My mom and I sit on her living room sofa. My son lay on a rug near our feet, first on his side and then rolling onto his back. He looks up at the ceiling with tears in his eyes, his voice cracks as he asks, When will my dad live in our house again? My mom sighs, I know she is praying I will change my mind, but I will not. Without hesitation I respond, he won’t, he won’t ever live in our house again. My words are cold, and though I have tried to remember a kinder, more compassionate version of this story, I cannot because it doesn’t exist, a definite low point in my parenting, a moment I can never undo.
Weeks earlier, my little girl walks into the master bathroom, to find me sitting with my face in my hands, as her dad leans against the bathroom counter, both of us crying as we discuss the details of his moving. She looks at us through the smudgy lenses of her little pink bifocals, thoughtfully cocks her head, and she cries too, knowing her life is changing.
My kids were eight and seven years old when their dad and I separated. I was twenty-six. I had no idea what I wanted, but I knew I no longer wanted to be married. I behaved in ways that damaged our marriage beyond repair, ensuring its eventual end. We had been together for over 12 years.
After my husband moved out and divorce was inevitable, he still came to the house nearly every evening to kiss his kids goodnight, lay in their beds with them, and sometimes fall asleep. He had regular visitation, but I never put any limits on when he could come and see his children, never. We had Thanksgiving together, he came on Christmas morning, Easter Sunday and every single birthday party, sometimes with a date, and that was okay too. He was welcomed by me, my friends and my entire family. This was our normal.
This arrangement wasn’t always convenient for me; it required planning, compromise, and kindness when, quite honestly, I didn’t feel like being kind at all. But I did it because it seemed best for my kids; they loved to be with their dad and to see the two of us happy together though we were no longer married. We still get together as a family to this day.
These old memories are heavy on my heart these days as my daughter and her husband are now separated, soon to be divorced. I am sad for my girl, for her husband and my grandson, Luca. This is hard for all of them. It’s hard for me to watch. I see changes in Luca’s behavior, and his little spirit seems wounded at times. He tries his best to make sense of his new world. He asks his mama, I will sleep with you the next day and the next day, and the next day?, understanding that he will sleep at daddy’s on the other days. He asks so many questions, and his mama answers everyone one so patiently, reassuring Luca that he is loved by his mommy and daddy even if they live apart.
Today is Luca’s birthday. He is four years old. Mommy, daddy and Luca are spending the day together, as a family, to celebrate. Luca is a boy who loves family, who loves having his family together. Imagine his happiness. Imagine my happiness just knowing his little heart is full.
My wish for Luca is that birthdays, holidays, and childhood milestones are family days with his mommy and daddy and that he never doubts their love and commitment to raising him together.
I remember the day my daughter and her husband told me she was pregnant. They were pretty nervous about becoming parents. I remember telling them, Your baby is your number one priority and from here on out every decision you make is based on what is best for that baby.
I didn’t always make my children the priority. . . and at times I feel great regret . . . but I am grateful for my penance . . .loving, and looking out for, a little guy named Luca.