My Life with Kids (ADD – After Daddy Died)
I was looking through some of my older pieces of writing and came upon something that I wrote about a year ago. It speaks of my weekends alone when the kids would go to their Dad’s house and how they sometimes resembled that of a teenager whose parents had left them home alone. I was feeling stretched by the responsibilities and pressures in my life but these alternate weekends kept me balanced and (somewhat) sane.
Oh how life can change in a year. As with most aspects of our lives, this too has been divided into BDD (Before Daddy Died) and ADD (After Daddy Died). Alternate weekend shuffling is a distant memory and consequently, my balance has shifted. And it continues to shift.
When Jason first died, Rain and Moxie kept me in their sights at all times. We were inseparable. We all slept in the same bed for the first couple months because sleep became a larger priority than the risk of setting up bad habits. Rain and Moxie clung to me. And understandably so. Their innocence was lost. They knew that a parent could die. Suddenly. Without any warning. And no amount of reassuring could (or should) settle their concerns. As the weeks turned to months, we gradually introduced the occasional sleepover with extended family but it felt different for all of us.
One night last December, I couldn’t get to their afterschool childcare program in time to pick them up due to a snow storm. After a scramble I reached a family friend who went to fetch them. As much as I was relieved, Rain told me later that night that when he saw her at the door he was terrified that something had happened to me. I saw that mix of terror and relief in his eyes that entire night. I have since rearranged my work schedule to better ensure that this will not happen again.
In efforts to help them feel safe, I did what any other parent would do – I put my entire life on hold. I stopped dating. I stopped seeing friends. I stopped running. I stopped expecting a clean house. The kids made changes too. They held bigger responsibilities at home to help out. They came with me for all of my errands and didn’t complain. They matured, overnight. We held an understanding that we were a team and we supported each other immensely. This is one thing that hasn’t changed for us.
I told myself that I was doing this for them. That I was pausing my social life and declining offers from friends for Rain and Moxie, because they needed me close to them. But then, a couple moths ago I realized that I had been clinging to them just as much as they were to me. I needed them. And I needed them close to me. I was more shaken by Jason’s death that I was willing to admit and needed them to help stabilize my life, my mind, my being. And I don’t know how I could have gotten through this without them.
We are now coming close to a year without Jason. A year without alternate weekends. A year of almost constant togetherness.
Our lives and balance continue to change. I am dating again and he is a positive influence and support to all of us. He didn’t even mind that in the first 3 months of dating we only had 1 actual date out of the house without kids.
Rain and Moxie are more accepting of babysitters and time away from home. Rain even goes on sleepovers with his friends.
In fact, the kids have just arrived back home after spending 8 days at their grandparents – 8 entire days!! They’ve been back home about 24 hours and we’ve not left each other’s sights since (including a big family snuggle in bed this morning) but it is reassuring to know that we can spend time apart and still feel safe. All of us.
And so our journey continues as we continue to grow .. to shift .. to function as a team; together and apart.
My life without kids (BDD – Before Daddy Died)
It’s taken me five years but I have mastered the art of saying good-bye to my kids on alternate weekends when they go to their Dad’s. Mothers are trained to never publically admit that they are okay with (and possibly even giddy about) separating from their offspring. And if they do dare to FB status this moment, there is an unspoken pressure to preface it with ‘I love my kids but…’ That was probably me when I started this journey. But these days I wish the children a fun time and we head our separate ways; each of us excited for our upcoming adventures. And if you look closely, you might even notice a bit of a spring in my step, as I take off on my own.
Once home, I crack open my traditional ‘kids are gone beer’ and take a minute to breathe in the silence. Then I clean the house from top to bottom. There is something magical about cleaning the house knowing it will stay clean for more than five minutes.
Despite this responsible start, my life without children quickly resembles my teenage life when my parent’s would head out of town.
I swear. Out loud. I watch R-rated movies in the middle of the day, sometimes in my underwear. I eat dinner at midnight. My food groups become: 1) take-out 2) cold leftovers 3) coffee and, 4) alcohol. It takes me an entire weekend to fill ½ the dishwasher. I have friends over. I have friends sleep over. I date. Often. I have long leisurely baths in the afternoon. I come up with any reason at all to leave the house after dark. Walmart at midnight feels exotic. I work overtime. But not as much overtime as I think I will. I spend an entire morning organizing the linen closet just because I can. I meet friends for cocktails at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. And meet other friends for coffee at midnight. Who lives like this? Those who can sleep in. That’s who. And yes, I sleep in. I actually get really good at it.
But then without fail, the day they are due home I am incredibly restless. I take one last look at the clean house and I arrive at our ½ way meeting spot an hour early. I enjoy a final leisurely stroll through Shoppers Drug Mart while sipping one more Sunday evening cappuccino. I get butterflies as soon as I see their dad’s car pull into his usual spot. I squeeze them as they shuffle between cars, even when my son continues to play his DS over my shoulder. I keep the radio off all the way home so we can chat about their weekend adventures or just so I can listen to the two of them share stories and giggle in the backseat. Of course the house is a disaster within five minutes of them being home and I will no longer be able to sleep as long or swear as loudly but my world just seems right again…until the next weekend.