How I Almost Nut-Punched Elmo and Ended Up Getting a Divorce
My marriage died a gradual, gasping death, but I can pinpoint the exact moment when I knew I would get a divorce. It happened in Elmo’s World.
My ex husband is always running to the next activity. Instead of viewing weekends and vacations as opportunities to rest and regroup, he fills them with funtastical adventures from sunup to sundown. Downtime, much less routine tasks like grocery shopping and laundry, didn’t even figure into his calculations when we were married, because he seemed to think magical fairies would do them.
Before kids, we managed to take a 2-month hiatus from our normal lives and backpack across South America, which was amazing. Unfortunately, I contracted walking pneumonia, which lasted for 6 weeks, during which time I saw the Nazca lines from the air, explored Machu Picchu, trekked in the Andes, rode buses with chickens, chatted with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, and spied on beautiful Amazonian wildlife. You know, in between bouts of fever-chills and coughing up blood. I wish I were kidding. I desperately needed to rest, but Ex was not willing to let me, so I muddled on in his wake. I’m pretty sure the only way he would have stopped would have been if I had collapsed. It was a metaphor for our relationship. After kids came along, things didn’t improve, to put it mildly.
Fast forward to when Tweak was 4 and Tink was 2. It was time for a summer vacation, and I suggested we go to the beach, and maybe detour into New York City for a couple of days. Ex wanted to do “a few other things” as well. The first day, we drove from D.C. to the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where we spent several hours. Then we drove to the beach – where we stayed for two whole hours. Then we drove to Newark, arriving around 11 p.m. The next morning, we took the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan met up with my friend Monica at a park went to Times Square visited yet another children’s museum uptown, then-headed-into-Brooklyn-in-a-pouring-rainstorm-had-dinner-with-some-of-Ex’s-friends arrivedbackattheferryterminalandwaitednearlyanhourwithtwooverstimulatedtoddlersarrivingatourhotelat11again. Good times.
After more days like this, we ended up at Sesame Place, just outside Philadelphia. We had been there before, but God forbid we should miss it. We got there when it opened at 10. We stayed all f#cking day. When I suggested we should go back to the hotel for naps after lunch, all I got was an eyeroll. I started saying we should leave around 4 to make sure the kids got fed and bathed and to bed at a decent hour, but each time, I got a Cat Butt Face.
At 7pm, it started pouring. Huddled under an awning in Elmo’s world, hungry and shivering, I asked why we were still there, given that every ride was now closed and we had literally done All The Things. His response? “The parade starts at 7:15. I figured we’d stay for that.” I said, “We went to the parade at 2. It’s the same damn parade. In the rain. Let’s go.” Cat Butt Face.
At that moment, it was as if time slowed to a crawl under a giant, glaring spotlight. I remember the rain sluicing across the pavement, Tweak jumping in the puddles. The shrieks of children in the covered play space. The 70,000th rendition of the ABC-DEF-GHI-JKL-MNOP-QR-STUV-WXYZ song pounding into my head from the PA system. My kids’ glazed eyes and sticky faces, heading quickly into meltdown land. The popping of the capillaries in my brain. And Ex making that face. I looked him in the eye and said, “If we do not leave right now, I will know that nothing I need, and nothing I say, means anything to you.” He rolled his eyes again and turned his back.
Looking back, I ask myself why I didn’t just bundle the kids into the stroller and walk out of the park right then. I don’t have a good reason. I was tired. I didn’t want to make a scene. I didn’t want to be Mean Mommy who stops the funtimes. And it had been my habit, for 11 years, to enable him. So I stood there, more angry than I have ever been at anyone at any point in my life before or since. I literally had to clasp my hands behind my head very tightly so that I would not physically assault Ex in front of our children. When Elmo came up to me during that godforsaken parade, the person in the suit must have sensed I was about to nut-punch him, because he stopped, backed away, and gave me a very wide berth.
(Elmo thinks Tweak’s and Tink’s mommy is about to flip her shizznit!)
As I stood there, taking deep breaths, trembling with impotent rage, my pulse pounding, I felt the words clicking around in my head like polished stones and tumbling into my consciousness: I Want A Divorce. I had never allowed myself to consider the possibility before, but in that moment, I knew I could not sacrifice one more piece of myself to be in that relationship, that I was not going to be a good mother to my children if I stayed, that I had to advocate for myself or I would die from the inside. Mentally, I palmed the words and rolled them around: I. Want. A. Divorce. They felt cool and smooth and calm. I closed my eyes and let the weight of the words settle my rage. When I opened them, I hugged my babies, took them by the hands, and started walking away from their father.
Kathleen Gordon is a working single mom with a dirty mind. She began writing her blog, Middletini, to process her feelings about heading into her 40s, nearly losing her damn mind, and getting her groove back with a little help from her friends and the occasional adult beverage. Not content to overshare on the internet, Kathleen is writing a novel in her abundant spare time. You can read more on her blog Middletini, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.