My custody papers inform me: “It is in the best interest of the child to have a close and continuing relationship with both parents.” And while I believe this to be true, let me tell you, joint custody can be a bitch. I would be a bold-faced liar if I said that I didn’t have my complaints about my ex’s parenting style — it makes me insane the way he manages to rarely be able to dress Leo in clothes that are seasonally appropriate or to get him down for a nap on the weekends. I could go on griping, I suppose most of us can do a bang up job bitchen about our exs. But, to be honest, I know how hard it can be. I myself have been driven nearly stark raving mad by a little boy who insists on trying to wear a tank-top to school on the one day it’s so cold even the dog has on a sweater. Don’t get me wrong— Leo’s dad is a good dad, one that tucks him in, cuts his sandwich into triangles and cleans up the occasional scrapped knee— and for that I am grateful. And despite our sordid history and the fact that at times I feel as if he treats road kill with more regard than he treats me, I respect him deeply for the father in him. I had a “full-time” father who couldn’t have told you what color my eyes were and I know women that are raising children whose fathers can’t be bothered to bounce a child support check. So, who cares if Leo comes back from his dad’s house a little rumpled and excessively dirty? I know he is well-loved while he is there.
But here’s the bitch: every time that little boy goes away for the weekend, a little chunk of my heart goes with him. Weekends “off” are a double edge sword. I might go out and have a cocktail with my girlfriends, or I could sleep in on a Saturday morning and not be awakened by the inevitable heart attack inducing cry for “MOMMA!” I can wander around the book store uninterrupted by little tugs on my skirt and requests for every toy in sight. I know, this sounds like heaven to moms who rarely get a break, and it is– for a little while. But, sipping cocktails just makes me think of sippy cups. Sleeping in is overrated when you awake to a house that feels empty and quite without the racing of little feet. Truthfully, those little tugs are like a phantom limb, sometimes I reach down to smooth my skirt but there is no grubby hand to shoo away.
I color code my Outlook for weekends and Holidays with and without Leo. My calendar is so colorful it is lit up like a Christmas tree. And imagine the thought of pacing around on a cold Christmas morning, waiting for your son’s father to drop him off. Or, think about dragging yourself through the day that your son turns four. Even though you spent the entire week before celebrating his birthday together, you’re a sappy mess because you know you won’t get to see him on his actual birthday this year.
But I am doing what’s best, right? I have to brush away my tears and quit looking at his empty car seat. When I call him I have to infuse my voice with positivity. “Oh, Leo, I am so glad you are having fun with your dad today!” And I have to mean it, because his happiness and wholeness is more important than the ache in my heart.
I never once want to look in that little boys eyes and detect that he feels torn. He deserves to feel whole. He can have both his Momma and his Daddy. We may rarely be in the same room together, but I’ll be damned if I stand in the way of my son having everything he deserves. Yet, I worry. What if the time we spend apart causes him to feel less connected to this part of his life? What if he does not know how much I love every last ginger hair on his head?
I drop Leo off this morning and knowing that I won’t see him this weekend, I say, “Have fun with your dad! I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, Momma. But, that’s ok because we are attached all the time anyway. Right here.” He says, thumping his chest.
“That’s right! Right here.” I say, clutching my heart.
I taught Leo that we are always connected. There is an invisible line that connects my heart to his, and no matter how far apart we are, we are always with each other.
“You can’t see it Momma, but you can feel it. You can feel it in your heart. You taught me that, Momma.”
“Yes, baby. I did and that’s the truth.”
And it is. And I am reminded, like my friend pointed out yesterday:
Sometimes you teach what you most need to learn.
And in other randomness: Who remembers this jam? Circa roller skate rink baby!