A work friend asked me: “Are you used to not seeing your daughter every night?”
I paused for a moment; I wanted to tell the truth. I hate when people ask me things like that. I hate that they assume that it gets easier to be away from your kid. At least that’s what I think they assume.
I stuck with the script.
“I see her pretty much everyday. I pick her up from school. We do homework together. We’ll play together a little. Some days we have dinner together. Every Friday night she’s with me. And, every other weekend, we’re together. It’s as good as can be. ”
The conversation moved on from there. Later, as I drove home, I replayed that conversation. The imagination was with the real answer.
My real answer:
I spend a lot of my time being angry. It’s actually more than a lot of time. The anger is always under the surface; I’m angry every single minute that I spend away from my daughter. Obviously, it’s different during the day when she’s in school. That’s how it is supposed to be. That time is spent at work with the normal worrying about her well being while in the care of strangers.
Everything seems right when I pick her up from school. There’s the “how was your day?” conversations and all of the normal stuff that most people take for granted. Those moments are sacred. Those moments are the only reason that the anger can usually stay beneath the surface.
And, truthfully, I do have it better than most. I do spend more time with my daughter than most Dads in my situation. Her Mother and I are able to do things with her together. We can do Christmas morning together; we can go out to dinner. There’s no tension. We’re never on a rigid schedule. If my family has something on “Mom’s Weekend”, we change easily. So, it wasn’t a lie when I said “It’s as good as can be.” It is.
It just isn’t enough. It will never be enough. Despite people saying that it will get easier, I know it won’t.
There are the constant goodbyes, even with the promise of the FaceTime call before bed. There are the missed everyday moments that can only be experienced by the luck of being there. I get those sometimes and I am grateful for them. But, there are those missed one that a photo or a video can’t replace. There is nothing like being there.
People take that for granted. I get it. Maybe I would too if I were there every day. But, any rationalization of it being ok, that kids are resilient in this situation, and that anything can become normal is just that–a rationalization. It’s something we say to make ourselves feel better. It’s something we say to cover the fact that we have a child who constantly feels the need to split her time and make sure she pays attention to both parents. Kids shouldn’t have to deal with that. They have enough to deal with. Wading their way through the world, school, friends, and everything else is more than enough.
It’s easier to stick to the script when I’m asked about this. People don’t want to hear the truth. And, I don’t want to hear the rationalization and the “it’ll be ok.” Yes, it will be ok; it has to be ok. But, that doesn’t mean it’s normal. It certainly doesn’t mean I have to like it.