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.
Three or four.
And she cried through all of them.
I dreaded those “vacations”.
They certainly weren’t for her.
quite honestly can’t stand for a solid four days and nights.
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.
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.
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.
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 other’s 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”.
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 into each other’s 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.