I thought about getting divorced for a while. After years of trying, denying, giving up and trying again only to retreat back into denial I was exhausted and drained. Still, considering the idea of actually following through on what had previously been only a fantasy was like leaving my feet dangling over the side of the bed in the pitch black when I was eight. I couldn’t stand it for more than a few seconds.
But the only thing that was going to unstick us was some action. So I forced myself to think about how I could make it easiest on the kids. Not easy, mind you, as divorce sucks for kids in many unavoidable ways. Anyone who’s run back and forth between two homes at 10:30 on a weeknight to retrieve a school project or beloved stuffed animal understands this.
When it became clear that the only way out meant I was going to have to leave, I promised myself I wouldn’t until I could provide a decent place with room for all three kids. I was sure they’d all want to spend lots of time with me. I was their mother.
Looking back, I can see how short-sighted that was. Given a choice, teenage boys opt to spend time AWAY from their moms. But I was grieving for the family I was losing, and contemplating time away from them was unbearably painful. Maybe it wasn’t lack of insight as much as self-preservation to think that they’d all want to spend at least half their time with me.
I bought beds and linens and posters for their bedroom wall. I stocked up on the foods they like and the toiletries they use, and made sure they had phone chargers and video game set ups to minimize inconvenience and maximize familiarity and fun.
And every time I filled the fruit bowl on the newly-acquired-from-Craig’s-List dining table, I took one shiny green apple and put it in the fridge. My oldest son likes tart apples, and he likes them cold. It was important to me that he knew I remembered that.
A few months into our separation, I opened the fridge to see four green apples lined up on the bottom shelf. I sat down in front of the shelves of milk, eggs and cottage cheese and cried.
Divorce changes things in ways you can’t predict. It’s tempting to believe you can keep things largely the same, and just face a few practical challenges such as making sure the kids have two of everything essential, one for each home.
But my son doesn’t think of my apartment as home. And at his age he never will. Home is what I left. And that’s where he wants to return each night.
As unpalatable as it was to have to schedule time to see my teenage son, I had to let go of the way I wanted things to be and respect his need to choose his home base for himself. Fighting and denying it was making me angry and bitter. Accepting it lets me relax into this new relationship we’re developing, one closer to the parent-adult child bond I hope to have with all three of them someday. It’s just a few years sooner than I expected.