The Last Thing I Wanted Was Lockdown With My Ex. But My Son Needed Him

Shoshana Sperling
·2-min read
Vector illustration of Family icons head
Vector illustration of Family icons head

As I took a nighttime walk with my 13-year-old son, ten days into the pandemic, I asked him why he wanted his dad to move into our basement. He launched into a pitch citing statistics and facts about how “particulate could penetrate hospital masks,” until I interrupted him.

“Can you tell me from your emotions? Don’t talk from your brain.”

We walked for about 20 seconds before his voice went soft and sincere. “I’m worried he’ll get sick and I’m worried about him on his own. I know him, solitude doesn’t suit him.”

When my partner left me after 28 years, I was devastated. He made me feel small, betrayed and helpless. The last thing I wanted at that uncertain time was to share a home again with my own private Thanos. But hearing this, bam, just like that, I unlocked the door to the AirBnB in the house my ex and I were fighting over.

The night before he moved in, I closed my eyes and said out loud to the empty room we had once shared: “I’m going to take this opportunity to create a better, more respectful relationship with my ex.”

My ex moved in on a Thursday. We were at each other’s throats by Monday.

We may never have another opportunity to renew our friendship, I reasoned, or to be the parents our son needs. Most of all, I wanted to keep our son safe. As infections and death tolls around the world mounted, I didn’t want my son travelling back and forth across the city just because we have shared custody.

I was scared and needed my child close by. The problem was that my kid was also frightened, and he wanted his dad there, too.

My ex moved in on a Thursday. We were at each other’s throats by Monday.

My coddling and his short fuse all felt like deja vu, but this time around I knew what was behind the compulsive cleaning and grammar-correcting that he used to vent his frustrations. This time I didn’t try to make him happy.

Soon, the quibbling became part of the lockdown routine. There was nothing to be late for, no pick ups or drop offs...

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