“Please mom? Can we go the waterfall way?” all three kids shout from the backseat in unison.
It’s just a dam. And half the time it’s off and there’s no “waterfall” anyway. But it means 20 extra minutes with the kids, singing the Despicable Me 3 soundtrack at the top of our lungs before dropping them off to their father.
So I always say yes. Always.
This is the part of divorce that I wasn’t prepared for…the part where I see my kids less. While I am a full time teacher, I am a mom first and foremost. I made breakfast each morning. I packed the lunches, signed the permission slips, did the homework. I made dinner each night. I did the baths and showers and the bedtime routine and then also the house cleanup after bedtime routine before slumping exhaustedly and somewhat defeatedly into the couch for the rest of the evening. 365 days a year this is what I did.
It’s not the case anymore. Two days a week I don’t see them at all. I always feel like I’m going to be happy about having a break. “Yay! No kids tonight! I can relax, or watch TV, or sleep in a little bit tomorrow morning!” But that feeling lasts for about an hour and then I just want them with me.
It’s because of this whole half time phenomena that it took me so long to leave. It was an unhappy and unhealthy marriage for far too long but I couldn’t not see my kids every day. I assumed they would fall apart. But in reality, I seem to do way more falling apart without them. And no matter the sadness we feel at being apart sometimes, we are all happier. All of us.
I think back on last year and get nauseous knowing how much I put them through when I couldn’t leave, but I couldn’t stay. The shortness of breath. The tightness in my chest. They rush in when I think of last year, a panic attack on the brink every single time. It’s the year I would take back if I could ever take back anything.
But I can’t take it back. It’s there. It happened. It changed us. It scathed us. It traumatized us. But it also taught us.
It taught me it was ok to not see my littles every single day if that meant a better quality of life for all of us. It taught me to leave the pile of legos for the night if that meant feeling like they were here when they weren’t. It taught me to put down the phone and really be present in the moments because they were no longer unlimited.
And no matter how much longer it makes the drive, always say yes to waterfalls.