When I went back to work, I was anxious about choosing a preschool for my child. She was 2 1/2 at the time, and so my ex-husband and I took her along with us on our tours, wondering what her reactions would be. At every school, she walked away from us and into the classroom, ready to approach the materials, children or a snack table... whatever the class was attending to. We were overjoyed! Our child was confident and at ease without us by her side. When we finally picked a school we loved for her, she went that first day and didn't turn back. There were no tears, temper tantrums or solemn waves goodbye. Sure, she asked her teachers during the first few weeks if Mommy was coming to get her, but the separation was easy. I was relieved.
Shortly after returning to work, my husband and I split up. We sat down and divided our daughter's life and time in close to half, and proceeded to go through the motions of divorce. The first few weeks of sharing my daughter felt like torture. Still, almost one year later, there are times it hurts. Weekends I feel consumed by sad, dark thoughts. Evenings in which my silent house feels like a cruel punishment.
My daughter handled the back and forth well on the surface, but there were times when unlike the confident 2 1/2-year-old we watched walk away from us with ease, she was not so happy to part from one of us. Sometimes it was, "I don't want to go to Mommy's house," or "No, not another Daddy day!" On Christmas Day, my daughter didn't want to leave with her father and she had a major meltdown. And of course from time to time when I came to get her from my job at my ex's house while he was working and she was in the care of his parents, I would enter the house to see my daughter snubbing me, stubbornly fighting going home with me.
At first when she did this, it stung. Did my daughter hate me now that I was parenting her only half of the time (or so it sometimes felt/feels)? I learned fast that, "No Laura, get your ego out of the way." Our daughter was mad and hurt... she doesn't hate me. Doesn't hate him. She was punishing us for splitting up her family. It made sense.
The days of easy come and go were over.
This past weekend was my ex's turn to be with our child, but a classmate of hers had invited her to a spa birthday party. Instead of dad taking her, he told me to join her for the girly outing. When it came time to bring her back to him, she walked into his house joyfully and hugged me goodbye without any fanfare or war-like behavior. That's when it hit me: My daughter, over time, has been coming and going to my house and his house without a fight for the most part. I hadn't noticed because it had become easier over time for her and perhaps, easier for my ex and I.
The confident girl who walked away from us without blinking an eye is maybe coming back to us, her loving and worried parents.
While she walked away to tell her dad about her fancy princess bun and show him the pixie dust in her hair that she got at the birthday party, I walked back to my car a tiny bit heartbroken. A part of me stung at this quick reunion. Somehow, three hours with my daughter felt like 10 minutes. Until I realized what had just happened.
My daughter, child of divorce, is happy to see both her mom and dad. She doesn't exit my loving arms to enter his anxiously, or vice-versa. She comes to us as if it were just another day in her little life, but for her parents, who wrestled with the choice to divorce for over two years, this day is a huge day for us, and a victory that maybe better days are coming around the corner for us all.