Empty

The house feels empty. No screaming; no yelling. No whining; no fighting. No video games; no cartoons. No toys- scratch that. There are toys scattered through the house. I let them swim to the last possible second, instead of making them pick up toys.

But without my boys running amok, the house feels empty.

In theory, I could go out and see a movie right now. I can go out with friends, grab dinner or drinks and dessert. (You know, if I wasn’t poor and unemployed.) In theory, I could sleep in tomorrow. I can read in bed. I can have ice cream for lunch.

But I would give it all up for more time with my boys.

The hardest part is when I don’t get to talk to them. Every night they are at their dad’s house, I call them at 7pm to ask them about their day and to tell them I love them and to wish them goodnight. Even if I’m out with friends. Even if I’m out of town. 5 minutes to know my boys are fine and to let them know I love them.

More often than not, the ex doesn’t answer his phone. Some times he lets them call me back. Most of the time, he doesn’t. When I had more money, I bought them a cheap little flip phone with monthly prepaid minutes, but they often did not answer.

After two years, it still sucks so very much not to talk to the boys. After two years, the ex still doesn’t think it’s important, even though we agreed upon the phone calls in mediation and it’s in our divorce agreement. At least, I got to be with them after school for a few hours.

It’s harder after having the boys for a long stretch. I had them for nine full days because the ex had a business trip. I’m grateful to have them so long. It reminds me of the first three years of the separation when the boys were always with me.

Tomorrow I’ll bug my friends with texts and calls, asking to go out. I’ll wash the sheets and pick up the toys. I’ll scout the bathroom and go through the piles of weekly school paperwork. I’ll get the last few things for our trip next week. I’ll figure out a bridesmaid hairstyle I can do. I’ll take the Cub Scout volunteer classes and tests. I’ll brush up on 7th grade math and prep some cool activities. I’ll write poetry and edit the novel.

Tonight I feel like eating chocolate and staring at the TV.

Or eat chocolate as I do laundry and clean my room.

Because I just realized I have a lot to do.

Mediation

I don’t know how many of you know this, but I haven’t lived with my . . . husband . . . in two-and-half years.  I have been a single mother for two-and-half-years.

It’s weird to write that.  It’s weird to think it.  It’s weird to think that these are scars, not fresh wounds.  I’ve been wondering why everything seems so fresh.  Is it because he comes over several times a week to see the boys, and so he’s always here and I haven’t had a chance to heal properly?  Is it because if I admit that I do this – the parenting, the running of the household, going to school, all the parenting- that I might crack under the pressure?  My best friend thinks it’s because every time I get my feet under me, that I heal more, I’m thrown by some other stupid, soap-opera-ish twist that I have to absorb like a blow.

But it didn’t happen a few months ago, it happened two-and-half years ago.  When he decided and I agreed, that we needed to separate.  And I knew then it wasn’t temporary.  I knew months before that when he suggested separation.  I knew if he walked out that door to live somewhere else, he was never coming back.  Nor should he.

Our marriage had cancer.  He and I both gave our marriage cancer.  We made mistakes, acted foolishly, did stupid things.  But just over three-and-half years ago, he decided against chemo.  I just didn’t know it until three years ago.  Thanks, dude.  And then we limped along for another six months, and again instead of taking the chemo like he suggested, he refused it.  Again.  Then he walked out.  It was the right decision.

And in many ways, I’m lucky.  He didn’t disappear when he left.  He came over several nights a week and most of Saturday to spend time with the boys.  He also paid me what he always gave me before the separation.  He never questioned my spending.  He rarely questioned my parenting choices.  He took us out for meals.  He paid for the presents since my budget would make it a lean birthday or Christmas.  He paid for car maintenance and found the boys a dentist.  He’s paid for my schooling, so that I can become a teacher.  He has been a good provider.  I’m thankful for that.

Today we go to mediation.  And it scares me. I don’t want to lose my boys.  Even for every other weekend.  For the last eight years, I have been their primary parent.  While he went on business and guys trips, I took care of the boys.  While he worked ten hour days, I took care of the boys.  When he went out with his friends and employees, I stayed home and took care of the boys.  When he decided to build another life without them, I took care of the boys.  When he came over late or forgot or talked on the phone while he was here, I took care of the boys.  I have fed, clothed, bathed, taught, played with, disciplined, cooked for, encouraged, nurtured, nursed, held them.  I have taken them to doctor, dentist, and counselor appointments.  I’ve met and talked with teachers and coaches.  I have taken them to parties, events, activities, schools, practices, meetings, and visits with friends and family.  I have helped with homework and chores and workbooks.  I have battled fevers and nightmares.  I have washed clothes and toys and cleaned up vomit.  I’m their mommy.

I don’t want to fight with him.  He’s their father, an important part of their lives.  No matter what he has done to me, he is their father.  My pride, ego, and pain are nothing to that.  I want them to have a good relationship with him and eventually their stepmom and any stepsiblings.

But I want what is best for them.  That is more important than being fair in a divorce.  That’s what I have to remember what I’m fighting for.  This isn’t a battle for justification or revenge.  This is a negotiation to secure the best possible life for my boys, the collateral damage in this messy war.  I want the best for them, and I will fight for it.