Having to share your kids with your ex: why you never really get used to it.
I bow down to my six year old and whisper in her ear: ‘You are leaving, but mommy stays with you.’ She nods and puts her hand on her chest. ‘Because you are in my heart,’ she softly says, just like she always doest. I put my hand on my own chest and whisper: ‘And you are in mine.’ Then my four year old son and I give each other a ‘bear hug’, as we call it. And there they go. The car window opens, they wave and yell ‘Byyyyye mommy!’ They will wave once more, as the car goes around the corner, out of sight. I turn around and get back inside.
Confused and alone
The first year after their dad and I broke up, these moments would kill me. Now, after two years, I still have a lump in my throat when they go. The confused feeling when I’m removing their mugs and handicrafts stuff, turn off their music, holding unfinished drawings – not knowing whether to keep them or throw them in the bin. Sometimes it still feels like they are being pulled out of my arms, sometimes it still feels completely unnatural.
Even the house seems to miss them
In the subsequent days, my house still feels foreign and quiet, without the kids in it, even if my boyfriend is around often. The toys seem to be bored, the childrens books are stacked too neatly, their clothes feel empty, the doors of their rooms look at me with reproach. The whole house seems to wonder where these monkeys are at – just like the girls from next door (we share the backyard and the doors are always open) who are strolling around restlessly.
A thin layer of maturity
During the holidays, sometimes I don’t see them for a long time. Afterwards, I sometimes need to bridge something. Something that’s hard to fathom, but still tangible. As if a thin new layer appeared upon them – a layer of experiences and feelings that I haven’t been a part of. Sometimes, when I look at my youngest, it really seems like he has grown. That some of the baby fat has disappeared again, and I can see a trace of the big boy he’ll become in his eyes. I see the growth I’ve missed in my absence. But then, when he comes running towards me, it’s as if we were never apart. Until, a while later, he says: ‘Daddy? I mean… mommy?’
Later on, when I’m riding my bike with the two of them – one on the back, the other on the front – I feel my shoulders lowering. I sniff his little neck and feel her arm around my waist. When we go in and they throw themselves onto their toys, the house seems to sigh with relief. The world makes sense again.
Text: Susan Smit - Photo: London Scout