Sunday was the day wherein my ex-husband (and oh the joy I feel at being able to call him that!) asked me the first question about the kids in at least a year, if not longer.

The impetus went like this: they had a supervised visit with him a week before that went well because they didn’t have to travel far, weren’t disrupted from their routine, and he behaved. I’d sent an email encouraging that he choose that same time slot next time because they’d done so much better (and had a shorter recovery time) and he asked, “How did they do better? Explain.”

And so I sat and looked at my screen for a few moments taking it in. Of course, there is that command attached to the end…but I ignored it. He has not asked me, the custodial parent and these babies’ mother, a direct question about how or what they are doing in any kind of recent memory. I chose not to analyze and just answer. It went like this:

The ways they did better: the visit didn’t disrupt anything they had going or wanted to attend so they seemed more focused on your visit and enjoying seeing you. They had an easier time afterward (no physical symptoms because snack choices are better, not as much violence and anger, not as much confusion). They seemed to be more settled into this as a routine and bounced back to their normal, daily routine much easier, which was a big deal this time since school was the next day. Usually it takes them a day or two of major emotional upset to get back to normal and I have to clear the scheduling space to allow for that. This time, without major travel and fitting into a Sunday afternoon after church, was much, much easier on them.

If we try to schedule for a Saturday, they will have to miss much of the activities they’d like to be a part of and commit to and those activities are helping them quite a bit. It would only increase resentment. If you can manage Sunday afternoons, it seems to be a very good time slot for the kids.

And then I tacked on, “Thank you for asking. I appreciate it.”

What followed was a long, rambling, punctuation-less response on what a loving, excellent father he is, coupled with pleas and begging for me to stop restricting his access to them. He implied we should live nearby so he can see them every day and said he wants to have normal contact with them.

Then he said he can’t come see them twice a month. He ignored the reminder that email and phone contact are available. And he’s conveniently withholding child support for many months running.

This afternoon I sat thinking and remembering about why I live so far away now. Why I’m back in Hurricane-land trying to figure out how to finance a house I love in a state I can’t reside in, with four glorious seasons and herbs I lovingly planted and walls I painted. I wonder if he remembers that we don’t live there because last year he shot 23 of our animals and threatened to kill me with a chunk of firewood and then told the neighbors I was armed, dangerous, and trespassing on his property, meaning I was almost shot by the police when trying to go home.  I wonder at the level of his denial and how he could consider any close relationship with him, “normal”.

His begging falls on the deafest of ears. It will take a helluva court fight to make me put my children in his unsupervised vicinity ever again.

Lately I’ve been spending my time with a real, live, grown-up of the romantic kind. The sort of man who shows up. Who pays. Who thinks ahead. Who owns his crap and strengths combined. Who has raised three impressive kids to adulthood. Who sentimentally saves baby shoes and pictures of their high chairs and the first fish they caught. And, to my marvelous enjoyment…..who asks questions.

So I’ve been thinking about questions and how the unloaded asking of them communicates respect and honor. And maybe questions, the honest and curious kind, are the first clue we have into someone’s character. Their presence or not, their frequency, their longevity. My ex-husband asked so few…didn’t even propose (it too was just sort of assumed, shame on me).

Questions are one of the first things I look for now.