***NOTE FROM SUSIE — trying something new tonight… I might have a book in me. Here’s a chapter. What do you think?***
We told the kids about the divorce the Friday night before.
All the details had yet to be worked out, and we were all still living in the same house.
One thing we had each managed to do was arrange for a week of vacation with the kids at the end of the summer.
I had never spent more than a night or two away from all five of the kids.
But even then it wasn’t the same. Because I knew I’d be home soon, and life would return to to normal.
Leaving them all this time would be different.
Because it would be the first of many, consistent missed nights with them.
This time when I walked out the door, I’d be leaving my family — as I’d known it from the beginning — for good.
That family no longer existed when I pulled out of the driveway that night.
The night before, my youngest had gone to bed angry.
She had just learned that my soon-to-be ex-husband (or STBX as all the angry women in the Facebook divorce support group I joined a few months earlier called them) would be getting her into bed for the next seven nights because he was starting a staycation with the kids the next day.
The following week I was going on a vacation with them. So I’d have my own time with them, too.
This week was my husband’s time.
But at eight years old, she still liked me to lie down next to her and sing her a song and rub her back when it was time for bed.
And every night I did that.
There might have been a night or two in the last eight years that I hadn’t gotten her and her brother into bed.
But seven nights in a row?
She hammered me with questions.
Who’s going to take care of me if I have a bad dream?
What do I do if I can’t fall asleep?
How are you going to sing me a song when you aren’t here?
Oh, that last question was tough. It was the first of many, many, hard-to-answer questions from her and her four brothers and sisters.
But what my youngest didn’t know was that I was more upset about it than she was.
After she and I had finished our nightly routine, after I’d finished singing her two favorite bedtime songs, I wrapped my arm around her waist and Iay my head on her belly.
I held onto her pretty tight.
And I cried.
She didn’t know I was crying.
I had gotten good at hiding it over the past fifteen years.
But she also still had her arms folded tightly in protest across her chest, and she was really only focused on how mad she was that her life was starting to change.
I cried for a good long while.
How would I survive being away from the kids?
What if I missed something major when they were with their dad?
But the worst self-inflicted question of all is What if they realize they don’t really need me?
I let those questions sit for a little while.
I allowed myself to be uncomfortable.
I let the worries settle down from my brain and into my body.
And then I released them.
Boy had that been a process.
And it wasn’t a completed process.
The work of letting shit go and surrendering was not something I came by naturally. And it would always be a work on progress.
But then a funny thing happened.
The day I had dreaded so much — the first night spent away from the kids — well, it took on a whole new meaning.
It became not just the first night (of many) I spent away from my kids.
It became the first night of many of me truly experiencing freedom in the wisest, most competent, most self-assured, and strongest bad ass version of myself I had ever been.
And that wasn’t something to dread.
That was something to fucking celebrate.