rash guard of love

5/17/07

Our family was reunited last night, as Tessa and Lucy flew into JFK from points west. Through a bizarre criss-cross of the Hudson Valley, I drove 4-5 hours through tornadoes and pounding rain to get them, but seeing li’l Punkinboots at the baggage claim made all of that dreariness seem fathoms away.

We were only apart for a week, but when Lucy saw me, there was an underlying resentment of “where were you?” It has led to this tiny disconnect, the faintest feeling that we are not exactly tuned to the same megahertz as we were before, when I was with her in those mystical seconds before sleep every other night.

Today, we were on my bed, where we usually play fortress games inside the pillows, but she just said “don’t want to” and climbed onto her babysitter instead. Normally, this sort of insouciance is par for the course; Lucy is an absolute sensualist and abandons pretty much everything if she thinks there might be new kinds of sensory input across the room.

But this tiny snub left me heartbroken, as if that week I was gone somehow relegated me to temporary cargo status, and I can’t tell you how sad it feels. Sure, she’s a 2-year-old and incapable of grudges, but it does feel like it’s going to take me a couple of weeks to gain her best graces.

I can’t imagine the pain fathers or mothers must feel when they have newly-divorced families, watching their own children grow up outside their purview, with very little power – short of a court order – to do anything about it. Shame and condemnation should befall the divorced parent who manipulates the alienation of the other parent; everyone has their faults, but short of criminal behavior, turning a kid against their mother or father is cruelty made incarnate.

As for me, I just need to take Lucy swimming. There is no greater pleasure in the Garden of Earthly Delights than to swim in the kiddie pool at the Santa Monica YMCA with the Lulubeans – when we’re both floating and laughing, I have to close my eyes and think back to all the times when I was feeling so low that I wondered why I bothered putting one foot in front of the other.

There were times so dark that I felt compelled to list the reasons I should stick around, and always, there was a sense that I must remain in control, just tread thick water, because something oddly luminous was ahead. I never wrote down this feeling, always kept my list very mundane as to be practical, but I was always sensed a distant white-blue light in my peripheral vision. Maybe it was just simple survivalism, or maybe just a few misfiring neurons, but there’s always a chance it was something altogether more amazing.

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0 thoughts on “rash guard of love

  1. scruggs

    We’re in the process of moving from GA to NC, and my husband started his job up there 9 weeks ago. So he’s been gone during the week and making it back for the weekends. Its tough for him to be away and it definitely registers with at least our 3 year old that he’s not around. Now we’re almost done with this schedule, but I couldn’t imagine if it were the norm.

    Reply
  2. LFMD

    Lovely post today.
    I have a story for you. Back when Helen was 2 yrs. old, I was working at a big law firm. Although I was considered “mommy track”, I still worked long hours and always got home after my husband and Helen had been home for about an hour or so. There was so much to do each evening (dinner, bath, bedtime, get ready and pack for the next day), and I always had my to- do list running through my mind –by the time I got home, I felt as though I had to hit the ground running and move the evening along. I was the Taskmaster.
    Anyway, Helen quickly equated the rushed arrival of stressed-out Mama in the evening with the END OF FUN. It got to the point that if she and husband were playing in the front yard and she would see my car pull into the cul de sac, Helen would run up to the car and WAVE ME AWAY! She’d say, “Go away Mama! Daddy and I are having fun! Go back to work!” Can you imagine??? It nearly broke my heart. I knew that something had to give. . . . so I moved on to my more family-friendly Insurance Job. Less stress and better full-time hours.
    I still think about those days and cringe.

    Reply
  3. LFMD

    Yeah, I am glad it changed, too. I was one Stressed-Out Bitter Working Mama.
    The funny thing is that my daughter has no recollection of the waving-away incidents. I mentioned it to her a few months ago, when we were talking about busy schedules. When I told her about how she waved me away, my nearly-8-year-old laughed and said, “Oh Mama, that is so silly! Why would I do that?”
    Helen also has no memory of: her many ear infections, her ear tube surgery, the time I dropped her from the changing table, her many daycare providers prior to age 4, or all of the elaborately-planned birthday parties I organized prior to age 5 for that matter.
    I find some comfort in the fact that the little incidents that seem so traumatic to a new parent (leaving your infant in someone else’s care, illnesses, etc.), don’t really make a blip on the screen of a child’s memory. All the fretting I did about daycare when Helen was an infant! Worrying incessantly about the ear infections! All the crying I did as I drove to work each morning. I wish that I had not made myself so miserable about it all and ENJOYED being a parent a little more during those early years. As long as a child is cared for and loved, those feelings of security and love seem to transcend everything. Thank God for selective memory!

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  4. joan

    Are we sure two year olds don’t hold grudges?
    I’m dreading an upcoming 10 day separation from my two year old: I’m going to Ethiopia to adopt his four year old brother. So I’ll be away and then come back with someone who will also want all my attention. Will he ever forgive me? Or will he think having a big brother is the best thing ever?
    I take some comfort in LFMD’s kids’ selective memories.

    Reply
  5. Lola

    Joan,
    I’m sure your little boy will think the addition of a big brother to his family is the best thing ever! Well, maybe give him a month or three to adjust.
    Safe and happy travels.

    Reply

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