Confession time. I know I profess to face life's challenges with a smile and a determination to turn loss into a lesson and grief into gratitude. And I do. Most of the time. But, honestly, I go through a mini-depression every other week.
The living arrangement with my ex-husband requires the kids to live one week at a time at each house. I have a very strong opinion about this kind of arrangement, but that's for another blog. Nevertheless, that's the arrangement. In some ways, it works. There's not a Monday night here and a Tuesday night there and a Wednesday, Thursday somewhere else. The schedule actually provides for a small amount of stability and routine.
Still, every other Monday, when my children move to the other house for a week, it takes getting used to all over again. When we first started this arrangement, I literally did not get out of bed until Wednesday. Apparently I didn't know how to function without children bickering over who gets control of the remote or who is hogging the computer or which sister wore the other one's shirt without permission! My home was simply unrecognizable without 12 pair of shoes in the living room, 2 sets of shin guards under the dining room table, and 3 glasses on the computer desk. After nearly 2 decades as a stay-at-home mom, I couldn't come up with a good reason to get up if there was no one to coerce out of bed or complain about having to cook breakfast for. (You all know I hate to cook, right? Love the kids. Love the food. Hate the cooking.)
One morning, while trying to steal back a few inches of bed territory from the alien beast who thinks he's too good to sleep on the floor like a real dog, it hit me. No, not the alien beast! It was the idea that it is not my children's responsibility to make me happy that shook me awake. I had preached this philosophy to them forever. Which, I can tell you, sometimes came back to bite me. For example:
ME: Frank, you really should join the cross county team with your sisters. You'd love it. They have a lot of fun.
FRANK: Mom, I don't want to join the cross county team. I don't even like going to the meets to watch them run.
ME: Well, maybe if you were running in the meet, you'd enjoy it. They seem to like it. You should do it.
FRANK: I don't want to. I'm fine with soccer.
ME: But, you've never tried it. You should try it. You might like it.
FRANK: Huff! Mom, do you want me to go out for cross country?
ME: Only if you want to, honey.
FRANK: I don't want to.
FRANK: Mom, you always tell me it's not our job to make you happy and that we don't have to do stuff like that just to make you happy.
ME: grumble, grumble, grumble
Funny how that philosophical parenting stuff sounds really good until they use it back on us, huh?
Anyway, that morning...and it wasn't even Wednesday yet...I jumped out of bed smiling because I had found my life lesson. I blasted Bon Jovi (because it is his job to make me happy and he does it so nicely!). I danced through my not-so-cluttered house with a joyful heart.
It isn't their job to make me happy. And maybe it's not mine to make them happy. But it certainly is my job to provide an environment that fosters happiness. And apparently, that environment includes wayward shin guards, homeless shoes, and burnt toast. At least when they are here. Because when they are there, the maid provides a cleaner kind of happy place. And that's okay, too.
I still miss my kids when they aren't here. I still bless the technology gods for the invention of cell phones and texting and computers and Facebook so that I always feel connected to them no matter where they lay their heads at night. It's okay to miss them. It's okay to be sad that there's no one to burn toast for. It's not okay, however, to selfishly stop living and stop celebrating the fact that I am their mom every second of every day. Living in two homes, they have more of a burden than I do. I owe it to them to live gloriously and graciously. I owe it to them to take the Pity out of the Pity Party. I think a Parent Party is better idea anyway.