When did this happen? I wonder to myself.
A smile cracks my lips as I watch my two blondies, ages 3 and 7, saunter down the airport corridor in the Richmond airport. Both boys have little backpacks slung over their shoulders that bob up and down as they walk. It’s a funny feeling watching them carry their own belongings while I’m free to hold my husband’s hand, unencumbered by the usual stroller and diaper bag. They are getting so big. Christian and I walk behind them, smiling and winking at each other.
We are about to embark on a wild adventure, catching a plane on our way across the country. Only two of us will come back though. It’s that time again: summer visitation with the boys’ dad.
See this picture? This is me at 6 o’clock this morning after three legs of a less-than-24-hour cross-country journey from Richmond to Denver and back again. This is me–untouched. No makeup, no sleep, and no worries.
What do you think was going through my mind at the moment I snapped the pic? Considering the circumstances, it might surprise you:
“My boys are okay, and so am I.” See my angel necklace? My mom gave it to me in the middle of my divorce. It represents my late grandfather, my guardian angel. I know he is watching over my children. You might wonder if I worry about them when they are gone. Of course I worry. I’m a mom. Do I trust my ex? Nope. Don’t know if I ever will. But I do trust God, and I have to believe my kids are in his hands.
“He’s so handsome.” Warning: mush alert. Ok, I admit my smile is, in large part, for my studly husband/bodyguard. (No seriously, he was really a bodyguard at one point, but that is a story for another time.) I’m so grateful he was willing to fly out with me, stand by me, keep me company, and make me laugh on this trip.
“I am not alone.” Sure, I had my man by my side. But that’s not the only reason I felt a sense of companionship this morning. As I was sitting in that cute white rocking chair on my layover in the Philadelphia airport, I thought of all of you: those who are battling addiction, betrayed spouses, survivors of abuse, worried parents, ‘broken’ families like mine who are doing their best in this foreign world we call ‘co-parenting,’ and everyone else who is just following my story. We are all traveling this road together, and that’s significant to me. Sounds cheesy. But it’s true.
“I hope a million people read my shirt today.” Not sure if you’re familiar with this particular shirt. It says “Porn Kills Love,” and I bought it from my rad friends at Fight the New Drug. I love to wear this shirt when I travel because I know I will be walking past literally hundreds of people. I especially liked wearing this shirt on this trip because it made me feel empowered on a day that I would usually feel crushed, weepy, and lonely. Don’t worry. I didn’t actually wear it to meet my ex. That would not have been very sensitive. After the hand-off in Denver, I changed into my t-shirt and sweats so I could feel more comfy (and bold) on my crazy red-eye flight.
“I feel awesome!” My smile is genuine. The trip went off without a hitch! (How often can anyone say that about air travel anymore?) Also, I’ve learned that sleep deprivation makes me really goofy. My hubby too. I’m sure plenty of people thought we were drunk because we were staggering around, acting so silly and laughing so loud. But you know what? My slap-happiness turned out to be a great coping mechanism in the middle of this ordeal. So I just went with it.
“I know this feeling won’t last.” As we traveled home, I felt an enormous sense of peace and happiness. In fact, I still feel it if I sit quietly and look for it. But let’s be realistic: I knew I’d eventually have my melt-down. And I did. This evening at about 9 p.m. I lost it and had a good cry. But, that’s okay! I’m learning to feel my emotions rather than trying to dodge or squelch them. Abuse, betrayal, divorce, and co-parenting are not easy things. Sometimes it’s an emotional roller-coaster. But I’m riding it, baby! I’m starting to allow myself to feel the highs and the lows. I just have to remind myself not to live in the lows. Feel it. Process it. Release it. Then move on.
So overall, what did I take away from my double cross-country jaunt? Basically this: I don’t know how to do this co-parenting thing. I’m learning as I go. But as I look back at last summer, I don’t think the send-off was as bad this time around. And that’s progress.