This question has come from my son more frequently recently, and I find myself unable to say “No”.
Yesterday was my first day of leaving my new job and picking my son up from his abuela’s house and taking him home. At first, he asked “Is daddy coming?” and I had to reply “No, baby he isn’t”. He kind of frowned, but then sighed and said “Ooookay”. He then ran around the house, playing around, not wanting to get fully dressed. I spoke with his abuela and she said “You know, if you ever want to just leave him overnight, it’s fine”. I had to explain to her that it is important for me to spend time alone with him and bring him to my home, which is the home he has known most of his life.
I’m noticing he is showing a preference for being there. And why shouldn’t he? He has more family members there, grandparents are always nicer, and it’s far more stable. I told her that there may be some nights that I come and take him out for a few hours and bring him back, but for now, I’m working on getting him more used to going back and forth. Part of me wonders if I should be doing even that, since I plan to move at the end of the year.
Maybe during this time, he should have as little back and forth as possible. Maybe, I ought to put my own desires to stake my claim as an equal parent aside, and focus on creating more stability for him. Maybe, I do need this time to myself. I don’t know. I guess I need to discuss it further with his father after this week is done.
This is so hard. It makes me even more angry at things that transpired between his father and I that led to this point. I’m in a much better place now, and my life is going so wel in other areas, so I’m trying to not let any negative emotions take over right now.
But it’s still so hard.
So for now, if he wants to sleep with me when he is here, I will let him. He misses his Mommy and wants to feel my warmth and comfort as much as he can.I will give him whatever he wants and needs right now.
That’s what Mommies do.
My mother is Mary Poppins. Instead of the wholesome, semi-Technicolor British version in the form of Julie Andrews, think of a five foot, shrill-voiced, 50-something East African native with more energy than the Energizer bunny, more sass than Madea, and more financial savviness than a working stiff on Wall Street. All these things are ok because my life as an estranged wife, disorganized mother, harried grad student, and disgruntled teacher needs fine-tuning and my mommy is the woman—has been the woman—who has worked wonders in getting my life in check.
In May 2008, after getting my master’s, my kids and I moved back to New Orleans, Louisiana where I was born and raised so that I could complete my graduate education. I made a conscious decision to apply to only one of two schools (the one closest to my town) that offered a PhD in English literature because I wanted my children to be with their grandmother, my mom, who still lived in the orange-shuttered home we moved into when I was 13, while I toiled the hours away teaching and researching and becoming an academic tool. My mom, who retired post-Katrina, has been a godsend not only to me but also to my children. She’s right there waiting to pick up my daughter at 2:15 when I have an afternoon seminar twice a week. She’s right there taking the clippers from my hand because I’m worried I will hurt my son’s scalp when I give him a haircut and proceeds to cut his hair with nick-free precision. She’s right there in the backyard tending to her plants while the kids are next to her blowing bubbles, and I’m peeking from behind curtains watching them as I write a 20-pager. There is no better assurance than to know that my children are in great hands. And this does not mean that their father is a complete absentee. Our divorce and child custody proceedings have made things less than amicable between us (yeah, that’s an understatement), and he travels a lot. But we are absolutely committed to working as co-parents—that’s our joint New Year’s resolution for 2010.
Going through a divorce while attending grad school and teaching, in addition to trying to be the best mother I can be, has been the most difficult thing I have ever done (and I have gone through two C-sections, ladies and gents), and there are plenty of days where I swear I cannot do it, and on these days, I think about my children, and how healthy, happy, and brilliant my rugrats are, and I push forward. And I absolutely could not do it without my best friend, my rock, and my mommy—my very own Mary Poppins—in my corner.
We are so familiar with the negative statistics about Black children growing up without having both parents in the home. We know how negatively affected Black boys can be growing up in divided homes. I just can’t stand the thought of my son being so affected.
I began the new year away from my son. Since his father and I have split, we have worked out a custodial arrangement that has him going back and forth between us every few days or as schedules dictate. I’m not 100% certain this is the best idea, however, it is what has to work for right now.
This NYE, I wanted to be by myself. 2009 was insanely difficult and I needed the time to just be one with myself and bring in the new year freshly focused. However, I missed my son. Yes, he would have been asleep when the new year began, but I would have been awakened by his groggy voice saying “Good morning, Mommy” and I would have felt him climb into my bed, get under my covers and snuggle with me. It would have made me feel like my year was starting off on the right note.
But it wasn’t meant to be. I saw him later in the day and at one quiet moment, he whispered, “I missed you Mommy” and I said, with a hug, “I missed you too baby”.
I worry about how this divorce will affect him. We are so familiar with the negative statistics about Black children growing up without having both parents in the home. We know how negatively affected Black boys can be growing up in divided homes. I just can’t stand the thought of my son being so affected. His father and I have a very amicable relationship, especially when it comes to the children, but still I sense something is off. His babysitter told me that sometimes he would just sit in the corner quietly, or crying softly. Or maybe he would cry “I miss my mommy and daddy at home”. At 3, he shouldn’t have to deal with this. He should be thinking about colors, numbers, and spelling his name. I hate what we are doing to him. Really and truly.
For now, I do my best to stay connected. I have a new job, and that’s been absorbing a lot of my time and focus, but I’m doing my best to juggle this new position with being a great, dedicated mother. It’s harder than one not in this position can imagine. I suspect it would be a lot harder if I did not have such a good relationship with his father, or even moreso if his father were not around. But this is not what I planned for my son, so now I have to figure out how to make sure he doesn’t fall victim to any of the negative predictions our Black children face by virtue of them growing up in splintered homes.