About five years ago I was walking into a restaurant just off a major highway in Arkansas. I saw two cars parked out near the road with people standing near them. It quickly occurred to me what I was witnessing. It was a kid swap. These parents were divorced and lived far away from each other. This restaurant was their meeting location to get the kids from one parent to another. I saw one parent hugging them goodbye, and the other accepting them with additional hugs.
Of course, given my lack of marital problems at the time, My first thought was "How sad." Which was probably followed by "That will never be me.... Blah, blah, blah....."
Fast forward five years to yesterday at a restaurant parking lot in Dallas, TX, just off the highway. Two parked cars out near the road where I sadly hugged my boys goodbye, and sent them with their dad to Arkansas for three weeks.
I'm that person now, and I'm really going to miss them this time, and let me explain why I said 'this time.'
I love my boys with every ounce of my being. They have been my world for over eleven years now. I have put countless hours of blood, sweat and tears into them with everything we have been through these past five years. But here's the thing, when kids are going through something traumatic and life changing, it will usually make them do things like act out, throw fits, cop an attitude, and/or build up walls around themselves. I've seen all of these in my boys. Just when things would start to get better something else would happen and turn their world upside down all over again. If it wasn't the divorce, it was moving houses, then it was my engagement to be followed by the biggest change of all, moving to Texas, away from their dad, to a house and family they barely knew. You could say I've had almost five straight years of whining, griping, crying, talking back, and silent treatments. It could easily be one of those "If I had a nickel for every (fill in the blank)....."
Boy would I be rich!
After we first moved to Texas, the boys would go to Arkansas for a week or so, and I actually welcomed that time. I was still sad to say goodbye and missed them, but I will admit, it was nice to have the break. It was a time for me to kick back and know that there wasn't going to be any griping or back talking for a little while.
However, the past six months or so have been different. My boys are finally starting to understand what it means to have a stable home life. The whining has diminished significantly, the attitudes are being kept at bay and the walls are coming down. Friendships are being forged between them and David. Big brother/little brother relationships are now normal and not forced. And thankfully, the little boys are learning from David and the older boys that respecting Mom isn't an option. They needed to be taught that by someone other than me. Now I can say that not only do I love my boys, but I like them too. I enjoy their company. They are both so funny and have great personalities, carrying on a conversation with them is a joy instead of a chore.
So, yes, this time around is different, I'm really going to miss them. I cried when I said goodbye to them in the parking lot, and I've cried a few times since. It was hard to come back home without them. I need them in my life, I'm not complete without them. But, that's the trade off. For me to be able to live with them down here in south Texas, they have to have their allotted times in Arkansas. It will be that way till they are grown. That's just how it's going to be, and that's the worst part of the whole deal.
So, just a word to the wise, if you are ever the witness of a kid swap in a parking lot, don't have the thoughts that I had. Just pray for them, and thank God for not being in that situation.