Jawdropper

Have you ever encountered something that seemed really scary at first, then seemed to go okay for a while, then bounced back to be even more scary and crazy than you ever expected? Well my separation is turning out like that.

I advise you to sit down if you’re not already doing so. Okay, so probably most of you are already sitting down. But if you’re not, if you’re at some kind of public access coin operated Web terminal or something, just brace yourself. Because this is a shocker. And it’s all true. Okay, I’m describing what’s happened from my perspective, but I don’t think I’ve bent the truth here – and I’m not making any of this up.

Okay, how do I break this? L, formerly my wife, now my almost-ex-wife, has gone. Left. Flown the coop. Departed. Shot through. Scarpered. And I’ve moved back to our home to look after the kids.

See, you didn’t expect that, did you?

In a move that has surprised absolutely everybody, she’s essentially emigrated, gone to live in France with an old flame, some bloke she knew around ten years ago, before I knew her. She first mentioned the idea to me a couple of months ago. It’s probably fair to say that while it wasn’t the underlying cause behind our break-up, it was the concrete block that broke the camel’s back: it’s what caused the separation to happen now rather than six months ago. I mean, what would you do when faced with "I want to go and live in France with my old boyfriend"?

So, how did this happen? Here’s the blow-by-blow guide. First, we agreed to separate. I moved out. Four days later, Monsieur Le Frog arrived to visit. (Sorry to any French who might be offended by this, but as you’ll understand, this bloke is not my favourite person in the world right now. And since I know precious little about him, I have to denigrate him in some way.)

Over the space of a couple of weeks, they decided it was on, it was going to happen. No amount of logic or arguing with her seemed to do any good.

I told her she couldn’t take the kids. That doing this would mean taking them away from most of their family, all their friends, their culture, their language, their home. Taken to a strange country where they nor their mother would have any rights to government services or benefits. And most importantly, they would live in a country that has no known equivalent to Four’n’Twenty, Play School, Footy or Cold Chisel. It’s simply not right for Australians to grow up not knowing the words to Cheap Wine.

Consultation with the appropriate people (in particular a red hot legal eagle) and a quick inspection of the Family Court web site determined that it would just about be a walk over in my favour if it came to a custody dispute. She agreed, said she wouldn’t fight for custody. But, she said, I’m still going anyway. She said she wanted her shot at happiness.

I was flabbergasted. So was everybody else. Here is a woman who formerly could’ve been a prime candidate for Mother Of The Year. She wouldn’t let her kids go to crรƒยจche because she didn’t want to be without them. Now she was about to walk away from her children. I’m all for taking shots at happiness, because basically I would like everyone to be happy. But when it’s that kind of cost, it just sounds like pure selfishness to me.

And all for a bloke she knew briefly ten years ago. A bloke who is married with (older) kids of his own. The whole thing seems like the plot of a bad soap opera.

I almost thought it wouldn’t happen. But on Friday, the day arrived. We went to the airport. She said goodbye, then walked through the doors, out of our lives. Presto, I got my sideways promotion to Single Dad. What a strange situation to find yourself in.

The weekend has actually gone very well. A few weeks’ practice at (a) living alone and (b) looking after the kids single-handedly over weekends has paid off. With the support of family, friends, relatives, and the services of what looks to be a very good child care centre, this might actually work quite well. Time will tell.

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