So, yeah. I’m not gonna lie. This shit is hard. It’s not all epiphanies and profundity and adolescent anthems. Sometimes it’s tantrums and tears and doubt with days I slog through feeling like I suck at everything.
Today was a roller coaster: a morning that started off nicely enough, followed by some hours where I wallowed in self-doubt. Then an uplifting lunch time that shifted into an afternoon of building productivity that left me feeling more like the rockstar I used to be. But then a trivial misunderstanding at day care involving mailboxes set Ace on an epic meltdown that lasted all the way home and then some, culminating in a series of heartbreaking wails:
“I want Daddy!”
I’m not hurt that he wants his daddy. I feel like my admitting that his saying that felt like a punch to the gut suggests I feel rejected or jealous or somehow that Ace is choosing Lou over me. But I don’t feel that way. I know none of that is true. Children with happily married parents cry for whichever parent isn’t present at the moment. When Ace and Poppy were toddlers who wouldn’t go to sleep for me, I was plumb relieved when they asked for Lou!
No, “I want Daddy” is a punch to the gut now because I know the reason Ace can’t just run to the other room and find Lou’s particular brand of comfort… is me. And when Ace wants to go home to his daddy, but he can’t because it’s my weekend… also because of me.
And I also know it’s not all because of me, even though I’m the one leaving and petitioning, because marriages take two. “Mistakes were made”–on both sides.
But still. I’m the one who left. I’m the one petitioning.
Today I read a post by divorce blogger Ivy Allen: My Unexpected Epiphany. She’s years ahead of me in terms of divorce finalization and co-parenting normalization. But in the course of finding herself facing some unexpected emotions, even so much time after the initial dissolution of her marriage, she came to realize she had yet to forgive herself for destroying her chance at achieving a lifelong dream: to lead a family in partnership with her spouse. A marriage.
I can definitely relate to that. The one goal I consistently had throughout my life was to be a mother, which I took for granted meant having a husband. I did a high school career project about how I wanted to be a housewife; I even interviewed a housewife. When I was very small, I said I wanted to have 100 babies. As a teenager, I reduced the number to an only-half-joking 15, and my friends and I often made reference to my “15 sticky children” who would run around in various states of undress, coated in dried Kool-Aid.
It may not sound like much of a dream, and it’s certainly pretty far from the reality I would have lived had Lou and I stayed together (thankfully–15!!). But as that dream matured, and as I began to live it, it gained facets like road trips to visit family in other states, with slightly foreign climates. Tag teaming kids at bedtime or at church functions or at school events. Having a home base that, yes, was often a little sticky, and usually pretty messy, but was still the center of the universe for the four of us plus whomever might come along in the future.
Nice things; lovely things. Things that now will never be.
As much as I want things the way they are now, I still feel that loss acutely. Even if I remarry, and even if Lou does, and even when we all become settled and happy again, that original dream can’t ever be. That home base is split into two for Poppy and Ace. And my home base isn’t the center of the universe anymore for anyone but myself.
When Ace is crying that he wants his daddy, he’s feeling that loss, too.
I love those children so much, and I grieve that they are grieving. I am sorry for my part in their grief.
But, you know, I take back what I said at the beginning, that it’s not all epiphanies and profundities. So many of my moments now turn on light bulbs in my head. So many moments feel so profound. I am seeing things in new ways that are different from any perspective I’ve ever had before, and I’m often surprised at how things look through the different-colored lenses. And I kind of think that means I’m doing something right.
Poppy impressed me tonight. When Ace was crying, she tried to cheer him by offering him candy and asking him what was wrong. For a while, he rebuffed her efforts harshly, wanting no comfort, wanting nothing but to scream at the top of his lungs. But after some time, when he had calmed a little, she persisted. She let him have a lick of her lollipop–which was super gross, but really sweet. She made him smile and then made him laugh. She helped him pick out the show he wanted to watch on Netflix and sat with him while they watched together. Later, I saw her with her hand on his arm as she asked him why he had been sad.
Ace has shown similar compassion for Poppy when she was sad. These acts of love they show to each other remind me that some day, Lou and I both will be gone, and then they may have only each other. They will need each other. They need each other right now. They will each experience this divorce in a unique way, but they will experience it together.
So, yeah. This shit is hard. But it is profound.