When parents finally sign that divorce agreement, they have no idea something critical has been missed amongst all the legal language, detailed holiday schedules and visitation rights. What the agreement doesn't convey is the logistical nightmare you are in for when it comes to having to shuttle or search for your kids' stuff in the years ahead.
This task can be the most ever-present, daily reminder of the consequences of divorce -- a constant reminder to parents who made their bed and have to lie in it - a nightly ritual of rantings, searches and swearing when the right stuff isn't in the right parent's place on the right night. Like marriage vows, there should be a divorce pledge such as "I promise to ransack the closets in search of the missing school t-shirt, to find the library book before graduation day and remember that lacrosse stick like there is no tomorrow."
The one missing shin guard for the day's soccer practice, the math homework packet needed to review for the next day's test, the field trip permission slip due tomorrow - hell hath no fury like the parent searching for these in vain. The search is on because it could be here, there or anywhere - at mom's, or at dad's across town. Did I mention it may be a school night at 9pm when this is all realized?
Even married parents would likely admit: it's hard enough to keep track of kids' sports, activity and school things when the kids live in just one house. Kids loose stuff, forget stuff, lose sight of things. But when they live in two households, it's like they might as well live in ten. Parents lose some control to keep it together -- literally and figuratively.
I once drove across town at light speed to retrieve the right white collar shirt for my fourth grader's first chorus concert an hour before the show. I've held a crying five-year old for hours because he left his special blankie at his dad's -- and we got tired of rushing it back and forth on nights we could even find it - so in a tough love way I had to teach him to sleep without it. It disappeared for months and reappeared last week. Today, I couldn't tell you where it is.
I've bought extra soccer socks, sneakers and DSi chargers. Friends and family who are not divorced like to offer this advice: "Why don't you guys get two of everything and keep one of each at each house?" I want to shout that it's not that simple. Great idea in theory, but it's not that easy, they may leave one house carrying or wearing the thing from there, and go home to the other house after the event. Just because an item starts there doesn't mean it stays there.
As the parents who put our kids in this situation, we have to suffer through the shameless searching and tedious "don't forget" texts. It's not the kids' fault they have to live in two places. A six-year old shouldn't have to keep track of every little thing - or should he? Perhaps these daily searches are the way it's supposed to be - someone out there reminding parents to remember, every day, that the decision to divorce will always put the kids in a precarious position if we're not ultra-organized, extra diligent, and completely tuned in to their day's agenda. This is just one more thing divorce lawyers never tell you.