“Youuuu can’t caaaatch meeeee!” six-year-old me challenged my Dad as he quickly side-stepped toys and lunged in an effort to swat my behind. I was in trouble. Again.
Then there was the flat screen TV incident a year later, when I intricately carved my older sister’s initials into the upper right-hand corner of our brand new, 50-inch television.
“DAMN IT, KELLI!” my Dad yelled frequently… including the night I snuck a kitten home from my babysitter’s house in my backpack.
But that wasn’t quite as bad as the day I tossed lit matches from a moving golf cart and set an entire corn field on fire at the same sitter’s house.
Or the time I got kicked out of Girl Scouts for spitting on the troop leader’s daughter. Turns out being the top cookie seller five years in a row wasn’t even enough to save me from that one.
How about when I slammed a stapler on my babysitter’s hand because she wouldn’t let me play with my mom’s make up?
Or the time my neighbor and I somehow shot homemade, lime green icing on the kitchen ceiling, then didn’t tell my parents until much later, when the frosting was rock hard.
Then there was that Sunday 10-year-old me tried to mow but couldn’t figure out how to get dad’s big ass Ford tractor out of gear. So I intentionally rammed it into the side of our house to stop the forward motion. That went over well.
The list goes on… high school me vomiting all over the kitchen floor and my mom, in front of several friends who thought I was fake-drunk. (Oh hello there, low tolerance for alcohol.)
Frequent 3am drunk dials to my parents in college – including the time I got kicked out of a bar (and almost murdered with a high heel) for throwing beer on a bartender.
Can’t forget calling hysterical as I literally drove a news car toward a tornado during my first TV job in college.
You get the idea.
I pushed limits.
Never asked for permission.
Refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.
I was what you might refer to as a “challenging” child.
So my parents said it. Often. Sometimes angrily. Sometimes laughing. But looking back, I have a feeling they always meant it: “I hope you have a daughter just like you.”
I had no idea what I was in for.
Fast forward to June 11, 2015.
My water broke at work.
Seven hours later, after the easiest labor and delivery in the history of ever, her seven-pound, ten-ounce body slid out of my womb and into the world and I had a brand-new baby girl in my arms.
“Wow!” my mom said when she saw Lyla in person the next day, “She looks so much like you!”
“You think?” I asked.
But also, I should have known.
No, really… Should. Have. Known… I was suddenly face-to-face with the biggest challenge of my life.
She was such a needy baby – much more so than her two older brothers. And she only wanted her mama.
As a newborn, Lyla screamed in the car the entire five-hour road trip to visit my family. And again the next year, and the next.
At 18 months old, she screamed the entire flight to Florida. It was torture.
As an infant, she rejected naps, which made her an overtired mess all the time.
As a 2-year-old, she begged to nap, causing her to be so well-rested that she woke up in the middle of the night and binge watched cartoons on the couch for hours. Unsupervised.
I would find her passed out with the TV blaring when I woke up to get ready for work. That went on a good year-and-a-half.
And she was so damn sassy.
Her favorite word? “NO!” with a smile, as if it were a viable option.
She’s now six.
And undeniably just like me.
I have a video of her dancing and singing to Fireball by Pitbull. Naked. In front of a mirror. Not a damn care in the world.
She can fall asleep anywhere, at any time. And she does. But good luck waking her up – she just might kill you.
Lyla once got so mad at her BFF during their first sleepover that she refused to talk to or even look at her. It was so much drama that the mom texted me, asking how to handle the situation.
At dance class, my girl flat out told her teacher “no,” then cried at the end of class when she didn’t get candy.
A few months ago, the school bus driver wrote her up… because after asking Lyla to stop pulling down out of her coat and sprinkling it on the kids around her, my mini locked eyes with the driver and continued to do it anyway.
Holy. Fucking. Defiance.
Discipline rarely phases Lyla and she’s tough enough to go straight at her older brothers in a wrestling match.
But… my bougie little girl loves sparkles, dogs, unicorns, pretty dresses and all of the LOL Surprises.
She’ll often get my attention with a, “Hey Mommy? I wuv you. So much.”
She loves baking and crafting.
She loves when we wear matching outfits and hairstyles.
She loves to wear make-up and work out and run with me.
She puts on nice clothes, grabs a purse and gives me a big hug before pretending to leave for work.
And I melt.
I want my daughter to know life is beautiful and she can truly make it whatever she wants it to be. I want to tell her time and experience will teach her to channel her drive and determination in ways that help her succeed beyond what she ever imagined.
I so desperately want to tell my little girl to stay bold because the path of least resistance is not always the best one. I want to tell her being dubbed “aggressive” or “too much” by someone else is not her problem and not necessarily a bad thing.
I want to warn my daughter there are people in this world who will do whatever it takes to try and dull her shine... simply because she shines so bright.
I want her to know life – at some point – will inevitably bring her to her knees… she will feel lost, broken and alone. I want to tell her when that darkness comes, the only way out is to keep pushing forward.
But those are awfully grown-up conversations for a six-year-old.
So for now, I try not to lose my shit on the daily. I wrap her in hugs and tell her the most important thing she can do is treat others with kindness, love and respect. I also tell her it’s never OK to be dishonest or step on someone else to get what she wants. But when she does make a mistake, the very best way to get past it is to own it and apologize to anyone she hurt.
At bedtime, I ask all three of my kids about the best part of their day and what maybe could have gone a little better. I sometimes ask if there’s anything on their mind or heart. I tell them they can always talk to me or ask me anything… without judgement.
A few weeks ago after a particularly rough Saturday filled with defiance and plenty of time outs, Lyla and I snuggled into her bed, exhausted. The weight of the day hit me. Did I yell too much? Am I too hard on her? Did I show her the kindness, love and respect I drill into her every single day?
DID I SCREW UP MY KID???
“Hey Mommy?” she asked sweetly, breaking me away from my own thought monsters.
“When I grow up, I can’t wait to be a mom… Just like you.”
And I exhaled.
I don’t know with 100% certainty what’s happening where you are, but it’s getting reaaallll ugly over here.
This place is slowly becoming a graveyard for my shellac mani/pedi… do I say screw it and peel off the rest or just let that shit keep growing?
My 8-year-old just racked his 6-year-old brother squarely in the nuts. So my 6-year-old sought revenge by biting his brother in the ass.
And last night? I tried to call and cancel our 7-day spring break vacation to warm, sunny, beautiful Florida. Except I can’t even do that because the airline phone lines are jammed AF right now.
You guys, this is the weirdest shit most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime.
We’re homeschooling but still working full-time (some of us are still reporting to the office daily). Dogs are barking and babies crying in the middle of conference calls and everyone just has to be OK with it.
We aren’t technically supposed to go anywhere for another two weeks (other than the grocery store, where people continue to wipe out toilet paper... pun intended). School is out until at least May flipping first and, according to the governor’s order, public playgrounds are also technically closed.
According to my iPhone, my screen time is up to an average of 6 hours per day.
Oh, and my most favorite one yet? Boomers blame “Millennials” for choosing to spend their college spring break getting drunk on the beach during quarantine. Bitch, I’m a Millennial with three children, a career and a mortgage. Those college kids are a good 15 years younger than me. Try again.
Then there’s the whole dating scene. Real dates aren’t even happening because there’s nowhere to go. So consider yourself lucky if you can find an open Starbucks and at least take a walk without getting arrested. Or you can do what a friend of mine recently did… meet someone on Hinge and do a virtual date. They literally FaceTimed each other while simultaneously watching the same movie. I love her. She said it was fun. But I’m not sure if there’s anything worse.
Oh wait, there is.
The gym is closed. My sanity and summer body are gone. I can feel both withering away with each passing day. Yes, I’m doing all of the planks and push-ups and lunges and squats at home. I’m running (a little). I’m trying to hold both the 10lb and 12lb weights in the same hand while praying the resistance band doesn’t slip from underneath my 4-year-old’s foot and smack me in the face. Let’s just say my workouts aren’t quite the same.
How is this even real?
I feel like we could use scenes from our lives right now to make one hell of a music video to the song “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II. Don’t act like you haven’t already watched it 27 times since it came out on Disney Plus two weeks ago.
Oh, and according to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, we are all literally eating and drinking our way through pandemic quarantine 2k20. So that’s cool.
But I also see something else happening.
I see us forced to cancel plans (including my soon-to-be 7 year old's bowling alley birthday party) and clear our calendars to stay home and spend time together… as families. I see people near and dear to my heart buying groceries for the “at risk” category of those who really shouldn’t go to the store right now.
I see business owners fighting to keep their doors open one more day. I see neighbors connecting around bonfires and spring clean up in the yard. I see "Bear Hunts" happening in neighborhoods so kids can safely play outside while connecting with their parents. I see love and kindness and compassion in action every single day.
Life is hard and surreal right now. Many of us are scared or nervous about the unknown that lies ahead. Many others out there (myself included) are exhausted and just about at our breaking point from giving the past two weeks everything we’ve got.
At the same time though, we are also uniting and fighting for the greater good. I challenge you to think about who or what you are fighting for (aside from privacy in the bathroom and pretending you didn't just hear the 1,000th “Hey Mommy” of the day).
We are all fighting to protect our parents, family members, neighbors and friends in that “at risk” group.
We are fighting for those in our communities who are currently out of a job.
We are fighting for the wisdom to show patience and kindness toward each other. Especially the human beings we created who won't stop the steady stream of smart ass comments after everything we say.
I’m fighting for my little human beings, who probably needed a sound lesson in gratitude and the fact that even though we sometimes we don’t get what we want, it’s shockingly NOT the end of the world.
I’m fighting to keep a solid sleep/wake/eat schedule (who knew a 7-year-old boy could eat so much!?) inside our home so we can maintain a tiny sense of normalcy.
Think about the example we are setting for those little eyes and ears that watch and listen to us so intently. Think about the lives we are saving because we know we can make a difference. Think about what truly matters and why.
We will get through this. We will use and then remove our old-school polish and sprint to the closest nail place when it re-opens for shiny new shellac.
We will stop punching each other in the nuts and biting each other in the ass.
We will never look at an ice-cold Corona the same.
And someday, we will become filled with nostalgia as we tell our grand kids about that time we used lots of medicinal wine, vodka and love to survive quarantine during a pandemic that happened to have the same name as a beer.
It's only appropriate to begin with a few small doses of reality...
Reality Check #1: I consistently set off the smoke detectors in my house when I cook. I tell myself it’s because of where they are located relative to the kitchen, but let’s be real… that’s not normal. My cooking sucks.
Reality Check #2: As I picked up my four-year-old from her Dad’s house a few weeks ago, she grabbed the screen door and said, “Come on and open up, ya asshole door!” I unsuccessfully bit my lip and tried to find a stern face, but still laughed a good three minutes.
Reality Check #3: The same 4-year-old got so mad at her BFF at their first sleepover together that she refused to look at her or speak to her… for at least half an hour. The other mom texted me at 9pm, asking how she should handle the drama.
Reality Check #4: I was on the phone with the guy I’m dating just a few weeks after we’d met when my six-year-old suddenly ran up to the phone and screamed, “Our Mom is a trainwreck!” That was cool.
Reality Check #5: I thought I was killing it as I bootlegged leftover Halloween candy and six water bottles in my purse through the doors of Frozen 2 with four children in tow. Joke was on my stingy ass when I somehow lost my wallet in the theater. Thank goodness for honest people though – I got it back the next day.
Reality Check #6: I recently transported eight cases of wine from point A to point B for work. But when I opened the back hatch of my SUV, an entire case came crashing out. I cussed as wine seeped out of the broken bottles, through the cardboard and onto the sidewalk in the rain. Then a colleague drove by and whipped out his phone to take a picture and I laughed… because that’s funny!
So before you confuse me with someone who actually has all her shit together, please read all of that again. I'm not writing this from my ivory tower or my soap box or my golden throne.
There was a time not so long ago when those same incidents would have sent me into a spiral. I would have found someone to blame. I would have been mad, negative, even hateful toward some of the people closest to me because something didn’t go my way. I would have let some silly, inconsequential thing ruin my day or week because that’s just how I used to live. But the truth is, I was hurting. I didn’t like who I was, and I was incredibly ashamed by some of the choices I’d made.
There’s that saying, “Hurt people hurt other people.” And it’s so freaking true.
Holidays were the worst. I took out anger and anxiety on people I loved. I took what should have been beautiful days filled with family and memories and I ruined them. Every. Single. Time.
After a while though, I realized that messed up person was neither who I truly am nor who I wanted to be. So I faced that unhappy person head-on. I went to therapy. I put in the work and dealt with the mess that came as side-effects of working through my shit. I sat with the pain and the guilt and the past that once bogged down that miserable girl and simultaneously made her want to take others down with her.
There were also some pretty important steps that I now realize helped me heal, which included holding myself accountable. And even though I didn't have some grand plan or end game in mind, sharing the how is important... because I now realize none of it happened by accident.
I set and accomplished a huge goal.
It’s funny how opportunity often appears at our lowest point. I was a complete mess on my living room couch the night my friend Cindy sent me the text, asking if I would complete a Half Ironman with her. Come to think of it, my emotional state was probably why I said yes without thinking it through. But crossing that finish line nine months later is one of the most prideful moments I’ve had in a very long time.
I looked inward.
My company recently incorporated employee engagement surveys at our corporate office. Some of the feedback suggested I needed to improve my management and leadership skills. Big time. First I cried. Then I got mad. Then I was defensive. But after self-reflection and coaching from people I trust and respect, I owned all of it. I realized much of the feedback was true, and some was simply perception that needed to be addressed. Either way, I had a lot of work to do… on me.
I walked away from a toxic relationship.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in other people that we can’t see how much they’re damaging our soul. But somewhere in the middle of therapy and hundreds of hours of triathlon training and self-reflection, I realized I deserve better. So I blocked someone in my phone. I unfriended and unfollowed them on social media. I stopped talking about them. I took away their power over me and gained so much self-respect.
I focused on my kids.
Last April, I took my kids on a spring break beach vacation. Just the four of us. I booked it, planned it and paid for it myself. I thought we were heading to a tropical location with 80-degree temperatures and sunshine for days. But high temperatures that week were mostly in the 40s and low 50s with lots of rain. I knew the kids would reflect my energy. So I made new plans and changed my expectations. And you know what? My littles had no idea our vacation was supposed to be anything different than what it was. We had the BEST time. That trip became a huge turning point for me when it came to learning how to connect with my kids emotionally.
I put myself first.
I knew if I stood a chance of crossing that Half Ironman finish line, I had to take better care of me. I focused on self-care – including eating better and sleeping more. I also built (or, in some cases rebuilt) positive relationships. I stopped settling and decided to spend my time doing what makes me happy. If a situation doesn’t have a feasible positive end-result or if my gut feels weird, I walk away. I’ve never felt more free
It’s worth noting none of this has been a straight line. It was messy and jagged with high points and super low ones. It also took time – more than 18 months – and a lot of really hard (and heart) work on my end. For real.
At one low point in the past year, I wanted to quit my job.
At another, I cried myself to sleep several nights in a row.
At yet another, I screamed at my mom and accused her of not being there when I needed her most.
And at another, I had a hard conversation with someone I'd hurt. Even though it brought that person intense pain, I was finally able to forgive myself and let go of massive guilt I’d held on to for years. I allowed myself move forward.
Therapy helped me work through all of those "things" from my past. It taught me how to sit with the hard stuff and how to do the heart work - to heal my heart from issues I'd avoided and not dealt with previously.
The heart work included lots of solo time. Instead of going out on empty dates or giving my energy to superficial relationships on weekends I didn't have my kids, I chose to stay home. It wasn't fun, but was what I needed at the time.
I write all of this because I know someone out there needs to read it. If someone you love is going through a hard time, please love them harder. They need you (even if they say they don't).
If you’re at the bottom and you feel alone, sad, scared or just plain pissed off, I get it. Those feelings seem to suck a lot more this time of year, but I promise it gets better. You will feel better and do better and be better and love better. It is possible to become a better version of yourself.
But you have to keep moving forward. You have to be willing to put in the heart work. And you have to know you're worth it.
WANTED: Full-time Kindergarten Parent Specialist. Must have experience dealing with massive amounts of administrative work on top of a full-time career + parenting schedule.
Responsibilities include: packing daily snacks (fruits and veggies only… school won’t allow anything else due to allergies), signing the damn planner every night, recording the number of minutes I read to my kid each day, checking for teacher emails, keeping tabs on the school Facebook page and dodging the sweet PTO moms. Must keep your cool at all times. Must not let anyone see you lose your shit. Serious inquiries only.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
It really felt like Kindergarten bliss. Kissing that big kid goodbye and watching him climb up those giant school bus steps last fall. I blinked back a couple tears that first day but was otherwise emotionally OK with the transition. Aside from a few six-year-old boy issues – you know, following directions and keeping his hands to himself – he was (and still is) so happy. He LOVES school.
But me? I am so damn overwhelmed!
I should have taken my first clue last fall when the PTO started sending emails and Facebook pleas for treats for teachers during parent-teacher conference week.
Ummmmm excusemewhat? Isn’t that why we do teacher Christmas presents and gifts at the end of the school year?
If I know I’m going to have a long, hard day at work, I pack my lunch. And snacks. Nobody bakes shit and rewards or thanks me for doing the damn thing and being (mostly) nice to people. It’s my job… and I get a paycheck every two weeks to prove it.
Do you know what I get after a long, hard day at work? Three kids. Who are hangry, tired and need my full attention. While I run around to get them all dinner (just getting everyone to agree on the same thing every night is agony), I might get to hover over the sink for a second to shove in a few bites of whatever I managed to whip up for their dinner. Who doesn’t love freezer burnt corn dogs and fresh apple slices?
Real talk: I sincerely believe our educators and PTO have the very best intentions. But I struggle with the fact that being a kinder mom is literally a second job after I work all day, do dinner, baths, lay out tomorrow’s clothes, brush teeth, read books and give 5,000 goodnight hugs and kisses. I cringe each night as I open my boy’s backpack to new paperwork, a new form to fill out, an invitation to the weekly tea party with the PTO (shoot me now), a reminder about a pajama or spirit day (don’t forget to bring $1 for charity!) or a plea to help in the lunchroom. I also know from conversations with other working (and stay-at-home) moms with kids of all ages, I’m not the only one feeling certifiably insane because of it all.
And before you think I’m trying to crucify or attack his teacher, principal or the school he attends, please understand I am not. I know their job is tough. I wouldn’t survive 10 minutes in a classroom of emotional, jacked up 5 and 6-year-olds. You’d find me curled up in a ball in the corner. Sobbing. Ugly crying. Begging for a barre class, a Starbucks latte and my mommy. Seriously.
Back to the PTO for a second. Three things:
And to give you a little idea of why the parent element of kindergarten is so exhausting, let’s take a look at this week as an example.
SUNDAY: Email from the PTO about ANOTHER frigging fundraiser (this time at Skyzone. Later this week..), a plea for help in classrooms (here’s looking at you, stay at home moms), an ask for parents to help with the school yearbook, a solicitation for box tops to raise money for the school, an invitation to next month’s adults only fundraiser auction and a request for auction donation items. Can I also mention the email I just got from my kid’s teacher less than a week ago, asking all parents to send in something for the classroom’s gift basket being auctioned off at the same fundraiser?
MONDAY: Email from teacher letting us know we need to send in 20 valentines next week. No Candy or Sweet Treats allowed! Ok, it’s Valentine’s Day. I get it. And I’m on it… kind of.
TUESDAY: Email from teacher about a biography due later this month. We need to work with our kindergartener to learn about an important African American either in the library or on the computer at home. He needs to draw a picture of that person and write a biography. So does his teacher realize I also have a 2 and 4-year-old? And it’s pretty much impossible to be on a computer with a bossy toddler in my face at all times? Just thought I’d throw that out there.
TUESDAY: Second email from teacher about supporting a fellow teacher (who I happen to know and adore) in her “Dancing with the Stars” fundraising mission for the local homeless shelter. All students are invited to “dress up like a star” TOMORROW. Freaking tomorrow. As in, this email jumped into my inbox at 4:12 in the frigging afternoon and I’m supposed to figure something out by 7 tomorrow morning. Oh yeah, and he needs to bring a dollar if he wants to participate. And... the class that raises the most money gets a special surprise. You’re killing me, smalls!!!!!
WEDNESDAY: Snow Day! Except… while my kid chills at daycare all day, I’m at work. Getting emails from his teacher about the eLearning assignments he has to do. Yes. Online homework during snow days. In Kindergarten. (I’m also fielding similar emails for my preschooler, for what it’s worth.) One line in the kinder email encourages parents to “get in some extra snuggle time” on the snow day. That part may have sent me into a brief rage while I was, you know, WORKING!!!! And I cried a little because I felt guilty for not being home snuggling my babies. But seriously. What in the actual?
WEDNESDAY: Facebook post saying today’s Dress Like a Star day is now moved to tomorrow. Cool. Except I’m drowning in eLearning and #momlife, so my kid is going to school in whatever mismatched sweatpants and ratty t-shirt he picks out for himself. “Don’t worry honey, you’re a star every day!” I told him as I ushered him onto the school bus Thursday morning. Thank God he’s six and still buys it when I say shit like that…
THURSDAY: No emails from teacher. Something must be wrong. What’s happening? But before you go getting all judgy-mcjudgerson on me, I’m not a total bitch. I did put together a gift basket from my work for the school auction today for my PTO mom friend to pick up.
THURSDAY: Wait for it… 9:57pm. A phone call, text and email from the school corporation (yes, I'm signed up for all 3). Apparently a snowpocalypse is imminent and tomorrow is another snow day. Yippee. And another eLearning assignment we get to do this weekend. Awesome.
FRIDAY: Today I expect an eLearning email from his teacher with instructions for the weekend. And then probably the weekly newsletter she sends most Fridays.
That’s no less than SEVEN emails in a week. On top of the school Facebook page and any other correspondence that comes home in his folder or planner.
I think someone omitted the kindergarten mom chapter from What to Expect When You’re Expecting. For real!
No one is holding a gun to my head, demanding I get involved. No one is making me feel guilty about the fact that I do nothing extra to help. While I sometimes feel bad that I can’t do more or help more, I seriously can’t. And last time I checked, I pay taxes to support the public schools my kids attend. So why are you asking me to collect box tops and come to the auction?
Look, my close friends already know I’m an absolute train wreck who puts up a good front. A guy friend recently told me, ‘You’re not a complete wreck… you just kind of careen real far to one side when the track takes a sharp curve and then you have to lean back really far to right yourself again.’
Ok, back to work now (aka prepping for my weekend of eLearning fun).
If you need me, I’ll be in deep hiding from all the ticked off teachers and PTO moms who read my blog. Come at me, bro!
I may also be writing. I just might go for that Kindergarten Mom How-To book. I swear that shit could be a best seller…
I sit down to write and the words won’t form. That’s foreign to me. I can always write. About my life. About someone else’s. About work. My kids. Anything. It’s my escape and coping mechanism. But for the past few months, I get a few sentences or paragraphs in and I go blank. I can’t finish what I so desperately need to get out.
It’s been a similar situation at work. I stare at my to-do list and find I’m unable to do anything for longer than a few minutes or, if I’m lucky, a whole hour before I crack. Before I close my office door and cry. Because facing anyone or trying to explain the situation isn’t worth their awkward reaction. It’s not worth making them feel bad because they don’t know what to say. And, quite frankly, it’s none of their business.
So then I try to run it out. As if I could outrun the reality that’s chased and haunted me for the past year and a half of my life. The night I broke the news to my parents, my Dad said, ‘You know, all this time I kind of wondered what or who you were running away from.’
Wait, what? You mean it’s not normal to suddenly take up running and – in the span of 18 months – complete four half marathons, four 10K races and three 5Ks, all while logging dozens of miles in training runs each month? But even that caught up with me. Call it burnout. Lack of energy. Emotional and physical drain. Whatever it is, I reached a point where I barely have the motivation to run at all these days. So I lace up my shoes, put in my headphones and then halfway through what should be six or eight miles, I stop. I give up. Because all I have the energy to do right now is walk. And I’m strangely OK with that.
I don’t return texts or phone calls or Facebook messages from friends in a timely fashion. If at all.
I don’t have the brain power to read through all the paperwork my 5-year-old brings home from school.
I do the basics and hope my kids won’t ever realize or remember how much of a mess I am right now.
Numb from pain and exhaustion. Paralyzed by emotions I finally forced myself to face. Scared by the silence of my new reality.
33 years old.
3 perfect, beautiful kids.
Chew on that for a second.
Divorce. I could stare at that word for hours and still not grasp what it’s done to my soul or how it turned my world into a tornado of feelings I struggle to comprehend.
When they find out, so many of our friends and family members want to know why. What happened? Who did what? Who’s to blame? Do I think I gave it all I had? The answers to all those questions are deeply personal and, for the most part, off limits. At least for me.
The man who was my husband for 8 years, 1 month and 5 days will tell you I’m “a tough case to crack,” because I don’t easily open up about what’s deep inside my heart. Sure, I’ll talk. I’ll give the surface rundown and keep repeating the same superficial, couched response that gets the point across.
It’s a long story, I’ll tell you when you’re older.
No, we don’t hate each other.
Yes, we’re on decent terms.
The kids are actually doing well. That’s what’s most important.
The most common reaction from people when they find out? “I’m sorry.”
And that one kills me. I’ve already heard it so many times. I know they don’t know what to say and sorry is the natural, awkward response. But I just want to look at them and ask, “Could you not be?”
Toward the beginning of the process, a close friend told me this would show who my real friends are. At first, I didn’t know what that meant. But now? If that ain’t the damn truth, I’m not sure what is.
I knew certain people had heard about what’s going on, and when they didn’t come to me – even with a Facebook message or an invitation to meet for coffee – it stung.
I guess I never really knew how much of an impact a simple text, email or phone call could have on someone going through this situation. I do now, though.
I know the value in having a friend ask, ‘Can I take your kids for a couple hours today? I know you need a little space to think and get things done.’
Or, ‘Can I bring you guys dinner tomorrow?’
Or, ‘I’m here. Whatever. Whenever. Wherever.’
Or, ‘Look, you don’t even need to respond, but I heard this was going on, I don’t know what to say other than you’re incredibly strong and loved more than you even know.’
We had a few (I can count them on one hand) neighbors and friends who did that. I’ll never be able to articulate a proper thank you to those people who just seemed to know what I needed on a particular day or time. Even if I never responded to their outreach.
As I sit in the quiet of the beginning of my new life – in transition between where I’ve been and where I’m going – I noticed the other night that I’m finally able to exhale. It sounds strange but for me, that’s progress.
During one of THREE mandatory parenting classes we attended during the divorce process, the instructor told us all to go home and find a box. She told us to fill that box with our anger, resentment, bad memories and any other negative thoughts or feelings about the person we were divorcing.
“Now I want you to find the most beautiful ribbon you’ve ever seen and tie up that box into the most gorgeous bow you’ve ever tied,” she continued, her voice growing soft. “And then, I want you to give that box back to the person you were married to. Give them back everything you’ve been holding onto for so long. Because you don’t need it. And if you’re ever going to move forward, you have to let all of that go.”
I felt my face grow hot as tears filled my eyes and ultimately spilled down my cheeks. That was the moment I realized I needed one Big. Ass. Box. And here’s the thing – filling it up is still a work in progress. Some days I throw in a bunch of shit just to drag it all out again. I never imagined how difficult it would be to truly let go of the negativity.
But I know l’ll get there. I’ll make peace with the past and be open to a future of happiness for my kids, myself and yes – the father of my children. They deserve it. I deserve it. And we’re all going to be OK.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...