My youngest has basically lived her entire life switching houses between her Mom and myself. We’ve been in separate houses for just about a decade now and she’s 12yo. In fact, she’s told me that she has no memories of when we co-habitated before the separation and divorce. Which by itself is a bit staggering to contemplate, that she has no memories of her Mom and Dad that don’t involve tension, upset, emotions and, sometimes, worse. Breaks my heart, really.
But it’s the challenge that so many divorced parents face: while split custody of any sort might sound great on paper, there’s a toll that it takes on children, whether they’re 4, 8 or 15. For my little one, it’s been such a constant, steady drumbeat in the music of her life that she has no idea what life would be like without it.
Just think about that for a minute. She has no idea of what life would be like living with parents who love and respect each other. Or, heck, even just respect each other all the time. But that’s another topic…
Ten years later and today it was time for her to switch from my house to her Mom’s place, and I could see the pain, the frustration written plainly on her face and in her actions. It was a tough afternoon with her getting increasingly upset as the hour of getting into the car for the switch got closer and closer. Her coping mechanism kicked in too: She’s taken to traveling between houses with 3-4 big bags of clothes and miscellaneous stuff as a sort of security blanket, and it can be surprisingly complex to get that all organized for the great switch.
And then there are the cats. We have four cats between our two households, and it’s confusing because two of them live full-time with Mom and two of them move back and forth with the children as they go from house to house.
To add to the complexity, this week, my oldest (almost 20) moved into her own apartment, so it was an even more tumultuous transition because it was clear to K-, my little one, that things have changed and that there’s no going back to how things used to be. She’ll be living without her beloved big sister now that A- has her own life, a job, college courses, a car and a boyfriend attending college 30min away.
The long and short of it is that this afternoon sucked. For both of us, actually, because I found myself also getting increasingly grumpy as my expectations of when we’d be able to leave slipped further and further away. When we finally did get the cats in their carriers (not their favorite places to be, no surprise) and all of the necessary bags and shoes in the car, we then headed to the other house without really having much to say to each other.
And, again, it broke my heart. Her mother and I decided to divorce years ago, but K’s the one still suffering from the experience and it most assuredly wasn’t her choice. In a divorce, it’s easy to focus on the parents, on the tension and relief of splitting up after a rough journey, but it’s really the kids that bear the brunt, and it never seems to end.
I dropped her off, we hugged, and I drove away.
Hopefully next week will be better.