As I wander around the mall, keeping a safe distance as to not be an embarrassment to my “12teen” year old daughter and her girlfriends, I am filled with joy just watching them. Watching them interact with each other, watching them stretch their independent wings (although clipped). Watching them interact with others makes me stop and thank God for all I have. I have the best job in the world: mom. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it is the hardest job ever, the most heartbreaking job at times, the most frustrating, the most painful, but also the best.
As probably every mom out there, I also fear I am not a good mom, that I will screw up my kids somehow. And yes, if you ask my older ones I did probably screw them up!
But in this new life of a split family, shared custody and co-parenting, I worry so much more.
This came to light recently as I realize my daughter is exhausted. It’s not the first time I have noticed this. Last time was during fall break, and the time before that was summer vacation, and before that, spring break.
Now that her time is split between her father and me, she does twice as much as she used to. We will take this Christmas break as a prime example. She is out of school for just over two weeks. She had a couple of days to finish her Christmas shopping and get ready for the holidays. Then on Christmas Eve she drove with me an hour and a half north to pick up her brother to turn around and drive home to attend Christmas Eve services, then drive an hour and a half south to see her other brother and his family and her Aunt, Uncle and cousins only to turn around to drive home to go to bed and await Santa’s arrival. Christmas morning she arose early and woke everyone else because she was on a limited time schedule before her dad picked her up. As we each stumbled out of bed and out to the family room, we had to remind ourselves of our limited time frame.
We enjoyed watching her and her one brother open gifts and we chatted about many things, then she was whisked off by her dad to catch a flight out of state.
I can’t really tell you what she did while she was gone for sure as she is sometimes vague in her conversations, but she was busy and celebrated two more Christmases and visited different places. She flew home 5 days later to sleep and then be whisked off by me on a 5- day camping and riding trip to the sand dunes.
Wow, what kid wouldn’t be jealous, right? Wrong. Well, at least partially. First off, my daughter is embarrassed to tell her friends what she got for Christmas. After much inquiry, she is not embarrassed by what she got, she is embarrassed by how much she got! She gets twice as much as her friends who have a nuclear family because she receives from her dad AND she receives from me. She said, “ I don’t want the kids at school to think I am spoiled or that I changed over the break.” When she first told me this, I just brushed it off and told her offhandedly, “ok, well just tell them one or two things you got.” But the more I think about her comments the more I feel badly. So, as this resonates in the back of my mind, we flash forward to my time chaperoning at the mall…
We are at the mall, me my daughter and three of her friends, even though I am totally exhausted and have like a million other things to do, because I am feeling guilty. My daughter just had over two weeks off from school and has not seen one friend or spent any down time doing things with friends. So being the devoted (pat myself on the back!) mom that I am, we packed up early from the sand dunes and headed home. We unloaded the RV, washed the ATVs, put everything away, took showers and had 3 friends come spend the night with my daughter. As I announce to the sound of giggles that I am going to bed, I realize this is what is important in life.
As I have to wake the girls up in the morning because they wanted to get to the mall early, but stayed up until 3am, I realize this is what is important.
Now, how to balance knowing this is what is important with wanting to “do” things with her when I have her. I mean, really, I don’t want all of her vacations to be with her dad and all her time with me spent at home so she can hang out with friends. I don’t want her to not have memories of going places with me. How do we find a balance?