I haven’t found sleep in days. Last night won, yet again, as if we were playing a game of hide-n-seek. I climb out of bed with a pit in my stomach and my mind overtaken with thoughts of the day ahead. How will they take it? Will they cry? Will I cry? These unanswered questions will be resolved in a matter of hours but, at this moment, I can’t help but feel the pain of what today holds.
Our family loves to play games. In the toyroom the kids have shelves filled with board games, cards, marbles, dominos, and electronic games. For the kids, today, started off as any ordinary day. They were told to pick a game and we would all play as a family. Of course each of them have their favorites. Most times we have to negotiate who gets to pick if they can’t agree on one. But today they agreed on the board game Sorry. My stomach turned at the thought of the word and the irony of their choice.
Sitting on our favorite rug, the kids each picked their colors. With red and yellow left, I pick yellow. Yellow is a happy color I tell myself.
My ex and I had talked numerous times on what we would say to the children about our separation. None of which felt good enough. All felt flawed. All felt empty. But we knew we wanted to keep it as light and as positive as we could. Looking back, I am not sure we did the right thing by camouflaging our feelings and fears, but we are human. This was new to use and we did what we felt was best for our children at the time.
Forgetting about the game in front of me, I took my turn sharing with the children what this meant for them. Their eyes lit up as we talked about decorating their new rooms and making it their own. We talked about the positive and what things will stay the same, promising them that their mom and dad love them and nothing will change that. Robert E. Emery, author of The Truth About Children and Divorce, reminds us that “families in divorce are still families.” The kids heard this in our voices and will continue to see it in our daily actions.
Labeling the houses “mom’s house” and “dad’s house” was something we both agreed that we did not want to do. Partly for the kids, but mostly because we felt ashamed. These words were not spoken, but in all honesty, we didn’t want the community to know our business. This was not a proud moment in our marriage. And so it became “The Batcave.”
As I heard myself exhale and felt my body relax, my mind wasn’t there yet. Although this dreaded talk was over, my mind was now consumed with our newest reality. We were officially a family divided between two homes.
Watching my family walk out the door that day was surreal. The door seemed to close a little slower, the latch echoed louder, and the ticking of the clock was ever so present. I was left behind, on the other side of the door, while my children started memories that did not include me.
That was months ago and it still stings. Today, it hurts even more than I imagined. My children now have to spend their time divided between parents and between two homes. And while at first they thought it was a fun, new adventure, the truth and reality has set in. Dad’s house is no longer called The Batcave. This is no longer a trial separation but a divorce; a clear separation of homes, dinners, lives and memories.
For me, the loneliness is always in clear view. Just a breeze away. Days without a voice being heard, days without laughter bouncing off the walls, and days of wanting the night to fall shortly after I manage to get out of bed. There are moments, sometimes days, where I feel happy. But happy doesn’t replace being lonely. And lonely usually doesn’t travel alone. Lonely usually brings along his buddy insecurity. Insecurities of the future, insecurities of friendships, and insecurities of being alone, forever.
As this deep-seated guilt settles in even deeper, I have to remind myself that I still have a responsibility to my children. They need to feel loved, secure and safe. Their belief in these things needs to be unshakable. I may not be able to give them the traditional home and the life I envisioned, but I can still be the best parent I always knew I could be.