The Kids Will be Alright

xmas pic 3 2013.jpgThere were lots of things we fucked up in our divorce.

Like, for example, I don’t think either of us really, fully grasped the financial impact of running two complete households.  Or, filing taxes.  (Am I the head of household now?  And why does that conjure up visions of a reality show rather than adulting things like a tax form?) Or, the logistics of sharing the responsibilities of a dog.  You get the idea.  The nuances of getting divorced go on infinitely.  It’s been a learning curve, no doubt.  And, admittedly, some things we, singularly or collectively, have done poorly.

But.  When it comes to our kids?  I gotta say, we’re rockstars.

We’ve never been typical parents.  Individually, our parenting styles couldn’t BE more different.  He’s a talker.  Negotiator.  He’s the doer of tasks, and the getter of items. You need an analysis?  He’s your guy.  Me?  I’m the feeler.  The one who wipes the tears and cracks a joke.  The hand holder, the pusher, and simultaneously, the worrier.  I swear.  I make them laugh, and hopefully teach a lesson at the same time.

Somehow, our two halves couldn’t make a whole marriage, but damn if we haven’t crafted a damn fine life for our kiddos.

Even in our darkest times, and I do mean DARK, scary times when neither of us knew how we’d even wake up in the morning and take a breath, let alone put one foot in front of the other and care for two kids who needed nothing more than stability and reassurance and love, we managed.  Not always well, but in spite of fighting and screaming at each other like banshees, at some point, we’d always come back to the same idea, that we needed to keep our shit together and be a team for our kids.  They were the sun and the moon and the stars and they never asked for any of the adult stuff we’d fallen into.  They were everything.  They are everything, and always will be to us.

This past month, our son’s teacher called a conference to discuss his work this year.  My immediate assumption was, I would have a conversation with a lovely woman who was about to tell me how our divorce so negatively impacted his work, he was sure to fail 5th grade, ensuring his academic ruin.  On the contrary, we spoke at length about how he thrived this year.  How he found his writing voice, and adjusted well to the responsibilities of more work, and how his sensitive, quirky little personality crept its way into the hearts of his classmates, and his teacher.  How she adored him, and said she’d very likely shed a few tears when the year was done and he’d move on to a new school, and she’d excitedly look for his name in the paper, certain of a bright future of honor rolls, and deans lists, and doing great things.

I sat there and cried, a little.  I kept it together until I returned to my car, but then, yeah.  Heaving sobs.

Our biggest fear, quelled.  We hadn’t ruined him at all.  In fact, we’d somehow kept him in the light.

Today, our daughter embarks on a new, exciting adventure of her own.  She, too, has blossomed this year, despite so many other challenges aside from her parents getting divorced.  She’s like me, a risk taker, and is trying a new sport for the first time, something she’s never really done before, and I’m in awe of her bravery and overall not-giving-a-shitness.  My tiny bad ass.  I adore her, and I can’t wait to pick her up and hear her gush to her brother and I about how amazing it all was, or how much it sucked, and who was there and wearing what and whether she forgot her water bottle and…all of it.

And, I’ll call my ex later tonight, and I’ll give him the run down of everything that happened, and we’ll have a good laugh and figure out logistics, and do whatever needs to be done.  We’ll stumble and trip and splay on to the floor, but we’ll always be the rockstar parents our kids need, no matter what, as best we can.  And we feel really good about that.


Bea Would be Proud

asphalt road in Tuscany, Italy

Let’s just get one thing straight.

Life is too goddamned short NOT to be stupidly, ridiculously, obscenely happy.

Got it?

About three years ago, I resigned myself to keeping the life I had. Working in a job I disliked, living in a home I hated, floundering in a failing marriage, I came to terms with spending my forever being miserable because, as they say, it can always be worse. Changing things seemed impossible, so I accepted the unhappiness and chose to live my life in a way I believed provided some stability for my kids, despite recognizing the once bright light of my soul had dwindled to a mere flicker.

At the time, I lived a distance away from my family, so I’d established a good support system of friends in town. One in particular, we’ll call her Bea, transcended friendship and we became so much more than that. She was about my Mom’s age. Everyone in town knew and loved her. She was sarcastic, and honest, a larger than life figure who gave until it hurt because she knew no other way. I’d often stop by Bea’s house, and we’d sit on her porch for hours just chatting and laughing and watching the world go by, and she’d opine on life and gossip about town goings on and gush about my beautiful babies. She’d get wind of a lemonade stand in my driveway, and pop over in her big, blue sedan, happily hand my kids a twenty dollar bill, sip her cool beverage, oogle over how delicious it was, then insist the kids keep the change. She loved us, and never let an opportunity pass to tell us just that. I can hear her yelling to me as I left her house. “LOOOOOOOVVEEEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! Now, don’t go fucking anything up between here and home, ok?”

One day, Bea was gone.

I like to think she gave so much to everyone else that it left no time to care for herself. Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but that’s the story to which I stick.

She didn’t want a funeral, but in true Bea fashion, she wanted a party. Always a supporter of the city’s football program, her fans filled the bleachers looking out over the field, the skies parted after days of rain and storms, and Bea wowed us with a spectacular sunset. Grown men wept as speaker after speaker waxed on about Bea and her crazy, loving antics. The boys, the big, tough football players she loved and cheered on, and fed every week before their Friday night games, wiped tears shed for the loss of this incredible woman.

If this force of nature, this institution, this fixture and pillar of strength could be taken away, then surely nothing was certain, ever. I’m sure I’m butchering the quote, but it’s something like, tomorrow is a gift? It’s so much more than that. It’s a storm that might blow out to sea. It’s winning the lottery. It’s getting drafted and playing in the NFL. It’s something we hope for, never something that just comes.

I desperately wanted to be happy. So, what the hell was I waiting for? I began concocting a plan on my way home from Bea’s memorial that night, and never looked back. I’ve had more tomorrows to continue my work, and I have zero regrets about the decisions I’ve made. The journey has been colorful, and wraught with mistakes and downfalls and excitement and hilarity, but it’s genuine and I’m happy. Can’t ask for much more than that, although I’d give anything for one more porch sit with Bea, to hear her tell me, “Good for you, kid.  GOOD.  FOR.  YOU.”

Bottom line is, you only get one chance to live life, and tomorrow is never, ever a given, so why hold back? Take the day off. Smile at a stranger and start a conversation. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Kiss the girl. Write the book. Say I love you, everyday, to someone.

Be fearless and have a life of living, or play it safe, and be regretful. You have a choice. Always.

Got it?