Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

There was a placesetting for dad at the dinner table recently.
There was a placesetting for dad at the dinner table recently.

Inviting my husband to dinner was intended to be a good thing. We’d spent Halloween together, which resulted in really happy kids who (the child therapist agreed) benefited from seeing their parents together. Having their dad over for dinner was an attempt to smooth over the most recent angst. It was an attempt to do what was right, for the wellbeing of the children.


When I texted him to let him know that the kids had requested he come over, he wondered, as did I, if it was such a good idea. Prior to Halloween, we’d gone back to text warring over the same old issues that circle round and round, the communication barrier that led to our divorce in the first place.


“I’ll play nice.” I said, Meaning it, but not knowing if I’d be able.


Before he arrived the girls set the table with a vase of collected leaves, and pretty crystal glasses. Sophie made place tags and sat hers across from her dad’s, so she could “look at him.” My mother, busy cooking a pre-Thanksgiving turkey feast had her card placed next to my husband’s. 


With me seated between my girls, the table placement said a lot about the dynamics of this family.


By the time he rang the doorbell, everyone was hungry, so Grace got to work carefully spooning out dollops of mashed potatoes. Sophie folded napkins, “Restaurant way,” and handed out the rolls.


Family Dinner!


I hadn’t seen my daughters this happy in weeks.


Divorce has been hard on my girls. We’ve had traumatic drop offs, and hysterical mornings when the clothes they wanted to wear to school had been left in a drawer at their dad’s house. They fight me when I say, “No,” and temper fits abound. Seemingly more temper fits than the average five-year-old kid’s.


Not having parents living under the same roof has created stress, and longing. They know that their parents don’t get along, but they wish that they could, though the never come out and say it.  They don’t have the words, and I as I write this, I have trouble finding the words myself. 


The day after our dinner the kids were still in good spirits. They shuffled off to school without drama over the clothes that were missing. When he picked them up for his weekend, they left without separation tantrums, kicking, and crying fits that have added more cracks to the part of my heart that’s already broken for my children.  


They felt safe.


But just as had happened after All Hallow’s Eve, decisions that needed to be made as co-parents collided with our very different perspectives, and all hell broke loose (in text form, but still).


I imagined that having him at our dinner table meant that all of the problems would sort themselves out. He’d see that I wasn’t trying to be controlling (his biggest argument). He’d do what the co-parenting therapist had suggested, and not see it is as anything other than the best thing for the kids. I’d be able to be in close proximity to the person I’ve spent thousands of legal dollars to get away from, and see him as a friend, not a foe.


And, vice versa.


But how naïve to expect that one night at a table with a turkey would raise from the ashes a freshly formed, trusting relationship to benefit of the one thing we did right?


The kids need us to figure it out.


Fingers crossed it won’t take the next twelve years.