When She Leaves

Teenager sitting on cement step
Every summer since my oldest daughter has been as tall as my knees, she has gone away with her dad for a week.
In order for her to have a relationship with him, the state of Illinois requires that she see him every other weekend, one evening a
week for three hours and every summer for a week of vacation.
In the beginning, she was only able to do a few days for her vacation.
Three or four.
And she cried through all of them.
I dreaded those “vacations”.
They certainly weren’t for her.
Or me.
I would even say not even for her dad because I am pretty sure it’s not a vacation for you to watch your only child sob for a woman you
quite honestly can’t stand for a solid four days and nights.
It was around the age of five that she started to go away for the entire week.
Maybe six.
She was definitely in elementary school.
She was able to do it but not without tears, phone calls each night before
bed choking sobs quietly so as not to disturb her dad or make him feel bad.
Even at that young age, she shouldered guilt.
Trust me, I had my own share of guilt.
It was because of ME, my decision that SHE had to go through this.
Not that being with her dad was a punishment, it’s just when you are little, a girl and have attachment issues, it seems like a punishment.
I tried to tell her dad not to take it personally.
He took it personally.
And she sensed that, even at ages 5, 6, 7 and so on.
I have always hated this week of the year.
When she was an only child, it was painful.
I wasn’t “a mom” when she wasn’t around.
So much of who I am is wrapped around being a mom.
I felt lost, my purpose vague, and for lack of a better word it just plain sucked.After her sister arrived, it was even harder for Anna.
She was missing out when she was gone.
We were going on without her.
She would whisper into her baby and later, toddler sister’s ear before she left….” Don’t grow while I am gone….”It’s a week, I know, only a week.
But when you are small and the world is huge, a week is forever.
Oh who am I kidding, when you are middle age and your life revolves around your children, a week is forever.

Every year come July, I start to prepare.
For “that” week.
I make a menu of her favorite foods to make the night before she leaves and the night she gets home.
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, shepherds pie.
When she was small, we used to go over the packing list her dad would send and pack her bag together while wiping away each others tears and promising each other the week would fly by.

The days leading up, we hold hands a little more, look into each other’s eyes a little more, hug tighter, and say whenever we get a chance, “I am so gonna miss you”.
“No I’m so gonna miss you”.
“No, me”.
“No, me”.
Then laugh.
Until we cry.
Then hug again.

The night before she leaves, she and I have a sleepover in our bed.
This tradition started so many years ago, I can’t even remember when it began.
My husband lovingly gives up his spot in bed so that the two of us can read books about Junie B Jones.
Which then became Judy Blume.
Which then became Us magazine.
Paint nails or eat Ranch Pringles.
Play with each others hair or just sit together in silence while reading separately now.
But touching hands every so often.
Looking in each others eyes and saying, ” I am so gonna miss you”

I started telling her a few years ago, after her sister was born, that “our family doesn’t work without you” because it just doesn’t.
Like a missing puzzle piece, it just doesn’t fit without her.
It feels awkward because something big is missing.
It feels that way every other weekend.
We get along because we have to but it’s not something we look forward to.

As I write this at two am, in four hours and 25 minutes, she will leave for a cabin in the north woods for a week with her other family.
I occasionally rub her sleeping back, play with her long hair and just hold onto these last moments.
This beautiful, annoying, amazing, frustrating, loving teenager takes my heart with her to Minnesota.
I am so gonna miss her.

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27 thoughts on “When She Leaves

  1. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    I love you, Kari, and I'm so sorry for you and your amazing girl. You capture the anguish that comes with this annual ritual so well. My daughter is going to be gone wit her dad for 10 days this summer and I'm so dreading it. She and I also love Ranch Pringles.

  2. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    I knew there was a reason I love you so much.
    Call me when she leaves, I will come with Ranch Pringles.

  3. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    I remember these feelings also, but I'm the mom on the other side. My two stepsons would arrive to spend the entire summer with us, flying halfway across the country to see the father they loved, the new stepmom they weren't so sure about, and the baby sister who got her own bedroom meaning the brothers now shared a room.
    The first week was always a bit rough but by the end of the summer we were a family. I hated to see those 2 little boys leave, and it broke my heart to see their little sister pining away for them.
    The boys are now in colllege, the little sister is 13. Blending families is so hard, but can also be so wonderful.
    I hope that this week is a good one for your daughter. I hope that she is welcomed with love and acceptance and joy. And if she isn't, I hope she remembers how much her family back at home loves her!

  4. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    Thank you so much Tracy for the other perspective.
    She is met with love there so I know she is doing fine and having fun.
    But I still miss her so much.
    🙂

  5. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    Thinking of you! Sounds like you have a great relationship. You know the love runs deep when Pringles are involved. Hope the time is flying…

  6. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    Oh, my heart is aching for you. Now that I've met Anna and seen you gals together, and heard how you LOVE being with your kids, this just seems so hard. For everyone involved. I know you'll miss each other, but things will go right back to the way it was seven long days later. I hope it goes faster than it seems for you!

  7. Kari at A Grace Full Life

    Oh, Kari, this made me tear up! I hate that this is so hard for everyone involved, but I love the relationship between you and your daughter. She knows that you are thinking about and waiting for her, and that means so much. And there I go again. xoxo

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