At 5:30 Saturday morning I left my children at an airport with their father. The kids are spending the summer overseas with him, and I won't see them for 10 weeks. Pass offs never get any easier, especially when the separation is so long, and my emotions are like a ping pong ball bouncing all over the place. This is what the first day after a co-parent pass off for an entire summer looks like:
5:30 am: I stand by my car at curbside drop off with tears streaming down my face, waving at my 8-year-old daughter through the sliding glass door as she cries and waves back. Her father must have called her name because I watch her turn and walk away. I stare at the empty space for 5 long seconds before walking to my car and driving home alone.
5:45 am: My drive home parallels the beach where I frequently go to watch sunsets, and the colorful sky reminds me how early it is. I have nowhere to be, so I pull over and watch the sunrise. Sitting in my normal sunset spot but facing the opposite direction, I realize I had never seen the sun rise from this beach I had been to a hundred times before. It is awesome.
6:00 am: I cuddle with my boyfriend and my dog, and I cry.
6:15 am: I call my mom. And I cry.
6:30 am: Time for action! Strip the kids’ beds. Start a load of laundry. Put away Xbox remotes and school backpacks and stray Nerf darts and dirty socks. Start a list of things to buy in 9 weeks before the kids come home. Throw away all the random clutter the kids told me not to throw out “yet” because they’re gone now and in 10 weeks they’ll never remember the shoebox filled with cut up pieces of cardboard or the year-old Dave and Busters tickets they found two days ago or the paperclip necklace that kept mysteriously showing up after I disassembled it. And pencils. Where did all these pencils come from?!
7:00 am: I’m exhausted. Crash on my deck with coffee, a book and Facebook sympathy and support.
8:00 am: I have to get up and move! Another load of laundry. Tidy daughter’s room. Trash more random kid junk.
8:15 am: I’m exhausted. Crash on the couch with a book and my foot spa. Is this day over yet?
9:00 am: Kids call during a layover. They sound so far away.
9:15 am: Have to get up and move! Another load of laundry. Hang Nerf guns on designated hooks. Clean son’s bathroom. Trash more kid junk.
10:00 am: Have I eaten anything since the banana at 4:30 this morning? Tropical Smoothie run. Surely this super healthy smoothie and questionably healthy breakfast wrap will energize me and put my day on track for mega productivity!
10:30 am: The food failed to energize me or generate mass productivity. Back on the deck with more coffee and a book. My brain isn’t processing what I’m reading. I watch the kids swimming at my apartment complex’s pool below. Just two days ago it took me 15 minutes to drag my daughter out of the water. As we walked home she said, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her I realized she was having fun with her friends but it was time to shower and get ready for bed. “No, Mom,” she said. “I don’t want to leave you for the summer.” That was when the real tears started for both of us.
11:30 am: I’m taking a bubble bath. Not a typical Saturday morning activity for me, but today hasn’t exactly been typical.
12:30 pm: Overheated and totally relaxed from the bath, I let myself take a snoozer.
1:45 pm: Feeling a bit more human after a nap and a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. I look at my planner and sigh at the extensive list of to-do’s I created for myself days ago, anticipating I would need distractions from the emptiness I knew I would feel. But I know not a single item will be checked off that list today.
2:00 pm: Back on the deck with coffee and a book. I contemplate going to the pool, but it’s crowded and my introverted tendencies are on high alert.
2:30 pm: Deck to couch to kitchen to bathroom to deck to kitchen to deck to couch. TV on, tv off. I should go somewhere, leave the house. I should stay home, I’m exhausted. Music on, music off. It’s not so much the silence that makes me unable to sit still. It’s the lack of their presence.
4:30 pm: Boyfriend and I settle on the couch for a night of binge-watching the new season of “Orange is the New Black.” After the first episode, he picks up sushi so we can eat and watch in our comfy pants. I’m not going anywhere the rest of the day.
7:30 pm: On our way to the beach! I realize I’ve never watched both the sun rise and set in the same day from the same spot on my favorite beach.
7:50 pm: Daughter FaceTimes! The kids reached their destination safe and sound. Tween son is too cool to chat, but daughter looks tired, happy and beautiful.
8:26 pm: Sunset.
8:45 pm: Back in comfy pants. One more episode of OITNB. Wine.
10:00 pm: Time for bed. This tough day is over, and tomorrow it’s time to end my pity party. Daughter’s room will become the staging area for vacation packing. Meal planning will begin that includes more grown-up food and less chicken nuggets and squeezable yogurt. A new routine that includes exercise, guitar practice and writing will fill the hours I’d normally spend wearing my mom hat.
I know the summer will fly by. I know my kids will have fun. I know I’m allowed to have fun too. And I know I need to spend this time reenergizing and doing things I can’t do when my kids are around. Let the summer begin!