Ripples

Three years post divorce (and almost one year post disastrous change of custody hearing) life is generally calm. Okay, calm does not even come near to describing my life as a divorced mom of five kids who is trying to finish a degree while doing all the other things too. Nope, life is not calm…but it’s got a certain pattern of functionality and (usually) fun to it, a day-to-day relative calm that makes it easy to forget how tumultuous our lives have been over the past four years. But every so often there’s a bump in the road, a blip on the relative calm radar, that is reminiscent of the disruption of life that your family has been through.

Getting a divorce is a bit like throwing a giant rock into the peaceful pond that is your child’s life so far. It disrupts their stable, serene state of being with a dramatic splash that’s followed by ripples extending outward through time and space even after the rock has reached the bottom of the pond. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, this is always true.

Yesterday was a reminder that, even years after the rock crashed through the surface, ripples are still extending outward. Divorce is still affecting my kids’ lives in profound, albeit more subtle, ways. (Subtly profound might be something of an an oxymoron.)

First, on the way to swim class, my seven year old informed me that his school Valentines Day party was not very fun because I didn’t go. “Mom, you could have come to my Valentine’s day party, almost everyone had a parent there but I didn’t.” he told me.  Valentine’s Day didn’t fall on my parenting time and I hadn’t volunteered to help in the classroom, really there’s no reason I would go. This year the responsibility and fun of celebrating Valentine’s Day with the kids wasn’t mine; that’s just the way it goes. I said something along these lines and then mentioned that I thought maybe his dad or step-mom would be going to his class party. His matter of fact response caught me off guard. “Dad and Miss D don’t go to things at my school anymore because people think Miss D is a homewrecker.”

Turns out my diplomatic response skills are not what they should be. I should have said something about that being their, his dad and step-mom’s, loss; they’re missing out on fun and important things. That’s not what I said. I did not, however, say any swear words so it could have been worse. (But seriously, WTF?!? How are these words coming from my seven year old???)

After swim my little guy told me that I should stop going to school….he saw me doing homework on my laptop in the bleachers during his lesson and felt like I should have been paying attention to him. I reassured him that I was, I was watching over the top of my computer screen as he back stroked across the pool and then later when he got to jump off the diving board. I think that appeased him for the moment.

And then later, at bedtime, we had the 100th day of school meltdown.

The 100th day of school snuck up on me like so many of these little big deals do. It was not on my radar at all; I had noticed it in the class newsletter weeks earlier but it fell on their dad’s parenting time so I didn’t add it to my long list of things to be aware of. But then at some point my ex asked if the kids could stay the night at my house tonight. They would already be here for the evening anyway, of course I said yes. I made sure I had enough school lunch food, milk, and cereal for breakfast. Good to go.

Yeah, not so much. As I was getting the little guy to bed (late) he started crying. It took a good few minutes to get him to tell me what was wrong but finally he said “I’m supposed to dress up as an old person but now I can’t.” And this is how I became aware that the 100th day of school was tomorrow. At 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night, an hour after bedtime (when I still had my own homework to get to, six lunches to pack, and a fair amount of cleaning up to do before I could even think about my own bedtime). I reassured my son that I could get an old person costume ready for him while he slept but he was not appeased by this.

Then,  suddenly, he jumped out of bed and started rummaging around his room. “What are you doing?”I asked.

“I’m looking for my markers.”

“Umm, why? You need to get to sleep!”

“To make a 100th day of school shirt.” he responded triumphantly.

While he was not happy with the option of me throwing together old person wear, the idea of making a shirt (also an option to commemorate the occasion) satisfied him.

Pay no attention to the stains on the shirt, undershirts are a scarcity right now.

I knew where exactly two sharpies where, luckily they were different colors. After drawing 50 smiley faces each my emotional little guy was satisfied…until the next morning when he decided there should be a hundred aliens on his shirt. Agh!

This is why I can never be on time for anything. Aliens.

Even after the tears and chaos of the night before he went to school happy. Some days the ripples make for choppy waters but we ride the waves and move forward. Throughout the upheaval of getting divorced the mantra “Fake it until you make it” helped get me through my day-to-day life but, with this chaotic crazy life we have, I’m pretty sure we’re actually making it now.

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Why am I doing this?

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I keep asking myself this but I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

Today was my first day of classes for the new fall semester. I was slightly wary going into it, my class schedule is really not the greatest. Especially for me. I’ve got on-campus classes two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, one in the morning and one in the evening with four and a half hours between them. (And of course the evening class makes it so I’m not home during divorced-parent switch time. That raises the stress of my schedule exponentially.) I’m still not sure what to do with myself in those four and a half hours. I also don’t understand why that one last chemistry class I still need to graduate doesn’t fit nicely in that space. I mean, it would but the university either didn’t realize or completely missed the memo on that one.

Really I should have picked up some easy bullshit class to fill the time and ,in doing so, avoided fucking up my financial aid. Of course I didn’t realize the financial aid was effed up until two days after my overages were supposed to be deposited into my account so I could buy books. In case you missed it, they weren’t. I’m sans student loan money until mid-September. And even then it’ll probably be less than I actually need and have gotten before. I could look at my student account and see what the adjustment yielded but I’m a little afraid to see what I’m dealing with. Which brings me to the main point of this ramble…

As I walked out of my first class (which ended less than an hour after I got there) feeling a mix of excitement, relief, and trepidation I began to wonder why I’m doing this whole school thing. Later, sitting in the three hour biochemistry lab marveling at how much I forgot since May, that thought popped back into my head: Why am I doing this? Wouldn’t we all be better off if I just worked more at my job or picked up a second job?

Things have been a struggle lately, specifically financial things. They’re piling and piling and I’ve got no exit strategy. And here I am during perfectly good working hours sitting in class accumulating student loan debt. Why? It’s supposed to make life better but I’m not sure this whole college thing is doing that. I’m happier but only when I don’t try to fathom how I’m going to pay for this education I’m (according to some people) selfishly acquiring. And, really, am I making my kids lives better by not being there when they get home from school, by constantly scrambling to patch together rides home from school and cross country practice? I’d like to think, yes, that it does do something, that it is and will continue to make our quality of life better. Maybe I’m operating on sunk cost premises here and maybe this is my competing fears of both failure and success but I if I quit now ,like I’m occasionally so tempted to do, there is no gain. Nothing at all.

I’m  ninety-percent sure this is all self-doubt and beginning of the school year angst. Tomorrow I’ll review protein chemistry and be happy to be learning new things again. I’ll remember that I really do want to be a dentist and have for a long time. I’ll think about all the cool things I’ll do for my kids and others when I am. I’ll find a way to work a little more this term and still be awesome  acceptable at my studies. And I’ll, once again, convince myself that it’s part of the process. Eggs breaking and omelets and all that.

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My kids are super thrilled about the start of a new school year too.