Some parents would love nothing more than to hand over their kids for a few hours .. even a few days ..
Hand them over to another adult they know will take good care of them.
Sometimes another mess, another whine, another errand, another argument with you or between siblings, another load of laundry .. any or all of it can be enough to push some parents to the brink. A few moments, a few days perhaps of solitude, is a wonderful opportunity to regroup and come back at it.
Quite honestly, even if its just a date night .. psychologists will tell you, (and I say this after the thousands of dollars of couples therapy that my ex and I went through, apparently a wee bit too late – so please let me just share one very important tidbit I learned) get a babysitter and go out. Step away from the children for just a few hours. It is healthy for them and for you.
Sincerely. Once a week. If at all possible, do it. Prescription straight from a marriage counselor. Fit it into your schedule and do it. (Just to clarify, I’m not saying like, do it do it.. but do the date night thing. You know what I mean. On some level though, I guess either reference would be appropriate in this context.)
Back to the point I was going to make..
Some parents would give anything for that break. For a few days to regroup and then have their children back, feeling all refreshed and ready for the beautiful chaos that they are.
But for parents who’ve gone through or who are going through a divorce and who want more time with their children than the are told they can have, nights .. like tonight at the ranch, are brutal.
A weekend of not much of anything but hanging out and loving on each other at some point has to end.
It’s time to go back to mom.
It’s been almost three days now of running around inside, staying out of that cold South Dakota wind, chasing each other, playing hard and chilling out. But the silence that starts to creep back in around 6pm every other Sunday at the ranch is almost deafening. The stress of the drop off starts to sink in once again, with the twins and their big sister.
The Cowboy I know does his best to keep his composure as he starts helping them pack ..
Not easy because almost always, there is crying. And there are questions. More and more, his daughter says, ‘Why can’t we spend more time with you, daddy?” They are words that sting deeper each time they are asked, because there is no good answer.
One of the boys lies on the floor .. lifeless, with tears streaming down his cheeks saying he doesn’t want to go. The other ambles along through the house this weekend as if nothing is happening. Usually he’s the one clinging to dad screaming.
“The drop off sucks,” says the Cowboy. “Especially because it is essentially two weeks now until I get any more real time with them…”
Let me just say this.
No matter how much any child loves a mom or dad, leaving one to go home to the other can be heartbreaking, especially when they’re young. It does go both ways, for those who think the kids only have a hard time on their particular end. The Cowboy knows this. Still, it is hard.
They don’t understand. I’m fairly certain they feel guilt leaving one parent for the other. And if they don’t feel it, they feel like they should. So they act accordingly. That is just my own observation. Take that for what its worth. But from everything I have witnessed and heard, with my own daughter, with friends, with other family and the Cowboy, kids feel torn leaving either parent.
I don’t know what a child truly feels however, because I was not put through that hell when I was a child. I feared it. My parents struggled just like everyone else. But I was blessed in that they stuck it out. After 36 years it was cancer that finally tore them apart. Its crazy to think of how rare divorce was back when we were kids compared to now. In 2012, its more rare a child’s parents are still together.
Marriage is never easy. Divorce is just as hard. And its incredibly tough on kids.
There are ways to minimize the pain. Experts will tell you, avoid direct parent-to-parent drop offs if at all possible. That helps the kids. School for instance, is a great way to do that. Whoever has them for the weekend will usually drop them off at school/daycare the following Monday. The other parent them picks them up. Voila.
I’m not just saying this because it might help the Cowboy and his kiddos. I’m saying it because I’ve seen it work. And, because my ex and I were asked to do the same .. after both of us grew increasingly concerned, I think, that someone might call the cops thinking one of us was abducting our own daughter during direct drop-offs. Her blood curdling screams and crying tore our hearts out.
The rub here is.. both parents have to be willing. Willing and able to remember through the muddy hate filled haze that can be divorce, to always try and do what’s in the best interest of the kids. Thankfully, no matter how tough my own divorce was, my ex and I tried our best to frame each situation with, ‘What is best for our daughter?’
Too many of us know that can’t always happen. Or if it does, its down the road and so much damage has already been done.
I don’t know why I felt compelled to write about this today. It’s not a fun topic. And the Cowboy worries its a bit too heavy. He wants me to write about something a bit more lighthearted tomorrow, if that’s ok.
But its just what struck me as important to talk about. Because so many of us face this moment. The moment we say goodbye to our kids .. and wish with everything we have, that we had more time with them. Each day. Each week. The good, the bad, the arguments, the accomplishments .. even the mundane.
While time alone to regroup is a gift – to come back at parenting refreshed, renewed and ready to tackle anything a 4, 7 or 10 year old could throw at us (literally and figuratively) ..
How we would give anything for the frustrations of the everyday.
(p.s. Don’t think I don’t know – some of you right now are saying, then you should have stuck it out in your marriage. I wish it were that simple an answer.)
Sunday was my first drop off day, and while I am pleased to say that it went as well as could be expected, it still really, really sucked.
We had a great (short) weekend together, but it is so hard for me to leave after seeing them. And I know it is hard for them to see me leave as well. My youngest slept the entire hour ride to the dropoff (distance makes anything other than parent to parent not practical), and she almost never sleeps in the car.
My journey on this road called divorce has been a short one, but having to leave the kids is by far the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. It’s like my heart is being ripped out every time, over and over again. And the loneliness that ensues afterward could fill the vast emptiness of space.