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.
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 told her dad not to take it personally, but he did and she sensed that.
When she was an only child, it was painful.
I didn’t feel like a mom when she wasn’t around.
So much of who I am is wrapped around being Anna’s mom.
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….”
I make a menu of her favorite foods to make the night before she leaves and the night she gets home.
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread before she leaves; shepherd’s 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”.
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 other’s 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”.
Like a missing puzzle piece, our family 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 on to 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.