“What!?! I’m going to Dad’s for 9 days?! 9 WHOLE DAYS?!”
As winter break ensued two weeks ago for the school district, as always, I had to make plans for my daughter’s long three week vacation. And, as always, I secured one week off for the holidays to spend with her, but the other two remained up for grabs. Unlike always, this year her dad received a full two weeks off from work. With visits few and far between for Maycee and him, we agreed that since he had her for Christmas this year, he would keep her through New Year’s Eve, and I would pick her up on New Year’s Day.
Maycee considered this carefully. “Mom, how many days is that?”
“I think it’s about 9 days.” (I knew it was exactly 9 days.)
“MOM, THAT’S NINE DAYS…NINE DAYS!!!!” The caps do not emphasize excitement and jubilation, just sayin’.
That said, it was not intended as Christmas coal….it was intended to be a time for both Maycee and her dad to be together. Never during the course of the past 8 years of separation and divorce has her dad spent more than 3 days with her. In fact, a typical visit every 6 to 8 weeks consists of about 32 hours. It was time….time for Maycee to grin and bear it, time for her dad to step up, and time for me to get a break.
For 9 days.
We celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas two days early. It was a wonderful time spent with makeshift family (friends), and besides the dates being slightly off, one would never had known it wasn’t actually Christmas. Santa came and everything (Yes, I still believe.)
On the “real” Christmas Eve I traveled to Southern Cali to drop off my bewildered child at her dad’s house….new bunny in tow, at least. I kissed and hugged her good-bye, telling her to make the most of it all and to have fun and enjoy some much-needed down time. I ventured to my mom’s for the evening, Day 1, then home on Christmas Day-Day 2.
Over the years being without my daughter on Christmas has not gotten easier. There is something melancholy that sinks down deep. It was quiet. The drive was quiet. My home was quiet. I decided to keep my shift at the barn and work, which at least took up some of the afternoon and evening. Settling in later under a warm blanket I felt really alone, although I knew that wasn’t the case.
One quick message from Maycee before bed…Christmas was fine, but long day and boring. Love you, Mom.
Text messages flooded the cell phone waves.
Mom, I am SO BORED. I’m watching TV in my room and playing on my phone. I already played with the bunny. Dad isn’t feeling well. This is terrible.
I felt a little bit of terrible, too, only because the loneliness was still heavy in my heart. I reponded with a positive
Well, it’s good to do nothing sometimes. It’s only been a couple of days, so cheer up.
I proceeded to take my own advice and stay in my jammies for half the day before working at the barn again. I cannot remember the last time I stayed in bed watching movies until noon. Many, many, MANY years ago-if EVER. Then I got to ride a new horse at our barn, Traveler. He was such a good boy!
After work I went on a dinner date with my neighbor, who’s been trying to kindle a relationship with me the past few months. It was nice. I began to feel my loneliness subsiding and my freedom reaching the surface.
Mom, I wanna come home. I am so bored. I miss my horse. I’m WASTING MY VACATION here!
Maycee, you will have to deal with this. I’m sorry. It’s either stay there or go to winter camp, which I know you don’t want to do.
Fine. It’s okay. I’m just mad.
I cleaned up Christmas stuff, did laundry, took the dog for a much-deserved long walk, worked at the barn again, and went to dinner with my bff-another “me” thing I wanted to do. Grown-up girl time.
As a single mom living away from family, it is rare that I am not with my kid. Now that she is getting older she spends more time with friends, has sleepovers once in awhile, but typically those sleepovers are at our house. She rides her horse on her own when we are at the barn and likes to do her own thing there without my hovering. In general, with child, I have more freedom now, certainly, than I did when she was younger.
But, true freedom to just be me, seperate from the mom-me, to do a few things I enjoy on my own, to be meditative, watch tv shows I enjoy, splurge on dinners out, or go to grown-up movies is a small gift. A necessary one, in my opinion, for I believe we are better mothers the more we harness who we are individually.
Back to work I went, and I was glad. I love my work, love the people there, love my job, love my routine. That evening I simply stayed home, bundled up, and watched my newly installed Netflix after chatting for a couple of hours with my roommate who returned after the holidays.
“I wondered how you were handling Maycee being gone, ” she said. “It’s such a long time.”
“Yeah, takes me a couple of days to get used to it…and, this IS the longest she has ever gone for a visit. I think it’s good, though….good for both of us.”
Maycee and I also talked on the phone,
“I am so tired of screens, Mom! I am tired of looking at my phone and watching tv A LOT, so I decided to get busy while dad slept this morning. I washed and put away the dishes and cleaned the house, and then we went out to return some stuff.”
“Wow, way to go, kiddo! How nice of you to do that and a great idea to occupy your time being helpful!”
I was beaming inside, proud of my girl for taking the reigns, so-to-speak.
Movie night! Freedom mode was in full swing. I invited my neighbor to join me for a movie after work, which just happened to be playing at the old theater in town, my favorite.
Tonight after work and the barn I will go shopping for a belated Christmas gift for my neighbor. I asked him during our dinner on Day 3 what he got for Christmas, and he said, “Nothing.” Oh, this made me so sad. I decided right then I was getting him something. Everyone deserves a gift at Christmastime!
Maycee is spending the day with my mom and step-dad, and taking a riding lesson with an instructor I know down south. I am sure she is having a wonderful day, hallelujah.
New Year’s Eve.
I have a date. With my neighbor….again. But, I HAVE A DATE.
Let Freedom ring!!!!!!!!
I haven’t gone out or done anything besides watch Time Square on tv for several years, celebrating with Martinelli’s and seeing if Maycee makes it to midnight (longest she has made it is 11:15).
This will be interesting and fun–dinner out and live music in a little seaside town. Holy cow, I have no idea what to think, except, what should I wear? Oh, ya, jeans and boots…that’s all I own! E.A.S.Y.
New Year’s Day.
I will pick Maycee up, and while I’m already grateful for the time I’ve had alone, I am also grateful to be the mom of one special young lady who I miss tremendously. Who year after year, traded holidays or not, makes every struggle or stumble worth it.
Once home the world will be right again. Maycee will forget she had rough patches, I will forget I needed a break. Life will return to normal as we embark on 2016.
Nine days have certainly been good reminders about the role I love and hold dearly: Single Working Mom. Nine days have reminded me I wouldn’t trade places with anyone for anything.
Nine days have reminded me of the myriad of blessings I experience ad infinitum.
Maycee has stopped the mad texting about 9 days. It has been hard to stay steadfast in the plan, hard not to rescue her from being unhappy in the moment, knowing that while she may be unhappy, she is not unsafe or uncared for-she is loved.
As much as I like to believe this break was a good lesson for my kid, it was most definitely a good lesson for me, and that, Readers, is a win-win!
So, plan for breaks, take some needed time for yourselves, and welcome in the New Year with NEW HOPES AND DREAMS. And, don’t forget to give a chuckle!