I remember very clearly one time when my ex had left us in a huff. He sat the children down outside and said, “I can’t do this anymore. All your Mom does is fight with me. I love you both very much but I have to leave. I’m not coming back. I love you.” He hugged them got in his car and drove away. We all sat there dumbfounded. Kids crying their eyes out. Me left holding the bag. I always said I was FEMA. He would come through like a hurricane demolishing us emotionally, verbally, physically and I would play clean up with no time to take care of myself. My oldest son said, “Mom if Dad asks, I’m going to have to go with him.” He was 10. I was so hurt. His Dad was mean to him and me. I didn’t understand but I kept my wits and quietly said, “Why? I would miss you. He works. I stay at home to be with you.” He said, “Because I know you will never leave me.” It broke my heart. It’s part of the reason I stayed so long. That, and the fact that he was always telling me he was going to take the boys away from me. My head knew that there is no way he could do that. I was a good mother. But my heart knew it would break if he somehow did. I knew that things were bad when my oldest son told me that living with his Dad was like being on a rollercoaster. Sometimes things were going up and up and it was anxious and then other times you were free falling and it was fun. Sometimes it was straight with nothing really happening but most times you never knew what was going to happen. It was always up and down and no stability.” You eventually get off a rollercoaster to solid ground. The man of the house and protector never gave us solid ground. The boys and I were each other’s solid ground. As they grew older, when I could no longer make excuses for their father’s behavior, I started to tell them that men don’t normally treat their wives and families this way and that it is okay to love their Dad and not like him because it was clearly a struggle for them. They couldn’t stand him. It was very conflicting. But I gave them permission to love and I gave them permission not to like the person he was. They have learned to set great boundaries. They do not see him a lot, but when they do, it is on their terms and if he gets moody, they now drive so they can just leave. He has learned his boundaries with them and if he does get upset, they voice their wishes. Sometimes he accepts it and sometimes he gets angry but because they are his children, he does respect them more than he ever did me. I’m reclaiming my life and luckily, at 17 and 19, they are now responsible for their relationship with their Dad. I no longer allow myself to be the go-between. I refuse to get caught up in his drama but on occasion, after they have talked to him, I do have to still play FEMA. It’s unavoidable. He lives on the drama and I’m still their mother and there are still lessons that are being learned. I’m sorry the lesson came from their Dad but happy I could protect them and guide them. I try to find the blessing in it all and the real blessing is the union gave me two amazing boys who mean the world to me. I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant I would not have my boys.