The girls are leaving tonight. It’s February vacation, and they’re spending it with their father in the Middle of the Country. (I think – the weather is bad there, and I’m not certain that their plane will get off the ground.)
In the past, these trips were full of drama. Tears, stomach aches, begging and pleading “don’t make me go!”
Today, they’re picking out their clothes, calling to find out what plans their week will bring so they can choose accordingly, and basically taking the whole thing in stride.
Two trips ago, our goodbye in the airport was a little rushed by the flight attendant. Boarding time just sort of snuck up on us, and we had to quick hug and say “see ya.” The girls called when they landed and commented on the weirdness. The sadness of the rushed goodbye.
But then they had a great time. Some relationships were healed, some changes were made (on their dad’s end), and the trip was a good one.
Last time they went, the goodbyes were again pretty quick and lacked drama. It felt right then. They were returning in less than a week, and they were looking forward to their time.
In some ways, there seems to be something missing. This peaceful acceptance of their trip feels strange. But I can’t find anything bad about it. I think there was a bit of stroking to my (and Beloved’s) ego when the girls were miserable over leaving. But I don’t think either of us are selfish enough to want the girls to be unhappy. I don’t want them to have issues surrounding their father.
The acceptance that they’ve found does not at all infringe on mine and Beloved’s role in their lives. They have settled into extremely different relationships with their father and his wife than they have in this house. Perhaps the trouble E was having eighteen months ago resulted from a lack of understanding that the roles and relationships are different. She was expecting from them what she got from us. She isn’t going to get that. She wouldn’t get it if she lived with him all year, and she certainly won’t get it during these small windows. And if she did live with him all the time (year round), then there would likely be giant holes in her life. But she doesn’t. She now can tolerate the stunted emotional involvement of her father, and enjoy what he does have to offer.
And J always has a level of acceptance. She has always been great at seeing the positive people have to offer, and basking in that, rather than honing in on the negative. She has missed me more than E does when they are gone, but has complained less about her father. The miserable conversations I had with them in the past had consisted of J sobbing over missing me tucking her in, and scratching her back, and hugging her, and talking with her. With E, it was the thing her father said, the thing he did, the choices he made, the activities they weren’t doing. Much more complaining about him than wanting me.
Okay – being completely honest – it does bother me that he gets away with it now. I don’t (and obviously didn’t) find it acceptable that he doesn’t mind if he goes months on end without talking to the girls. I don’t find it acceptable that when he has one week with them, after four months of not seeing them, that he will spend three of those nights out with friends, leaving the girls behind with either a babysitter, family members, or more frequently as they get older, the television. I don’t find it acceptable that he and his wife don’t tuck the girls in at night; that they spend much time in the evenings in their room with the door shut while the girls are left to occupy themselves. I don’t find it acceptable that he doesn’t give a shit about J’s taste/fear with movies and television shows, often sending her home with nightmares because he doesn’t listen, and laughs her preferences away. I don’t find it acceptable that he refuses to take them to the library or supply them with books; or that he refuses to manage their summer homework commenting that “time with their father is infinitely more valuable than busy work from strangers.”
But if the girls find this unacceptable, then they have a lifetime of unhappiness. It is best for them to accept it, and perhaps be glad that it is their lot in life for less than 1/4th of the year.
And when I start to begrudge (them? him?) the newly found contentment, I will just replay some choice quotes over and over in my mind:
Yeah, Daddy has long hair now. It gets really greasy. [pause] So does his nose.
If we forgot socks, Dad would never buy us new ones. He would just make us put the pair we wore in the washing machine every day. Or just re-wear them all week.
I must also admit, I am perfectly fine with this trip.
One week is just not enough to miss them horribly – I save that for the summer. Beloved and I were not able to celebrate our anniversary or Valentine’s Day, as I don’t really have a babysitter right now. And the girls just feel too old to take the step toward establishing a good babysitter relationship with anyone. But not old enough to be left alone for an entire evening.
So we’re going to go out to a nice dinner.
And we’re going to meet with an accountant to get our taxes done.
And we’re going to have sex in the living room. Or at least with the bedroom door open.
We’ll both catch up with work/writing.
We’ll enjoy the break from making a vegetarian version of every meal.
I will definitely enjoy not being yelled at by my 11 year old (please recognize, as Beloved will be happy to expand upon, I use the word “yell” loosely. For me, I am ‘yelled at’ when someone uses an unkind tone, or if their words say something which I may construe as insulting or critical. While I do not allow my 11 year old to raise her voice at me or otherwise exhibit obvious disrespect, the tone and the irritation and the exasperation are coming fast and furious in the past few months. I feel yelled at.)
It’s okay that the girls are looking forward to their visit with their father. Because so am I.
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