(Or, “How To Make Something Really Simple Incredibly Complicated.”)
When I was married, packing the kids for a visit to the in-laws meant locating an appropriate piece of luggage and filling it with clothes and some other stuff. It might’ve taken half an hour, tops.
Now that I’m divorced, packing the kids for a visit to the ex-laws means hyperventilating and thinking about it and hyperventilating some more and weighing the options and finally, arriving at the day before the trip with nothing packed.
First Issue: Quality. If I pack their older, “play” clothes, I will be bad-mouthed as the terrible mother who doesn’t dress them properly. If I pack their newer, nicer clothes, they will come back ruined (“Well, Daddy lets us use permanent markers!”). Or not come back at all. Lord knows that Daddy may come through with rice krispie treats and chocolate milk for breakfast, but he didn’t know which clothes belonged to our children when he still lived with them. Now? Anything I pack for Chickadee stands a 50/50 chance of going home with her cousin of the same age unless I charge her with the responsibility of tracking her stuff. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that at 6 she should have to be policing her clothes.
Second Issue: Quantity. My ex’s mother is a laundry addict. So the ex doesn’t ask for many outfits. But as near as I can tell, all laundry is washed at her house in hot water, dried on nuclear heat. Does packing more clothes mean less lost to the laundry? Or merely more items laundered at the House of Hot and ruined? I just don’t know.
Third Issue: Coordination. I know I need to just let go on some things. It should not make me want to climb out of my skin and howl at the moon to know that when I carefully fold matching articles of clothing into cute little packages, the ex can still pluck an orange striped shirt and red plaid pants and pair them up. I have to hope that with the help of the other adults around on this trip, this may not happen. Or that everyone will have the good sense to recognize that if it does, it is not my fault. But, well, everything is my fault as far as this group is concerned, so why not one more thing to obsess on, right?
Fourth Issue: Health and Safety. Theoretically, the ex has his own Epi Pens, sunhats, sunblock, vitamins, medications, etc. But if I pack mine in the suitcase, at least I know these things are making it on the trip. On the other hand, it’s his job to remember this stuff on his own, or figure it out. (After losing Monkey’s Epi Pen just once, I have to say he’s gotten better about these things.)
Fifth Issue: Lovies. Fun Daddy now has more toys at his house than we have here. But if I insist that only items from his place make the trip, there is nothing of everyday there with them. Conversely, if I let them take their “regular” lovies, they may be lost.
Sixth Issue: My babies should not be allowed to spend eight entire days away from me in a discipline-free vacuum amongst people who think I’m pond scum. But what I do or do not pack doesn’t influence that one, I guess. If not for the fact that I will spending a good portion of their absence in the hospital (preferably in a morphine haze), I might have to spend the week having a prolonged we-miss-our-kids pity party with Zoot.