Kids are like little (or big) balls of that thick paste you used to use when you were in kindergarden. Everyone they touch gets all stuck together. I always tell unhappily married childless couples to GET OUT NOW BEFORE YOU HAVE CHILDREN!!! It just seems like it would be a helluva lot easier to hit the reset button, go on about your separate lives, and just pretend the whole unfortunate thing you called a marriage never happened. But with kids, you are stuck dealing with this person for the rest of your life. No, not just til the kid is 18..... the rest of your life. The last person you want to deal with in life is the first person showing up at anything of major importance to your common offspring. And then there's the coordination of co-parenting and attempting to work out expenses, and blah blah blah blah blah.... all the things that make you wish you'd just kept your damn pants on in the first place. No matter how far you try to get away from the person, they just keep. Coming. BACK.
But the kids don't just put their imaginary glue all over you and your ex-spouse. It also get stuck to any person who has ever cared about your kid, including friends your ex got custody of in the divorce and, yes, your ex's subsequent boo thangs (usually girlfriends, but I guess guys could get attached to other people's kids, too.... I've seen it happen). My ex dated a woman for several years after our divorce, but it just didn't work out, probably because he went and had a kid with another woman. You know, the little things that tend to piss women off. Anyway, as what usually occurs between ex-girls and next-girls, we weren't exactly friends, and she probably hated me for doing whatever The Ex told her that I did to him, and I wasn't too fond of her because she surely sided with his version of life, but there was never any overt hostility ('cuz I see no point in squabbling with some woman over a man I do not want). But even though they have parted ways, she still has a relationship with my kids. My daughter goes to spend the night at her house and visits her and her family on holidays; my son still works for her in the summer and she asks him to do speaking engagements for her job. I even felt compelled to send her an invitation to my son's graduation even though I'm sure The Ex would not have bothered. Sure, I could be petty and attempt to block her continuining relationship with my kids, but in all fairness, she was a major part of my kids' lives for about three years, and she really does care about them. Still, though, it is a bit awkward at times when I'm sitting there thinking "I'm pretty sure you hated my ever loving guts about 18 months ago" but still having to be cool...... again, for the emotional sanity of the kids.
Then I have another situation with my sticky children involving a friend I lost (or rather, abandoned) in the divorce. My former high school BFF and I fell out shortly before my divorce, and she continued to be friends with The Ex. My son is going off to college on the east coast and, coincidentally, will be about an hour from where she lives now. I thought I had this girl out of my life for good and for the better, but now she is back wanting to play the auntie role with my son. She has been trying to convince my son to move out east early and stay with her, against my wishes, better judgment, and desire that he stay here, get a job, and spend his last few months with his real family. However, because she and I are no longer friends, she apparently does not care what my wishes are for my own child. I just want her to go away and stay out of my life where I put her for good, but no, my sticky kids keep her around on the edges of my life.
And on it goes..... ex-in-laws, old friends, new girlfriends, new ex-girlfriends, and anyone else who, if you had your choice, you would never speak to ever again in life. But the little sticky glue ball kids walk around through life touching all of these people, and they all end up sticking back on to you. And the kids don't understand why you don't like this person or would prefer to keep them several arms' lengths from your life, so to them you just look mean and petty if you don't at least remain neutral. I understand that when your kids are younger, you have much more control over who your child is around (I'm not suggesting sending your 3 year old off with your ex's last jump off), but when they are older like my kids (18 and 13), they have more control over who they want to associate with. And unfortunately that often means you need to put your petty feelings aside and just accept that certain people will always be stuck around the fringes of your life.
Divorces (where people act like adults) take a lot of restraint and emotional maturity when kids are involved. I just never realized I'd get stuck with all these other people that I'd have to exercise this maturity with as well. I just want to be rubber and bounce all these people far away from me, but kids... they just have to be glue.