Every now and then I am struck by stupid grief.
This morning, I went out into my sunny garden to stretch a bit. I found a plastic container out there, one that my ex had written “baby oatmeal” on. And it broke my heart.
It’s been years since this container held baby oatmeal but I have this vivid picture of baby cereal, baby spoons, high chairs. My children aren’t babies anymore. When they were babies, their world still felt intact.
I don’t know what to do when I don’t know what to wish for. I don’t wish for a return to my marriage. I also don’t wish that I hadn’t had my children, though they were born into a failing marriage. But it’s hard to want this broken life for them. Their father and I have shared custody, and I miss them so much. And yet I’m so tired when I’m on my own with them that when I get extra longed-for time, I often wind up crabby or impatient and I fear I spoil it. I want them around all the time, but I want help bearing this household’s burden too. I want them around all the time, but I don’t wish their father out of their lives.
I can’t even feel guilt for my choices or decisions around the split, because growing up in an empty marriage wasn’t good for them either. It was not helping them become stable and secure or teaching them about love. There’s no clean and easy, black and white option here, no matter how my my mind casts about looking for one.
Last night, my daughter cried because she wanted to stay at the school’s open house that she had been so looking forward to. I had the time to stay–but it was her night to go home with her dad, and he needed to leave. My available time didn’t do her any good. I went to church to do a simple deacon task and felt grateful for the company of the youth group I encountered there. I went home alone.
My children’s foundation is gone. I keep hearing that this can be OK, that they can and will heal. I also have great hope that they can see better examples of marriage that will teach them better what love, warmth, and commitment are. I even feel hopeful that my own future will include such an example. But I’m terrified that another blow or loss will break them, and I can’t prevent that any more than I could prevent this first great loss.
For me, I can want the harder route. I can force myself to feel the grief, to feel the growing pains, even though I want to hide from them and it wouldn’t be hard to hide in my kids, in my work, in my friends, in my relationship. These things make me happy and they keep me busy. But I am growing into the more mature and complete person that I wasn’t before. I am learning how to be on my own. However, this breaking process hasn’t been a much-needed growing process for my children. It’s been a fracture. And I can’t change that or wish it into being something easily fixed.