This morning, I said goodbye to my daughter and sons for two full weeks. While many parents might feel a vacation of this sort cause for celebration, I am not among them and it isn’t only because I am acutely concerned for my boys’ safety.
I started to write this piece as an appreciation of mothering a couple of weeks ago. We had just had a week where all the children were mostly around home. On summer home days, I have expected the children to do something helpful and several somethings educational prior to any screen time. (I know, I’m a fun-hater.)
On some days, they didn’t get right on it, which meant the screens were off and they found other things to do. There were tea parties initiated by the eight year-old who found his brother’s old, half-broken tea set, the ownership of which his brother willingly, rapidly, and with some embarrassment transferred to his younger sibling. There were heroic light saber battles with foam noodles. There were strange spacecrafts created from legos to hop between the galaxies Sofa and Love Seat. There were Homeric games of Dungeons and Dragons with a distinctively sci-fi flare. There was a lot of laughter, and some squabbling, and even a fight or two.
I came to know my children better as a daily witness to their evolving personhood: their preferences, their propensities and passions, and their insecurities. When people say the best things in life are free, I think they must be partly talking about the honey-syrup magic moments that can happen between parents and children.
However, it’s been tough to work when the children have been around. “Mom, will you play a game of chess?” “Cards?” (Subtext: “So, I can kick your ass.”) “Mom, come look at this spider.” “Mom, would you like to read the story I wrote?” Any moment spent in front of my own screen when they are there, childhoods ticking away, waiting for me to come and look or play is one forever gone, dissolved into dim regret.
With the lead up to this trip and the court hearing, I had to actually close my room door to avoid the constant interruption. That’s right, Readers, Ex’s legal harassment necessitated my literally shutting the door on the children. (Thankfully, my dear friend was there to help. She doesn’t play chess, but was graciously game for looking at artwork or spiders and watching Doctor Who reruns in my stead. Thanks, Dan.)
Still, what I have been feeling tonight, on this still, quiet, beautiful evening, while I sit on the veranda of my wish-they-were-my-parent’s home, listening to the cicadas, watching the half-moon set, and missing my children, is a stack of compassion for Ex. I miss my children, but overwhelmingly, Ex misses out.