In order for her to have a relationship with him, the state of Illinois requires that she see him every other weekend, one evening a week for three hours and every summer for a week of vacation.
I dreaded those “vacations”.
They certainly weren’t for her or me.
But not without tears and phone calls each night before bed, choking sobs quietly so as not to disturb her dad or make him feel bad.
It was because of me and my decision that she had to go through this in the first place.
Not that being with her dad was a punishment but when you are little, a girl and have attachment issues, it seems like a punishment.
I tried to tell her dad not to take it personally but he took it personally and she sensed that, even at ages 5, 6, 7 and so on.
When she was an only child, it was painful.
I wasn’t “a mom” when she wasn’t around.
So much of who I am is wrapped around being a mom.
I felt lost, my purpose vague, and for lack of a better word it just plain sucked.
She was missing out when she was gone.
We were going on without her.
She would whisper into her baby and later, toddler sister’s ear before she left….” Don’t grow while I am gone….”
Oh, who am I kidding, when you are middle age and your life revolves around your children, a week is forever.
I make a menu of her favorite foods to make the night before she leaves as well as the night she gets home.
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread before she leaves; shepherds pie when she returns.
When she was small, we used to go over the packing list her dad would send and pack her bag together while wiping away each other’s tears and falsely promising each other the week would fly by.
The days leading up, we hold hands a little more, look into each other’s eyes a little more, hug tighter, and say whenever we get a chance, “I am so gonna miss you”.
“No, I’m so gonna miss you”.
Until we cry.
Then hug again.
The night before she leaves, she and I have a sleepover in my bed.
This tradition started so many years ago, I can’t even remember when it actually began.
My husband lovingly gives up his spot in bed so that the two of us can read books about Junie B Jones which then became Judy Blume which then became Us magazine.
Sometimes we paint toenails or eat Ranch Pringles, most times we play with each others hair or just sit together in silence while reading separately now.
But touching hands every so often and looking into each other’s eyes and saying, ” I am so gonna miss you”
I started telling her a few years ago after her sister was born, that “our family doesn’t work without you” because it just doesn’t.
Like a missing puzzle piece, it just doesn’t fit without her.
It feels awkward because something big is missing.
It feels that way every other weekend.
We deal with the situation because we have to but it’s never something we look forward to.
As I write this at two in the morning, she will leave in four hours and 25 minutes for a cabin in the north woods two states away for a week with her other family.
I occasionally rub her sleeping back, play with her long hair and just hold onto these last moments.
This beautiful, annoying, amazing, frustrating, loving teenager takes my heart with her to Minnesota and every time she leaves.
I am so gonna miss her.