I used to think I was pretty good at sharing. But I'm not, really, especially when it comes to certain things. For example, if there is just one piece of cake left, I am going to snag it before anyone else sees that it's the last piece. If I get a toffee almond bar from Starbucks, don't even bother asking me for a bite. Now, if you want to borrow a book, or need a cup of sugar, sure, I'm your girl. Need someone to buy Girl Scout cookies, Tupperware, jewelry, or candles? Count me in. I'll share my money. But the thing I have the most trouble sharing is my kids.
Now, some of you won't be able to relate to this, because sharing kids inevitably means they are the by-products of divorce, which is never their fault. And no matter how amiable the divorcing parties, the bottom line is, the kids will eventually have to be shared, fair and square, and spend equal (or almost equal) time with both parents. And that involves both good and bad. I'm certainly not complaining when I have a "kid free weekend". Who would? Most moms I know would give their right arm to have a whole weekend without kids, knowing they are safe and sound and happy with their other biological parent. And I certainly try to make the most of it - going on adventures with Jeff, maybe having a dinner out, working on one of the myriad of projects I never seem to get done when kids are around. But on all the weekends my kids are gone, I feel this strange sense of being unsettled. For 13 years my kids were with me 24/7 with rare exception. And suddenly they were gone - for a night, a weekend, occasionally for a two week stretch. I once read a newspaper story about a woman who had lost her son in an accident. She said "my arms ache for him". And I think that says it best. It's like a part of you is just suddenly gone. You know it's not a permanent loss, like a death, but in a way, it's so enormously changed from the way it used to be, that it feels like something is missing.
Now, three years into this sharing arrangement, I still find myself thinking about my kids all weekend. I wonder what they're doing, how they are getting along with each other and their dad, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what we didn't have time for the previous week. Call it mommy guilt, but I think of a million things I'd like to do with the kids when they're not here. And when they're back, time is hectic and crazed. Weekdays are full and busy. Weekends are our wind-down time, and now we only get half of those in a year. Then, we try to cram fun, quality time into the half as many weekends we get and there just doesn't seem to be enough time to just "be" with the kids.
I know it's inevitable. It's all a part of the huge decision to end a marriage and live as a "fractured" family. But I don't like that label. Broken family? I think mine got fixed when I got remarried. I love the family I have now, and wouldn't change it for the world. I just don't like sharing. It bothers me when I can't make a decision for my kids without involving their father, and it breaks my heart every time Arlie misses a birthday party, school function, or soccer game because she is required to spend a weekend in Spokane. And I don't intend to discount the relationship our kids have with their other parents. Those bonds are unbreakable and unique and can't be replaced by a stepparent, no matter how ideal the situation is. And certainly our kids could use a break from us and the house rules and routine from time to time.
But still, I haven't gotten used to it. And maybe I never will. All kids eventually leave. They start lives of their own and move on to their own families. And if you're lucky, you'll have about 18 years to help them grow into truly great people. But if you're divorced, you get a smaller percentage of those years and somehow it just doesn't seem like enough time.