Comfort arrives in the most surprising ways.
You wonder, sometimes, when you sit there in the too-quiet, agonizing over your parenting decisions, your challenges, your failures, if the other parent whose parenting you can't see is somehow doing it better. You wonder if maybe you are the problem parent, and when the teacher sends home an email that suggests that your kid behaves worse at school when he's with you, you feel defeated. I'm not sure that fathers do this thing that mothers do, this thing where from the minute we are carrying them we look at other mothers and convince ourselves that they are doing the parenting gig better than we possibly could.
I secretly study the younger, hipper, cooler moms picking their kids up after school and I think they're more organized, more compassionate, more patient. More attentive.
Divorce complicates and fractures this sense of inadequacy into bigger and sharper splinters. Are they happier when they're with me? Is he the better parent? Maybe they won't need me anymore. Its illogical, its unproductive, its worse than useless, boo-hoo poor-me thinking, and yet its quietly there, whispering words to tear me down.
I rationalize, temporize, self-console and give myself quiet pep talks. I'm doing what I can, maybe not perfectly, some days a lot better than other days, and if the key indicator of my relationship with my children is that they love and trust me and share all their thoughts and fears with me, then I'm doing pretty all right. But still. You wonder.
And then, when I need it most, an equalizer.
It comes in the form of a morning drop off. When they arrive later than expected, when one of them is not even dressed, not medicated, not at all ready to catch the bus that's arriving in twenty minutes. And I've already left for work and my lovely husband gets to handle it. And I realize I'm not the only one who does this, I'm not the only one who struggles. Because I've done this to him, I have, and I hoped when I did it that he wasn't judging me...just as I'm not going to judge him now. He had a bad day, and so I have some small comfort knowing that I'm not the only one.