Lions and Hyenas in the Grocery Aisle

When you make a child with someone, obviously you hope that person is going to be kind and patient and compatible and that you are going to weather whatever good and bad times are ahead together as an equally participative and mutually empathetic couple. Sometimes it doesnt work out that way and for various reasons a split is necessary. If the two parents together are creating a toxic or violent environment in which the child is growing up, then they need to separate. If one person is putting in 90 percent of the effort and their partner only 10, then the problems will not be resolved and they need to separate. What this now creates is two single people. And they will probably be single agents for a time…but eventually, they will inevitably find someone else and try it again. Except now, its different. They are single, yes, but for each person, there is this remnant of their past relationship…a child. As the former partner and the current bio parent of the child you share with your ex, you can only hope that whoever they find will be loving, empathetic, patient, and mature with your child. That’s all you can do, is hope and pray, because you don’t get a vote on who your ex dates after you.

Last year i watched my friend and the father of her two children split due to irreconcilable differences. everyone was hugely surprised because they’d been together since high-school. But, i pretty much saw what was happening. She was growing up, and he wasn’t growing with her. I thought for a time that he would realize what a boss he had just lost and decide he was willing to put the work in at counseling or quit smoking and put some funds towards rent so she could relax a little. I thought he would realize he missed her and make some grand gesture…maybe her absence in his life would be a catalyst for personal evolution. He moped around for months, usually wearing the same pair of sandals and gray sweatpants with “DILF” printed over the booty area in big black letters. I said hi when i saw him but knowing i was her friend and not his, only the children answered.

Then yesterday i was at work when i saw him…same pants, same sandals…my friend’s son and daughter in the basket. On his arm was a new girl, not my friend, in a spaghetti strap shirt and skimpy shorts. She seemed quite a bit younger than him. Looking at him pushing my friend’s son and daughter in the basket with this new girl on his arm i felt she had been replaced. I tried to remind myself that she was free to date as well and that my friend would be pushing a basket with a strange guy on her arm too come time for her days with the children. It was okay. Everything was okay. They were allowed to have new people. It was none of my business. But, my friend’s two year old daughter was throwing a tantrum in the basket, “Daddy, but, um, i wanted it. I wanted the fruit snacks and the goldfish daddy. I wanted both of it! I wanted it, daddy, daddy, i wanted it!” He was, as always, not completely present. His mind was far away somewhere and he was ignoring the child’s tantrum. He said, “i said no. Not today.” He was always pretty mellow with the children. Maybe not the best partner but a good dad. The child continued to ask, as two year olds do. She whined and pleaded and her dad ignored her, as parents have to do in order to stick to their guns about set boundaries so the kids can test those boundaries and learn where they are. This new girl rolled her eyes so hard and glared at my friend’s ex with such a cold angry stare that a chill went down my whole body. She looked at the toddler and curled her lip upwards, then popped her gum loudly. She let go of his arm and walked behind him, arms crossed, face hard and annoyed as the child continued to moan about fruit snacks. Adrenaline flooded my body with a force i hadn’t known possible as every cell in my body prepared for war. I was internally battling something visceral and instinctual that wanted out. Something animal in me saw a clear and present danger to the ongoing well being of my friend’s cub and i was going to handle it with all the fury and violence of a sister lioness staring at a hyena stalking a lion cub. I gripped the cart i was meant to be pulling until my knuckles were white and my fingers numb. When it had passed i pried my fingers off the cart and returned to work. A woman knows in two seconds how another woman feels about a child, and that woman is not attached to those children. I hope she is a temporary fixture in his life. Its none of my business but the way that woman looks at my friend’s children raises all those little alarm bells that say “this is not someone attached enough to put up with all the negatives and inconveniences that come with the package that is ‘raising children’”. Call me judgmental. Call me whatever you want, but underneath it all, i’m an animal, with instinct.

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