The Co-Parent Mystique
Almost a year had passed before he recognized something was wrong. But something was most definitely wrong. Initially it was nice to have a break every few days, a night off, the ability to catch-up on whatever he felt like catching up on. Now, however, it was becoming increasingly difficult to enjoy that time. He felt the way he imagined a python’s prey did. His every hope for relief resulting in the python constricting tighter. And tighter. And tighter.
Initially, there was curiosity about what she was doing when she wasn’t with him. Most importantly he wondered if and what man took his place. All the literature explicitly told him not to play detective, so he didn’t. In fact, following the literature’s recommendations was the easy part. That’s what made this so difficult. How could the ‘right’ way feel so bad?
Time was starting to take its toll. Make no mistake, he was sure he made the right decision. On the whole, though, his last couple decisions had him wondering if he only made them in order to see for himself that life was as difficult as he had always been told. Feeling pretty dumb, he longed for his life before it became difficult. Scratch that, he didn’t think life was difficult; he compartmentalized life too much to make such a sweeping generalization. He told himself that life wasn’t difficult, just half of life–the half without his daughter.
Sometimes with one hand, sometimes with both hands behind her head, she often slept “like a boss.” He missed seeing that. He missed the way all three turns from the bathroom to the kitchen were wide-turns as she ran to get her treat after successfully going potty. He missed the way she opened and closed all her fingers in unison as she beckoned, “Ca-meer!”
The sinking feeling was inescapable. He was disgusted by it. Yet, he couldn’t avoid it. “The reason the situation is so difficult is that it doesn’t have to be this way,” he’d lie to himself. Maybe her mother would see that he could do a better job and let him raise her full-time. Maybe–just maybe–his daughter would request to live with Daddy full-time some day. Way beyond foolishness is shame. He was so ashamed of these selfish thoughts.
Thoughts like these only stifled him. He had not experienced “stifled” before. For that reason alone, he knew his daughter would need more than a stifled version of him. He knew he could do better than that, but he also believed he shouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel. Surely other people were dealing with the same feeling, right? Since it involved shame, he guessed so. If he had to, he would be the first to break the silence. She was worth it.