Wednesday, July 28

Parent Number One

Recently I took a few days and sorted through boxes of "stuff" I finally pulled from the attic storage room.

When I left my home originally, left my husband, I'd been secretly stashing things for quite awhile - a photo or frame in this box, a keepsake memento of a vacation in another box, a small stash of kids artwork in a file folder I took to work... and when it was finally suddenly time to go I just stuffed randomly as quickly as I could. It's good that I started slow and got the things I did because I haven't been allowed back in since that time.

There are things I missed of course, but I got a good deal of very important treasures. Those treasures have been all mixed up in boxes of varying sorts; rubbermaid containers, diaper boxes, sturdy cardboard boxes that paper comes in, and some office file boxes with lids. I've been needing to sort it for some time. As the first year of being gone, of having my life so changed is coming to a close I decided it was as good a time as any.

I opened all the boxes and began making piles on the floor. Each box was a disorganized mix of papers, photos, old christmas cards, childhood mementos, fragile china figurines from my mother, and even odds and ends of toiletries or music cd's. Once it was all laid out and categorized in a way that makes sense to me, I reboxed them.

This whole process took forever, and truthfully isn't even quite complete, because I kept getting sidetracked by my now teenagers old kindergarden artwork or their third grade "family history" booklets. And of course along with that, I got sidetracked by grief.

I was reading through my 14 year old son's kindergarden "All About Me" notebook. Some of it is in his teachers handwriting, some of it in an unknown 'helper' or 'aid' handwriting, and his own early attempts of scrawled words, and the rest is my own printing. There is a whole page of "family traditions" dictated by him but written out by me. Another page wherein we describe the events of a particular teddy bear that had come home with him for a weekend visit. Lists of his friends, his favorite things, his dreams. So tender, so innocent, and so full of a boy and his mommy working together. Daddy is mentioned of course, but daddy didn't write anywhere in that book. In all the papers for my 14 year old son, and for my 12 year old daughter, there is one constant thing. Report cards for all the years were signed by me. Some progress notes bear both my signature and dads, but always always mine. Both 100% correct papers and the papers full of red check marks bear my signature of acknowledgment. I look over old physicals and copies of enrollment forms, folders of letters from camp, notes from teachers, thank you cards from teams - all focused on "dear Mom" or "dear Mrs. Miaheart" or "To thisgirls Mom".

In all the official paperwork there is a Parent section where you list the parents name and address separate from the childs. There is a Parent Number One and Parent Number Two and then Child sections. In these accumulated papers from 14 years of parenting, the Parent Number One section is always me. The mom, me. In the Parent Number Two section all the papers list daddy's name but just have scrawled "same" for the address and phone. Because that's how it was. I was the primary parent and daddy was there and with us and part of it all but it was ME who was Parent Number One on every form.

This year my kids are away at a camp they've both been to every summer. I'm glad they are there and having fun but I didn't get to sit down and go over the brochure and collectively choose which programs they enrolled in. I didn't get to discuss the varying dates and choose which weeks worked best. I didn't get to scramble for copies of physicals and immunizations and extra socks and a replacement canteen for the one we couldn't find. I just got an email, 4 days before they left, telling me that they were going and when they'd be back. I had to call the camp to confirm the dates, their programs, their cabin assignments... and to see if my name and contact information were accurate on the paperwork.

My name was listed under Parent Number Two. Just my name. The city where I live and an illegible phone number were listed but that's all. I want to say that it was my imagination that the camp secretary was suspicious and cold, because I had been on a first name basis with her these past 4 years, but I don't think I imagined the indifferent offer of "oh, well, if you want us to have your number down I guess I can put it in for you" response she gave when I suggested that she place my correct phone number down in case of emergency. I hope she actually DID put my number down correctly. Even if it is under Parent Number Two, it will take another 14 years to erase the fact that in the beginning I was always the Parent Number One.

And in spite of my new status as Parent Number Two, I'm still the mom.

Love, Mia

Sunday, July 25

I'm Still The Mom

It's been a year since I left.

I thought that I'd be living in one of those condo's that are over by the golf course, and that maybe my ex would be living there too in another unit, maybe on a different floor. I thought that the kids would be moving back and forth between us, at will but with some standard of boundary or structure. I thought that my ex and I might not be necessarily friendly, but that we'd be polite and able to communicate. I thought I'd be still tucking my daughter into bed most nights, and sighing over my son's report card, and heaving my tired self off the couch to drive someone to some practice or rehearsal or friends house or sometimes saying, "dad said he'd pick you up and you can stay the night at his place tonight" interspersed with "you are with dad mostly this week so don't forget your backpack and your key ok?"

I never imagined, a year ago, that I'd be seeing my kids an average of 72 hours a MONTH... that is, 3 days a month.

It never once occurred to me, a mostly stay at home mom for 14 years, that I would go an entire year without tucking my daughter in to bed, without making a school lunch complete with silly note scribbled on a napkin, without being there when my son was hurt or sick. I would have laughed if you'd suggested it.

But it all happened.

Even 6 months ago I still thought it was all a mistake, a momentary "thing" and that it would sort itself all out and that by now, July, I'd be spending days and weeks at a time juggling the kids and their bickering and the laundry and veto-ing potato chips while giving 'the look' over a serving of broccoli.

It's been a year of being surprised, shocked, bewildered, broken. A year of loss, day by day and breath by breath. A year of days that wouldn't end, for God's sake they just wouldn't end, and nightmares that happen in broad daylight every day over and over again. And now, the realization, finally, that this year wasn't just a momentary "thing" but has become a precedent for the years that are to come.

What I've lost this year, what has been stolen from my children, is only the beginning of what is going to be more loss. And at the end of each day I remind myself that I Am Still The Mom.

This blog is for me, for my children, and it's for you and your children. It's for every parent who finds themselves empty but it's also for those parents who find themselves bitterly and angrily witholding, denying, and controlling. It's time to let go.