Tuesday, September 12, 2017

We're All Flawed--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, February 17

     I started the online parenting course Illinois requires for divorcing couples with young children. I watched a video portraying parents unloading on their kids, pumping them for information about their other parent, and speaking disparagingly about the spouse they were divorcing. I felt guilty that I'd called JB a retard and an idiot. I felt guilty that I'd suggested we use JB for archery practice. I felt guilty for making a lot of comments Blake and Tom can’t un-hear.
     Tom thumped down the stairs for breakfast.
     “I've said sarcastic things about Dad," I said. "Made jokes about him. How does that make you feel when I do that?"
     “I hate it,” Tom growled. His face knotted up and turned red. “It makes me feel really bad.”
     “I’m really sorry,” I said. “I’m stopping that. I’ll try to do better. I'm not perfect and I might mess up, but I’m going to try very very hard to keep my mouth shut. How about you charge me a dollar if I say something mean?”
     “I don’t want a bribe,” Tom shouted. “I don’t want a dollar.”
     “I’m not trying to bribe you. I’m just thinking it might help stop me.”
     “Well I don’t want money for that. And I want you to stop saying bad things about Dad to your friends. It makes me feel horrible. ” Tom started crying.
     “I know you overheard what I told Ruby at the trampoline park. I’m really sorry.”
     “It’s not just that!” Tom howled. “I hear you when you’re on the phone!”
     “Oh, God. I should have known you’ve been listening.”
     “I haven’t been listening. I can just hear you. It’s kind of hard not to hear.”
     “But I make sure you’re upstairs in your room with your door shut.”
     “Well I can hear you.”
     “Not unless you’re trying to hear. I don’t want you listening to what I’m telling my friends. I need to talk to my friends. If I don’t, I feel sick inside. It helps me figure things out. I'm sorry you heard awful things. You should not be listening to my conversations.”
     I walked over to Tom and hugged him. He squeezed me back. He ate his breakfast and went to his room. I checked on him. He was curled up on his bed crying. It was the first time I’d seen Tom cry hard about his dad and me. My heart ached, but I was glad he was letting it out. Later, I brought Tom lunch in bed. I left to ride BlackJack. When I returned, Tom was watching a goofy video on YouTube and laughing. I sat next to him.
     “I thought Nana and Papa knew everything when I was little,” I said. “It bummed me out when I realized they didn’t. Every kid goes through that. We’re all flawed human beings. You’re seeing that right now.”
     Tom nodded. He looked relieved.
     “Want to go out for hamburgers?” I asked.
     “Yeah,” Tom said and smiled.

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