My ex husband and I have been spending a lot of family time together. We’ve sat down to have dinner as a family every time we meet up to swap kids for the weekend. I absolutely love that my little divorced family still shares a meal together every couple of weeks. A lot of ‘together’ families don’t even do that anymore.
Lately those dinners have branched out into Sunday afternoons of hiking together and going to the theater. We’ve even discussed taking a vacation together this summer. It feels like it’s a bit too much.
I’m not going to lie, it feels good to get out and cover up that single parent shame. It feels good to see other families out together, and not long for that primal feeling of belonging to a tribe. Because I have that belonging feeling when I am with my family, even when we’re just pretending to be complete.
I felt awkward when the lady at the park asked how old my dog was. I had walked my ex husband’s three-legged American bull dog down to the lake for a drink. I just looked at her, wondering if it was worth the effort to explain that I had no idea how old the dog was, because he belonged to my ex husband.
‘He’s three.’ I was impressed with my ability not to share my story. To just keep it short and simple.
The truth is, every one is always complimenting us on how well we coparent our children after the divorce. And we do an amazing job of it, now. But it hasn’t always been this smooth. It hasn’t always felt like a genuine friendship. It does now. But that friendship comes with a price.
I am sitting here, smoking a hookah, getting my night cap on, thinking about how I will graduate in one week from massage school. A career I was pursuing when I had met my ex husband. I’m thinking about the two hour phone conversation last night that started out about the kids and ended with reminiscing about our first date when we got high on my parents front porch and listened to the frogs in the pond. We joked about how his suitcase was always packed because we fought so much and he was always running away. And I would always call him back. It felt like a conversation we would have had when we were dating. It feels like I’m time traveling through the late nineties.
And my eight year old daughter cried after he left this past weekend. She has never done that before. She asked me so sweetly through her tears why her dad and I couldn’t get back together. ‘It can’t be so hard to just get married again.’ She demanded. I couldn’t help but laugh, appreciating her innocence and naïveté. I started to realize that all this family time was having an impact on her, that we hadn’t expected. It was having the same impact on me. Nostalgia is a seductive liar.
Maybe spending so much time together is not as healthy as we had thought. It was like taking your dream car out for a test drive, and then walking home. A thrill for sure, but not realistic. So many obstacles lie between the car and me. The last time I drove it, the car was mine and I walked away. I didn’t want that car after I had it. I hadn’t wanted that car in years. But lately, I’ve been remembering all the things I loved about that car. Maybe the car reminds me of home. Maybe the car is my daughter’s idea of normal.
There’s an aching inside me right now that wants to give her normal. But normal has never been an option in my life. I could never risk her heart to split our family up again. We have to keep aiming our lives in separate directions, because the pull towards family is very strong. But the pull towards each other is not.
This retrograde is pulling at heart strings I had tucked away a very long time ago.