It’s Monday morning, the first one after the holiday break that my kids are with me. I missed them immensely during the two weeks that they were with their dad so this past weekend was spent reveling in the beauty and comfort of the “boring” day to day of life as a single mom with five kids. Mostly there was catching up on housework (by me), sleepovers with friends (definitely not me), rented movies watched (by everyone), and just basic relaxing and hanging out together. For me the highlight was probably taking my youngest two and a neighbor kid to a (family friendly) bar a few blocks away on Saturday night to see my son’s guitar teacher perform. I brought knitting and had a beer, they got desserts, it was great. (Yes, I spent my Saturday evening knitting at a bar…. with three kids. I’m so cool!)
Yesterday, after missing church due to a flat tire that refused come off without a fight, we finally got around to making our Christmas cookies. A little late, I know. Maybe they should be called New Year’s cookies this year though it’s even late for that. When the kids were smaller we made these cookies a few times a year at various holidays or sometimes just for fun. They’re buttery sugar cookies, the kind you roll out and cut into shapes then frost and cover with sprinkles or sparkly colored sugar. It can be quite a process, especially with a bunch of young kids ,and always a mess. Because we’ve made these same cookies for years, we have the process down to an art if not a science. Everyone can roll out their own dough, maneuver the various shaped cookie cutters, and even the frosting and decorating isn’t half the sprinkle storm it once was. Of course there’s still a giant mess but now I can actually make some cookies too instead of bouncing from kid to kid to help with sticky dough or prevent the consumption of excessive amounts of uncooked cookie.
Some things, things like making cookies, are much easier now that my kids are older but the challenge now is getting them to engage. I wasn’t sure the older two were even going to participate this time. They would be more than helpful when it came to eating the cookies, I’m sure, but after calling them downstairs twice and sending siblings up to fetch them a couple more times it didn’t look like they’d be making the cookies with us this time. When the younger three and I were about half way through rolling and cutting the dough one then the other finally wandered down to join us. With the oldest being sixteen and the next two turning fifteen and thirteen in the next couple months I always wonder if this is going to be the last time. The last time they want to help pick out the Christmas tree, the last time they want to make cookies, the last time they ask me to make them something just because. You never know when it’s the last time until after the fact. With one kid looking at colleges and taking driver’s ed, though, it’s clear some last times are coming. Maybe they’ve already happened. As a parent it’s sad and a little bit scary to think about that, to realize that the time your kids will be under your care and protection is running out. As a divorced parent the fear and sadness of that realization intensified.
When I was married and my kids were smaller I was with them All. The. Time. Literally. The longest I had been apart from my kids was maybe four days. Sure there were some days that all I wanted was an hour or two of peace and quiet but for the most part I loved my life as a mostly stay at home parent. I took pride in being the best parent I could be. But that time with my kids was definitely something I took for granted. I thought I’d always have it. Even as the divorce progressed I never imagined I’d loose half of my time with my kids. Sure, they’d be with their dad some of the time but I had always been the primary care taking parent so why would that change? When the final decision on parenting time was handed down (two years ago at the end of this month) it hit me hard, felt like a sucker punch. Call me short sighted but I totally did not see that coming. It took me a while to adjust to our post divorce parenting time schedule. Suddenly time with my kids was at an all time premium. Because I was missing so much time with them there was this weird hyper-focus when they were with me. Must make the most of this time! Must do all the things!
Sometimes I wonder if this is a regular thing with divorced parents, becoming obsessively focused on their kids and making the most of the time they have with them. I’m sure to some degree it is. How weird must that be as a kid to have your parents so interested in your every move, so eager to spend any and all free time with you doing “family time” stuff? Family movie nights, family game nights, family dinners, family prayer time, family trips, family, family, family… It sounds like too much of a good thing. As a teenager I just wanted my parents to leave me alone and let me do my own thing. I thought I could take care of myself, I had that shit handled so just leave me the fuck alone! I can only imagine how annoyed I would have been if my parents wanted me to spend all weekend with them doing family activities like some perfect happy eighties tv family. Gross! Luckily my kids are much more tolerant teenagers than I was and over the past couple years we’ve established a pretty good balance of family, personal, and social time.
This morning when my alarm went off at six-thirty I struggled to motivate myself out of bed. It quickly became clear that it was going to be one of those mornings, the ones where everyone is dragging and it takes some verbal motivation to even get them all out of bed and moving let alone out the door. (Let’s face it, most school mornings are like that here. We are not morning people!) Around six forty-five I got a text from another school parent “Snow day!” she said. I felt like someone had given me a gift…the gift of more sleep and, even better still, the gift of another day of relaxing with my kids. Eventually I’ll still have to drag those teenagers out of bed but now we’ll get to sit around in our pajamas and eat sugar cookies instead of rushing our the door. I couldn’t ask for a better Monday morning than that.