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My husband had a number of favorite sayings.  One was, “I know how this game is played.”

R didn’t call the kids for over a year. It wasn’t surprising given that he’d paid little real attention to them when he lived with us and had recently told our one son that he was harder on him because he didn’t love him. He didn’t acknowledge any of their birthdays the first year after he left. Even after he was awarded visitation every other weekend, he rarely came down. He usually only made it to visit every six weeks.

So, now, all of a sudden, he calls constantly. Just to chat. The kids don’t want to talk to him and typically only one or two will at any given time. But, he calls anyway. He always calls our 16 year old to arrange visitation.  He uses our son as the middleman, the go between, and puts the responsibility for visit planning on him.

This morning, a school day, he called at 9:30 just to say hi and talk to them.  Our son told him that the other boys were doing school work and couldn’t talk.  His dad questioned, “Not D?!” “No, she doesn’t do school yet.” So, Dad wanted to talk to her.  She didn’t even stop or look back but coolly answered, “Naw, I’m chasing the cat.  I don’t want to talk now.  I want to chase the cat.”

Our son told him that the kids have a party to go to this Friday at 6, and they would like to go.  He nicely asked his dad if they could leave at 6 and quickly offered that they could stay all day on Saturday though.  Dad said no.  He wants them picked up by 1 on Saturday because he has stuff to do for his mom and needs to say goodbye to his family, etc, and then has a five hour drive ahead of him.  Since he has to work Sunday, he wants to leave our town by 2 on Saturday.

Dad then told our son that he wants the kids more than three hours on Friday and that if Friday doesn’t work he’ll start taking them on Sunday, knowing that the kids all want to go to church on Sundays.  He then told him that if Fridays don’t work he’s going to have to figure something out with mom.

Figure something out with mom?

Under normal circumstances that would sound reasonable, adult, and intelligent.  However, he isn’t any of the three, and he doesn’t talk to Mom.  He has only spoken to me once in sixteen months and that was to yell at me in the middle of the street last summer.

He went on.  He really, really wants the kids to start spending the nights with him on Fridays.  He has asked before, and they have made it clear that they don’t feel comfortable doing that.  They don’t feel safe enough with him to spend the night.  He has verbally expressed understanding and hasn’t pushed it, just invited, until now.  He pressured our son, “I just need to know if that’s even a possibility.”

His attorney still has not signed the divorce papers, and I know he’s up to something.  He’s always up to something.

I have a sneaking suspicion he may be trying to create a situation so that he can claim I’m denying him parenting time.  He did that once already.  Last summer his own hand picked supervisor, his brother, was leaving town and would not be available to supervise a scheduled visit.  They were unwilling to discuss or arrange for another supervisor but insisted I bring the children anyway.  My attorney called his attorney and then wrote a letter.  No response.  Of course, I did not take the kids to drop them off for an unsupervised visit, no matter lame the supervisor was, because I understood the legal play they were executing.  He quickly filed a motion against me for contempt of court for denying him parenting time.

I don’t hate him, though I think I have every right to.  I don’t have any secret longing to see his life fall apart.  I don’t even want him out of his children’s lives completely.

I just want him to respect his children’s feelings and fears and allow them the freedom to choose how and where they spend their time.  I want him to understand that he wounded his own children.  I want him to really get that.

And, most of all, I want the children and me to be free to live our lives without the constant worry of what he might pull next.  I want us to live free of his games.  Even after all of these years, we don’t know how his games are played.  We don’t get the point of his games.  And, we just aren’t interested in playing them.

We want to focus on school and work and spending time with friends.  We want to worry about creating a life for ourselves and redeeming the time that was lost to his abuse.  We don’t want to waste time trying to figure out his next move on the board.

He may get how this game is played, but we don’t.  I just wish he’d take his ball and go home, leaving us free to play the game of Life.