For some reason I had it in my head that by now, more than a year after the separation, the kids would have accepted our new normal and we would all be trudging merrily along as a two-household family.
It surprises me sometimes how much that's not the case.
My daughter still draws pictures of her "Happy Family" in which all four of use are depicted. She makes posters of us standing next to a house, all four smiling and happy, with hearts floating all through the air. The sight of those paeans of family togetherness squeezes my heart painfully. I keep expecting her to feel differently and continue to be surprised that she does not. Even though my expectations are realistic, I stubbornly cling to the idea that if I just will her to feel the way I want her to feel, she'll come around; meanwhile she stubbornly clings to the thought that if she just wishes hard enough, mommy and daddy will magically love one another again and we will be a "whole" family.
Yesterday had some tough moments in my house. I was having an emotional day, and the kids had a hard time getting along. C was having horrible issues in the car on the way home from church -- his eyes, his hands, his feet. All were bothering him. The crying and the screaming and the struggling were stressful for all of us. Even worse was the "I wish I were dead" statements, that tell me the med change we instituted last week is not working for him. When we got home, I put him in his room so that I could have some relief from the screaming and gather myself together. After about 10 minutes of listening to him screaming about his hands, then hitting himself and sobbing heart-brokenly, I went in and laid down on the floor with him until he calmed down, then I picked him up and we curled up together on his bed. He buried his face in my neck, wrapping his arms completely around me. We calmed each other down.
Much of the time, when his sensory issues come into play, I can't touch him. He doesn't want to be touched, hugged or even looked at. Yesterday there was a different dynamic at play, and I was glad that I at least was able to recognize his needs and respond. Sometimes its hard to "feel" what kind of response will help him best.
Not long after, he and his sister were fighting over chair space. I intervened, one thing led to another, and finally A was sent to her room for being extremely disrespectful to me. She's been really oppositional lately. I let her stew in there for a while, then went in to talk. Through tears, she said, "I don't know why but I always want to fight. When we all lived together I didn't want to fight, but now that we don't I just want to fight all the time."
I wish she understood just how much I understand that. I want to fight too, sometimes. Even now I walk around on the balls of my feet, waiting for someone to say "You're doing this wrong" so that I can take them down. I'm not as angry as I was a year ago, but I'm still angry. And I want to fight.
We talked about how the bipolar makes it easy to want to fight, makes us feel angry sometimes, and how the ADHD makes us irritable. We talked about how hard it is to accept something that you don't want to, and how if her Dad and I were still living together things wouldn't really be all happy and loving, the fighting that was the hallmark of our daily lives would still be going on. We talked about medications and I gave her the option of bringing up a medication change to her doctor if she was feeling like she was having more bad days than good days. We held each other and cried together.
At the end of it all, even though we had some enormous struggles, by the end of the day I felt closer to my kids than I had in the morning, before the struggles started and when we were all laughing and getting along.
The pressure to recreate our "old" life, though, is something I think I'll be struggling with for a while.