My children have left my care for the next eleven days.
And while it is true that yesterday I warned them that if I had to listen to the “my potty is so warm and cuddly” song (punctuated throughout with shrieks of laughter) one more time I was going to chew off my own face in an effort to escape; and also true that just about an hour before they left I threatened to remove EVERY DAMN BOOK IN HERE from Chickadee’s room for (repeated) mistreatment (again) of said books, going so far as to stride self-righteously down the hall with an armload of books while she trailed behind me wailing in indignation; the house is too quiet and the days spread out before me seem empty.
Also, the kids are headed to Happy Fun No Rules Land, but I’m sure my inability to control where they are or what they’re doing or how many s’mores pop-tarts they’re scarfing down for the next eleven days is only 99.99% of my discomfort. Ahem.
There are some logical reasons to dislike it when my ex takes the kids to visit his family. They’re not nearly as easy to focus on as the illogical reasons, though. I mean, sure; I could keep trotting out the story about how my mother-in-law thought that a big bowl of mixed nuts on a coffee table when there was a 2-year-old with an anaphylactic nut allergy wandering around wasn’t a problem, because “he probably couldn’t even reach them.” (Later, as I removed Monkey from where he STOOD on the BACK of the couch, halfway up the wall, she admitted that he was a bit more mobile than she’d assumed.) It never gets old, you know, the hilarity of how she could’ve killed my son. Ha! Ha!! But I’ve tired of telling that one. It was a long time ago, you know.
And the tale of that same woman proclaiming to my preschooler daughter–who was, granted, having some behavioral issues, but most likely as a result of a debilitating and scary illness her father was experiencing–that “Daddy gets sicker when you whine like that.” That will definitely always be one of my favorites. Though I’m not sure which is more memorable: her assertion, or the look on her face when I told her that if I heard such a thing spoken to my children again, I would have a hard time welcoming her back into my home.
I prefer, now, to stick to things like how my ex’s family is comprised of very tall people. And so, for nearly ten years, I endured being asked questions about “what it’s like to be so short” even though I am, in fact, of exactly average height for a female in this country.
Or how I continued sending gifts to my niblings (that’s gender-neutral for nieces and nephews) and even cards to the ex’s mother after the divorce, but every single one went ignored because I am now dead to them. I didn’t need effusive gratitude, but an acknowledgement that the toys I’d mailed hadn’t ended up with the mail carrier’s kids would’ve been nice.
If I’m feeling really paranoid, I can even get into the evaluations of my mothering skills that will covertly be taking place. I packed the suitcases; the clothing will be judged (I’m sure this will come as a HUGE SHOCK, but I was never able to keep the kids’ socks up to the mother-in-law’s whiteness standards). If the clothing is ratty, I’m a lousy mother. If the clothing is new, it will come back ruined. If the brand is expensive, I’m wasting the ex’s hard-earned money (though I’m frugal to a fault). If the brand is cheap, I’m certainly not spending the child support on the children so what am I spending it on? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I should just relax… assume their health and safety and well-being will be fine. Hey, who’s calling me at 10:35 at night? Why, it’s my ex! Getting ready for tomorrow’s flight! And he realizes he’s lost Monkey’s EpiPen, so can he get mine, tomorrow morning? Sure thing.
Nah, no reason to worry, here….
Chickadee is tiring of the Fun Daddy routine. Monkey has been talking about going on the airplane and seeing the cousins and all the fun toys in the basement and blah blah blah blah let’s all play superheroes! Chickadee, on the other hand, had a terrible day today, fell to pieces when I arrived to pick her up from school, and spent her evening trying to pick a fight with me. When I finally said, “Look, this is NOT how I want to spend this last night with you,” she sobbed and curled up in my lap and told me she didn’t want to leave me.
And I said, “Well GOOD FOR YOU! I wouldn’t want to spend a week and a half with those bozos, either. Why dontcha just stay here with me?”
Except it came out like, “Oh, honey, you’re going to have a WONDERFUL time. You won’t have any time to miss me at all, I bet. But tell you what… if you do, you can call me any time. Okay?”
She nodded, and clung to me a minute more, and then raced off when her father knocked on the door.
I quietly gathered up all the little shards that had exploded from my heart while she’d been crying and stuck them in my back pocket.
So their things were gathered up and they clambered into his car and we said our goodbyes. The ex told me they’d call tomorrow when they get in and I told him to take good care of my babies. This elicited guffaws and rolling eyes from the backseat because WE’RE NOT BABIES, MAMAAAAAAA!
They’ll be fine. I just wish they were being fine HERE, with me. Where they belong. Where pop-tarts must be filled with fruit and there are rules and bedtimes and did I mention, me? Yes? Well then.
They’ll be fine. Feel free to remind me of that. Often.