Deciding to have a kid (RL256)

At the time John and his daughter's mother (her name is Ariella) started to plan having a child together, they had known each other for a long time, but they hadn't really known each other. They had been playing together, like "Hey, Downtown! Finger-guns!", but that's not how you raise a child. You cannot finger-gun a child into adulthood. Now they were about to embark on this secular journey to have a child together, but not in the context of staying together. They joked later on that they either were the divorced couple that got along the best in the world or that they had a really dysfunctional marriage.

Everybody was telling them they couldn't do it. Her people told her that she would be ending up alone in destitute raising the child on her own. John would clearly be shirking his responsibilities and if she didn't have him tied to the ground with legal requirements, he would just flitter off like some kind of drug-addicted Rock person. There were even worse allegations, like having the kid would only benefit John, but not her.

The whole notion was that you cannot bring a child into the world unless you are tied to one another with leather straps, have knelled in front of a guy with a robe on and said that you will love each other forever. You can't turn from a Bobcat into a Webelo, but you got to pass through being a Wolf and a Bear.

In August of 2017, Ariella was reading some old emails between her and John from the time she was pregnant, which was a pretty fraught time. They had been negotiating all the basic principles of how they were going to do this, like: How did they know they could count on the other person? Turns out: They were arguing about things that didn't matter at all. Ariella had read that they would need $1 million to raise a child, but John said that they wouldn't need that money all at once.

They had to decide what last name the child was going to get and a lot of other details. They had 9 months in which to go from a coquettish relationship to trusting each other and having a plan. They had to build all that within a world where the very best response they could get from their friends was "Well… I guess… wait and see!" Well-meaning people, a lot of whom are divorced by now, were telling them that there is no way it is going to work like this and they needed to get real.

John doesn't like to be touched, accepting your needs (RL256)

At one point during that time, Ariella expressed the need to feel comforted, but John was very formal with her. He said that he doesn't like anybody to touch his feet in the night. He gets very warm and really tears up a bed and he doesn't like to be touched when he is sleeping. No spooning! No nuzzling! Formalizing these preferences had been a huge revelation to him because he had always been miserable sharing a bed with people which had always been a problem in his relationships.

Hearing those old stories again made John laugh out loud because now that he had a child, there was one person in the world who could always touch him. A lot of these notions of himself have changed during the past 5 years: The introversion, the sense that he needed this bubble around him and the fact that it was okay to ask for it. Formalizing those boundaries for himself helped him to not always feel intruded upon and to not feel like a bad person about it, which had been the source of so much loneliness in his life over the years. Not only had he been feeling infringed upon by everybody, but that was exactly what made him despicable. Why couldn't he just accept love or touch?

It took a long time for John to get to the place where learning to be okay with it was a thing he could even do. He didn't want to be in the land of broken toys, he does believe in love and he is a romantic. Furthermore, this wasn't just a thing he was navigating with the larger world, but it happened within the smallest confines of his relationships with a lover who was laying out what she had to give to him, and his answer was like "Great, don't touch my feet!".

Out in the world John had never asked anybody to make any accommodation for him, but as the room got smaller, he was more and more like "This is my pillow, this is my underwear drawer, these are the hairs on the back of my hand and they can't be stimulated". He couldn't ever be okay with it, because the person he was saying all this just wanted to hug him.

Right around the same period he finally got himself into a position where he could tell her that he was sorry that she was pregnant and scared because she was not married. They were trying to write a new constitution for a thing that didn't have very many antecedents. There were no mentors or peers, but they were reinventing the wheel. She asked John to demonstrate his "hereness" by actually being here and holding her, but all he was saying was "Don't touch my feet!"

It was very important to John, but at the same time it was just as important to hold this woman who was pregnant and terrified. Now they are both laughing about it, because the experience that had come out of building this family was not just that John can hold his daughter, but his daughter also brought him the ability to feel uncomplicated about being touched. She was an important part of this process!

A unique experiment (RL256)

Part of the victory that John and Ariella had achieved was carving out the small spaces where they could be who they are. By now their daughter is 6,5 years old and they are still a team. They still don't have any peers, though. They don't know any couple who has done it the same way, and they don't know anybody who is about to try it the way they did it. Everybody they know is either in a happy marriage, in an unhappy marriage that is pretending to be happy, in an unhappy marriage that is done pretending, or in a marriage in dissolution that is either trying to be civil, not trying to be civil or long past that.

No-one is just like "We have decided to have a child together, and we are smart people of good will who have agreed that we are going to have a lot of fights about stuff in the course of time, as you do, but we will never lose sight of the fact that we are doing this intentionally!" This will always be a precarious experiment rather than a done deal. It is a work in progress and that is also it's advantage: When getting married you have already worked out how the rent gets paid, but you also have unspoken expectations and you carry templates around like a Maester's Chain, dangling around you neck because your spouse is going to be like this and you are going to live like this.

John and Ariella had to be very specific about stuff and they even five years later they hadn't encountered any moments like "Wait a minute?" Their relationship is stronger now than ever and John has never seen it in jeopardy, not even while he was in this long relationship with Millennial Girlfriend. His relationship with Ariella and with his daughter was the thing most important to John, so he wasn't ever going to sacrifice it.

There are a lot of divorces where one of the partners took the kid somewhere else or dad only saw the kid on alternate weekends. Sometimes when there is a split, one part takes the child as an offensive maneuver, it has ramifications and everybody's life changes. Does the offensive parent want the other one to come there? Are they trying to get away from that person, even if it is at the expense of the other person to see the child? It is complicated business!

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