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February 26, 2010

After spending all or part of ten consecutive days (a record!) with my beloved, thanks to a great deal of creative commuting between his apartment, his job, and my house, I am back home again, with only my children and my mild-mannered professor tenant for company. “Winter break”, a newfangled week-long hiatus in school calendars (a revolting development of which I highly disapprove), coupled with what should, at this point, really be called snow sabbaticals instead of mere snow days, meant that various children were also shuffled back and forth during the ten-day multi-city extravaganza. It was like the brain-teaser about the fox, the duck, the sack of grain, and the boat that can only carry one of them at any given time across the river. And we pulled it off. Neither the duck nor the grain got eaten, and everyone’s safely on the other side. Bit of a letdown, really, after all the excitement. But then it always is.

It always takes me a day or two to get used to my life again–and by this I mean the life I live in my house, with my children, a hundred miles away from where my boyfriend lives his life. I walk in the front door, after the two-hour drive home (which I rather enjoy). The house is cold, and silent, and a mess. I will have meant to accomplish certain things while I was gone that I will not have accomplished, and there will be things I can only cope with from home that rear their ugly heads again the minute I return. It is always later in the day than I meant it to be. The best way to tackle this dispiriting tableau would be to rush right in and start doing something mindless and productive, like laundry. Unfortunately, I gravitate toward the opposite of laundry–I drop whatever bag I hectically stuffed with clothes before I left in the middle of the floor, and collapse on the sofa. And begin to wallow in bad feelings. I miss my boyfriend, and then I hate myself for missing him. When he calls, as he always does, to make sure I’ve arrived home safely, I am brusque and dismissive. I hang up as quickly as possible, and lie on the sofa resenting his concern. Of course I’ve arrived home safely! What does he take me for? Though the interstates are dangerous, as everyone knows. I risk my life every time I drive to visit him–and if I were killed, who would suffer? My children! Poor innocents, whose mother’s boyfriend endangers their happiness every week, by virtue of living so far away!

Enter children, home from school, stage left. Christ, is it already that time? Another wasted day, no work done, bad mood in full bloom. The children, after several days in the alternative universe that is their father’s house (where bedtime is late, supper is quesadilla, television is constant, and loud indoor noise is no problem) have their own transition issues. I suggest that they vanquish their angst with something mindless, yet productive–like laundry! Instead, they compete with each other to see who can cause me to lose my temper the fastest.

The evening is not complete without tears. Someone’s door is slammed, someone is grounded, someone hates me, someone else sides with his brother against me. My older son reacts to separation in a complicated, unnerving way–despite his age, he is the one who collapses most spectacularly when we have been apart. The little one is still just clingy, and sweet, and able to crawl into my lap and kiss me and say that he missed me and is happy to see me. Yeah, I missed you too, kid. Is it bedtime yet?

When I walked through my front door this most recent time, my heart sank. I hate this place, I thought. It doesn’t feel like home. It feels like exile.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2010 12:29 am

    An honest and painful post. “Yeah, I missed you too, kid. Is it bedtime yet?” Been there, thought that, felt guilty about it. How can we love our children so desperately but just not want to spend that much time with them?

  2. Kate permalink
    February 27, 2010 1:45 am

    Thank you for being so honest. We love our children but my heart has sunk too when I know the time for me is over. That transition period is hard all round. Because when we do have them it’s all on us … The physical care. Emotional care, the thinking, planning and doing.

  3. Sarah B permalink
    February 27, 2010 1:40 pm

    Without the kids, that reminds me so much of the going back and forth of my long-distance relationship. My husband and I used to have the same phone issue. He would call repeatedly, and I would just want space to get over the emotional hump of being physically separated again.

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