Having a friendly relationship with my ex makes it a lot easier for all of us. The best part is that we have flexibility in our parenting time. Because of projects at work, I've had to work on some of my weekend days and go in much earlier than normal. Rather than send the kids to their grandparents I simply gave their dad a few extra days on his parenting rotation. By midweek I was feeling lost without them and he had no problem letting me have them for after school and dinner.
It helps soothe my heart to know that even though they're with their dad every other week, I can still see them whenever I need to. They are growing so quickly that even just a week makes a difference.
It nearly takes my breath away to watch them.
My daughter is at that stage where the awkward angles of puberty and the gracefulness of a young woman co-exist in uneasy measure. She is yet clear-eyed and innocent, despite intermittent episodes of what appears to require the exorcism of a a snarling teenager demon. I study her surreptitiously, trying to reconcile this tall young woman with the sturdy toddler I remember trying to keep up with.
When I wake my son up in the mornings he automatically reaches his arms around my neck, even as he is trying to snuggle his face deeper into his pillow. He wants me to pick him up and carry him out to the couch as I have always done, but this summer he gained 13 pounds and he is getting too heavy for me to lug around. He's a skinny drink of water, my boy, all kneecaps and elbows. He plays his games on the iPad or computer with remarkable intensity; it is a serious business, in his mind. His wish lists include game manuals and mods.
Walking in front of me are two human beings who are soon going to grow up and leave me behind. That's how its supposed to work, we all know that. But what happens if they make decisions I don't agree with? What happens if the paths they choose are not safe for them? We have babies because we want children to love; what probably never occurs to most of us is that they don't belong to us even a little bit.
I have friends who were on their own the moment they turned 18 -- mom and dad expected that from then on they were no longer responsible for the well-being of their kids. Others were on their own even before that, thanks to absent parents, neglect or abuse. I find that heartbreaking, and I'm continually grateful for my own parents whose philosophy has always been that even though your children won't always need you to parent them, you are still their parents -- from "womb to tomb," as my mother says. Sometimes this has meant helping out when finances were tight or nonexistent - buying groceries, making a payment for one of us, buying something as a "gift" for us that we really needed but could not afford. My parents have been the people in my life I could always count on, even when they haven't been too happy with my choices. They've stood up for me even when I haven't wanted to recognize or appreciate the things they've done to make my life better or easier. They know who I am, the good things and the things that aren't quite so good, and they love me anyway.
That's not to say they have lived every moment of their lives waiting on their children to need them. Practically as soon as they dropped me off at my dorm freshman year of college they sold our old home and built a smaller house with a guest bedroom. If I'd ever ended up homeless, of course they would have taken me in, but it was pretty clear that once the door closed behind the last child to leave home they did not believe it necessary to keep living in a larger house than they needed. As soon as it was certain I was accepted at the UW and starting classes I think they breathed a huge sigh of relief and started booking trips to all the places they'd never been able to visit while honoring their responsibilities as parents.
I learned some great lessons from my parents about being pragmatic rather than sentimental and about how it is possible to love and care for your children even when you don't care for the things they are doing or the company they keep. They weren't perfect parents, of course (sorry Mom) but then again I haven't been a perfect daughter. (Sorry again, Mom.)
I hope I will be handle my childrens' evolution into adulthood as well as my parents handled mine. Its easy from this viewpoint to think that I will cope just fine; in reality I am sure SG will be called upon fairly frequently to dry my tears and there will be numerous discussions with my ex that begin with "CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOUR SON/DAUGHTER JUST DID?" We'll survive. We'll still have parenting to do; the things we will deak with will have a higher difficulty rating.