Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making the Most of It

It's been a little over a week since my three older kids went to Arizona to visit their dad. And this is big:

I haven't cried yet.

Well, the night before they left I cried thinking about them leaving and not being around me, but just for a little bit.

in the airport before their early morning flight

This in no way implies that I don't miss them. I do. I bet they've even grown. But I think I needed a break.

As hard as it is for me emotionally to live my life sharing my children with their dad in another state, I realized how accustomed I'd become to having a long weekend or a week or so to myself every six weeks when they'd visit him. Because of circumstances in his life, moving several times and gearing up to begin law school this fall, they hadn't seen him since their Christmas visit. That was like, 6 months of hard core Mom duty with no break. (I know, I'm spoiled, right?) It was a seriously intense schedule, not just on the Momming end, but with my college schedule thrown in there as well, and having Conor begin intense speech therapy.


I wanted the kids to see their dad. They've grown so much! Dylan grew 7 inches in this last school year! (That's a lot of jeans and shoes!) They missed him fiercely, and I had so much compassion for that longing in their hearts, a longing that as a mom I could not satisfy. I was anxious for them to get off the plane and have his eyes see them and feel that heartburst of joy, and grab them up in his arms and feel them and squeeze them. There's nothing like it, and half a year without them? I get all shaky and emotional just thinking about it.

So maybe this visit had less of my selfishness in it. Less of what I was losing out on for a few weeks. Even six long weeks. More of my excitement to share in the wonder of these amazing kids. What a process it's been for me.

Early on in our separate lives, it was torture for me to drop them off a mile away at his house for a weekend and drive home alone. Once we lived in different states, the impending drive would keep me awake for days: Five hours of gripping sadness in my gut as I felt like I was having my insides ripped out of me on the way there, and then five hours alone driving back sobbing and feeling completely shriveled. Walking back into my house, empty, would send me into a depression that I had to actively work to keep from taking over.

In those early years I was riddled with insecurities. I was convinced that my children blamed me for the divorce, or not so much for the divorce itself, as they knew their dad was the one who left, but somehow for the pain that they felt. My house became the house of duties and routine, and his house was fun and games and adventures. I couldn't compete even on a practical level, as school and scouts and lessons had to be done, and mostly on my time. I was desperately afraid that the woman in my ex's life would steal my children from me, as she had my husband. I was afraid that my kind-hearted little ones would come to love her more than me, or to prefer her over me. I resented her even getting to witness their lives, let alone have an active role in them. On a deeper level, I had fears that they would leave me, as he had, and that I was unlovable and unwantable. I had a lot of difficult emotions to work through, and some of them took years.

Later, I still cried and became emotional about their long absences, but I learned to make use of that time for rebuilding myself. I would take road trips to visit my best friend, I would read a lot, I listened to a lot of inspirational talks or firesides on CD, I sang a lot, I did things just for me. I learned to settle into the new pattern of my life and find something redeeming about it, something that allowed me time alone for spiritual and emotional growth.

Now, though I hate being away from my children, I don't begrudge them the visits one bit. I love that they love their dad. I love that they each have a good relationship with him. And I feel very secure in their incomparable love for me and my role in their lives. I feel content with my ex's wife's place as someone who loves and adores my children, but who could never take my place. I understand more of the way my children feel about the whole situation, and I feel settled. For the most part. And what a relief it is to my previously turmoiled soul. Let me tell you.

The last few years have been different because of Conor. I never really get a complete break anymore, but my mothering just has different requirements when the older ones are gone. I think, actually, that having him around has done a good deal to help me to not feel so depressed and alone when they leave. He has been a great comfort and distraction to me.

And in the meantime, I seriously needed a break. Not from my children, but from Seminary, school, college, early mornings and late nights, constant meals for growing teens, constant messes, and happy noise everywhere. I'm not even close to being ready to consider gearing up to do it all again!

I have a week and a half before Lyndsay comes home (she's only staying three weeks this time) and then another three beyond that before the boys come home. I want to make the most of it. For me, that means, reading, planting, cleaning, thinking, writing, praying, and just being. All of it fills me so that I can be ready to go full swing once they return. And just thinking about that moment when they walk off the plane and I get to see their faces after our long absence from one another and I get to hold them and kiss them. . .it gets me all happy inside.

I can't wait. Lots to do!


Leslie said...

Jenna.... you are so loveable. You have raised the most amazing kids I am sure of it. I wish I had you in my day to day life to continue inspiring me to be a better mother, like you. Before kids you always inspired me to be a better person.

Josi said...

I must say I'm a wee bit jealous--only of the break, not the rest of it and the years it took to get to the point where you enjoy the break :-) You show a lot of maturity and selflessness by wanting and supporting a good relationship between your kids and your dad. May you get all that Jenna time you so deserve. Good attitude!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

You are so amazing. I love how you see this as an opportunity to grow and be productive and all that good stuff. I'd probably use the extra time do nothing much, I imagine. You're very inspirational, do you know that?

Mindy said...

I hope you have another week and a half of nothing but wonderful Jenna time! It sounds like bliss!

Luisa Perkins said...

Savor the moments! I know you will.

I'm so proud of the incredible journey you've made in the past few years. You probably need new spiritual jeans and shoes at this point.

family said...

You know Jeff played that game growing up . MI in the summer with his free spirited, no rules mom and school time with Dad and Step Mom who set the boundaries, enforced church, etc. After a while they stopped going to MI bc the prefered to be with Dad (the rules, the friends, etc). They are closer to their dad and step mom and really do not respect their MI mom. Keep that in mind when they come home to you and your stable life! :)

Rachel Sue said...

I've seen divorce from a lot of angles: 2 bro.s in law, an aunt (twice), a cousin, a few friends,
but never this deeply. It amazes me, the journey that you've made. Thank you for sharing.

Turleygirl said...

Jenna, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

Anonymous said...

I love watching your journey....youv'e grown sooo much Jenna! I'm lucky to know you!

Laurie said...

Jenna, you are amazing!! Thank you for sharing your life and allowing me to watch you grow. While my trials are different, I gain so much strength and perspective from your experiences. Enjoy your personal time!