By Lillian Michelle
We found ourselves at the park again today. The kids are more than ready, as am I. Winter is a hard season for me. Being inside that much allows way too much time to reflect.
The winter blues are a common ailment among adults but adding children to contend with can compound things. Even the smallest upset can erupt into a vicious war of words.
My husband, Allen, and I are not perfect spouses or parents by any means. We have both made our fair share of mistakes and said things to each other that we fervently wish we could take back. Quite frankly, we are brutal to each other sometimes. I have been told by those who seem generally wiser than I that people will take things out on the ones they are closest to. That is true… We had a tough winter. We fought a lot and even talked about separation.
This afternoon, the weather was just right. It was sunny and warm but not a bit humid. We came straight from preschool with our snacks and prepared to stay a while. I set us up on a bench and took Quinn to the swings. He still uses the baby swing, by the way. I think I might shed a tear when he moves to the “big boy swings” for good.
I pushed him in the swing for almost 10 minutes as he daydreamed. He commented on “that other baby” that approached the swings with her mommy. She was probably the same age as Quinn, so I found it comical that he viewed her as a baby and himself as the big kid.
Another mom and her children entered the park. She wore workout clothes with a backpack over her shoulder. Her red hair was pulled up into a scrunchie and her hands were filled with a cell phone and a cup of hot coffee. It looked like one of those courtesy cups you see in hospital lounges. The kids ran to play immediately, and she kindly asked my permission to sit on the other end of the bench we had claimed. “Yes, of course! Let me wipe away the goop before you sit, please.” I replied, as
I rushed to find a wet wipe out of my bag. Quinn was ready to join the other children on the slide so I sat down next to her.
As I did, I overheard bits of her telephone conversation. It was one of those “check-in” talks: the kids did this, the doctor said that, etc. Allen and I have those, too, so it was very familiar.
When she hung up, she explained to me that she had been speaking to her ex-husband. She made a joke, “Gotta love the ex!”
I was taken aback when she said that but tried to keep my emotions inside. The way she spoke to him was so personal. It sounded like a spousal conversation, but they are divorced?
She told me that they had been separated now for eighteen months. Her kids are two and a half years apart. Like mine. She has a boy and a girl. Like me. She is 31 years old. Like me.
I felt like I was viewing exactly what my life would look like had we pulled the trigger in the winter and decided to separate. I was looking at a mirror image of myself in some sort of alternate universe and it was frightening.
I could see that divorce with kids does not mean separation at all. You are still very much involved in each other’s daily lives. Alternately, I could see that you are also very alone. When she goes home at the end of the day, her car is the only one that will fill the driveway. I still hope to see the nose of Allen’s big, white, diesel truck poking out of the top of our driveway each time we turn down our street. I felt sad.
I listened to her tell me about her schedule and budget. She was concerned about her oldest child who will be entering kindergarten in the fall… just like my Elizabeth. “How will I get him to school at 8:20am when I have to be to work at 7am?” she asked in a worried, less certain voice than she had previously carried.
Early drop-off or carpool are options that I am sure she has considered, but I think she was looking for someone to simply listen to her say the options out loud. We all need interaction and response. It is human nature.
She was intelligent and thoughtful, that I could tell. Her capacity to be self-sufficient was not the question that was rolling around in my mind as we talked. She is back in school finishing her degree and juggling a job along with two children, one of which has special medical needs. The way she detailed aspects of her life indicated to me that she was quite capable of handling herself. The question is, did she WANT to?
Her answer is yes. She seemed hopeful for her future. She had taken charge of her life and was making a new way. She seemed happy, even. Maybe I was really asking myself that question?
I was looking directly at my alternate universe mirror image and wondering if her life was what I actually wanted for myself. How would I feel if that were my reality? What about our kids?
As we finished our time at the playground, our families walked to the parking lot beside each other. We scheduled another playdate soon because we all got along so well.
For me, my interaction with the divorcée today was crucial. My answer is unequivocally, “No!” I love my husband and he loves me. We love our children and the life we have built. Things cannot be perfect because we are not perfect, but we can make the best of every situation… TOGETHER. Reflection is good.