My kids come home today.
At the beginning of July my kids went to stay at their grandparents in upstate New York. And today they fly back. Obviously I had the typical parent reservations. How on earth am I supposed to be apart from them for that long? What if they need me? What if they go rabid-mental and the local community don't know how to stop them rampaging through the Adirondacks? And more importantly - what if they need me? My ex-wife's family have been doing this for nigh on fifty years. All the kids in the one extended family have been sent to "camp" for the summer. And despite a very fleeting thought that this could be the most evil joke imaginable, I did really want them to go. Mountains. Kayaking. Swimming in the lake. Lots of kids around. Fun (ie: eccentric) relatives. Camping. Green stuff. They'd no doubt have a fantastic time. And by all accounts they did.
I'm very pragmatic. And yet I did still think for a second, "....if they are secretly being moved two thousand miles again I don't know if I can handle that." And despite knowing that my son wasn't talking on the phone because he's five and just doesn't do that, I still held that sliver of fear. Which was an interesting thing to find out. I'm well aware of how much it hurt when they left. And the scars still held over from that. But I wasn't as aware as I probably should have been that I was afraid it would happen again.
Several years ago I had to stand in front of my kids and tell them the worst thing they'd ever heard. Telling kids of that age that their parents are getting divorced is a painful experience. Partly because you can see the confused anguish spread. Partly because there's that knowing - this isn't just going to hurt today. It's going to hurt for awhile. And partly because you have to try and convey to them that this is the right thing to do. Absolutely the right thing. I remember my daughter understanding what it meant a lot quicker than I thought she would. And I remember my son going through a very quick series of crippled hopelessness, being angry and weakly trying to push me because I was the one doing the actual telling. And then needing to be hugged. It was fucking horrible. All that absolute conviction of knowing it was absolutely right that this marriage was over still made sense. Because when you get to that point when you have kids that's precisely what gets you over that dread. That you know now that you believe that and that you are fucking well going to help the kids understand that.
Last November right after I arrived in Arizona my son was on my lap and furrowed his face up the way he does when he he has a fundamental question to ask. Not the stream of silly questions we ask each other. Not stuff about school or friends. But wanting affirmation from his father - because then it must be true. Then he asked me if I was going to move away again. That was agonizing. To hear that was how he made sense of the entire thing. Despite every conversation we'd had. Despite every time I'd tried to avoid any level of emotion and explain that his mother is moving them across the country because she really does think it's for the best. She'd certainly talked a lot about why Phoenix would be better for them. And how she was moving for work. For the weather. And yes - it was also where her boyfriend lived. And yes Daddy has some very, very hard choices to make - but if he thinks about it he'll move too. Because there is always one "best" option. And if he chooses not to take it then he made the choice. And no And me having to answer the kids questions about why mommy thinks its a good idea and trying to be as honest as possible. And coming up completely short when he'd say, "but you're my dad..." and waited for me to explain why it was still a good idea. And yet here we were and he presented the entire thing as I had been the one to move two thousand miles away.
When I pick them up at the airport it'll be bed time. So we'll be heading back to my place, climbing into bed ("The Cuddle Cave" as my daughter calls it) and I'll be squeezing the utter shit out of them.
Not literally though. Seriously. Behave.