disclosure (when age appropriate) and trust are vital in families especially. It isn't something I ever had as a child. When my kids were born, I swore to myself that would never be the case in their childhoods. I wouldn't let them reach a point where they would have to look back while in therapy some distant day and say "holy fuck was I lied to! I was a pawn for them! They used me so badly. I was manipulated. I wasn't told anything and if only I had known...if only I had been aware of why they did or said any of it..."

This whole month I have been thinking about my mother in relation to how my kids will see me; particularly my daughter. January is her birthday and my ex is making it once again, all about them. I was literally messaged "*I* didn't invite you, therefore *we* couldn't agree on..." about the celebrations. The worst part being, I wasn't making it about anything other than what my child wants.

My child told me that my ex had been lamenting how "you guys do not get along and the court says you don't have permission to come mama, so I didn't think to ask if you could." I was livid, since the 5yr old has no reason to hear any such information; especially such inaccurate information.

(This year the birthday falls on an overnight with my ex. I didn't make a fight of it. I accepted it. My child ended up asking for an additional celebration on a 2nd day at home, ex and inlaws invited. I told my daughter "your birthday, your call. Mom will figure it out." Their birthdays should be a day all about them and their wants. It shouldn't be about my comfort or feelings. I am adult who should be able to manage restraint for long enough to make my child happy, My ex told me the in-laws and them would all be doing a meal. I told my child "I hope you all have fun. Mama will miss you cuz I've always spent your birthday with you, but this way you get 2 parties really. So, I hope it's a good time for you." Cue my child...."you guys do not get along and the court says you don't have permission to come mama, so I didn't think to ask if you could...")

I sent a message asking my ex from where the child got this information and etc etc. It was inaccurate and wrong and inappropriate and not what they should be saying to her. Ex denies saying it and then in the same breath says the child misunderstood. Which is it??

Over many messages, ex finally admits the point is that this event and celebration is not about what the child wants and IF the child told them directly they wanted mama to come, ex wouldn't allow it because THEY did not invite me. Then ex begins ranting how I was inappropriate for bringing it up and forcing the child to invite me (never happened) "who even does that?" they spit at me. I have to react and say "you are actively withholding information from her, actively preventing her mother from being involved ON her birthday AGAINST her wishes, and making it fully about what YOU want. WHO DOES THAT?"

Only once confronted with knowledge that the kids know this is what ex is doing, because what kid doesn't read over the shoulder of their parents(?) .... does ex relent and say mom can accept child's invitation ONLY if mom's parents also come. (As if that makes any serious difference to anything.) Only upon knowing the child is aware that their day is being taken over by ex and used as a tool in adult politics, is honesty honored.

This is why audio recordings are so vital. This is why one party laws make such a huge difference in cases of abuse like mine. This is why children often look back with anger and regret and remorse. Neurodivergent children perhaps even more so as our memories work so strongly due to the impact of RSD.

My child was told she wasn't allowed to invite me. LIE.

My child was told her parents couldn't get along long enough to share a meal. LIE.

My child was told the court stipulated I am not allowed to participate in her special day. LIE.

Best I can see? The truth is my ex didn't want to involve me. My ex didn't want to share a space or be civil. My ex doesn't like that my children love me as much as they do and show it. My ex doesn't like that it is obvious the kids prefer me to them given; a result of them being actively absent BY CHOICE their whole lives thus far. My ex doesn't like that ONLY total honesty is acceptable when dealing with autistics and not only am I ASD but so are both children. My daughter is very much a duplicate of me in this respect and when she learns you have not been honest and not been fully transparent, she goes as ballistic as I often do.

Divorce is difficult and painful. It can go many ways. It should always be the case that the way it lands is that which provides best for any children involved. Emotionally as much as financially. I work very hard in therapy to actively process the abuse my ex subjected me to and how to not project that onto my kids and my current situation. I made clear to my child she was not obligated to involve me. "Mama is a grownup. All I was telling you was I am gonna miss you on the day of your birthday because it is new for me to not be with you. It has no other meaning to it beyond mama saying her feeling honey. You are allowed to spend your birthday how you want. That's what I said to start and that is what I mean. I am very sorry if I gave you any other impression."

She is 5. She seems to understand mama was sorry. She seems to understand she had not been told everything by some people and told partial things by others. She was unhappy to learn that ex was making choices for her and seemed glad to be involved in figuring out a solution.

I am one human being and I will make mistakes. What I will not do is lie to my kids. I will not keep them from knowing that life happens and I will always make sure they know I am prioritizing what they want and need. I can accept that over time they will not always need me or want me involved. What I will not do, is accept it being decided FOR THEM by someone else while they are perfectly capable of doing so on their own.

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