Yesterday Bobby and Juliet came home from their six week visit in North Carolina with their father and stepmother.
We've done this every summer now since Jim and I have been married. Before then, I was not required to share. Frankly, most of the time the existence of the other parents is irrelevant to our everyday lives. Phone calls are pathetically but conveniently infrequent and the distance between Louisiana and North Carolina make regular custody-sharing impossible. But every year, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas and for six weeks in the summer, Jim and I get reminded that there are other adults with their own agenda that the kids love (as they should) and that these adults have influence over them.
You may think, unless you, too, are a divorced parent (then you know better), that the first days of the kids' homecoming are full of nothing but excitement and joy. While I am always excited to see them after such a long time, my initial overwhelming feelings are of relief and then dread of what the next few days will hold. Because next comes the week filled with brief recounts of what has been going on for the past six weeks. Much of it is benign and some of it even reassuring. But then there are those repeated comments that the kids have either not yet learned to keep to themselves, or even worse have realized that they stretch my capacity for humility, forgiveness, and maturity to its limit and they enjoy watching me squirm to retain lady-like composure against raging impulses to dig my fingernails into someone's tender parts late-night-bowling-alley-parking-lot-fight style.
This is a test I'm determined to pass, and I've been holding it together well for a while now. I gave up yelling on the telephone and composing scathing emails years ago. It's not worth it, and it never changes anything, anyway.
Stupid haircuts, ridicule of our inside jokes, questioning of our decisions, criticisms of holiday traditions, complaints about clothes, personal insults...it's just another aspect of child-rearing for us "parents of divorce." And because I know it can work both ways, I try to be very mindful of what I say and how a 10 year old could repeat it when something comes up regarding the other parents. It takes a lot of creativity and self-control to come up with non-emotional responses, but I feel good afterwards.
And, for the record, their other parents aren't necessarily bad people...they're just not my kind of people. Certainly not who I would want if I were forced to choose a couple with whom to co-parent. At least not now...obviously I made a decision to parent with one of them at a period in the past.
And to those of you who made the same kind of bad decisions that also ironically produced a great kid or two and are living this same song in a different verse, I feel your pain. And sometimes, every blue moon, I even feel it for Bobby and Juliet's other parents who have to deal with circumstances that provide such limited opportunities to spend time with the kids and cause them to miss out on so much...