With Christmas and the New Year holidays split between the ex and me, our week-on, week-off shared custody schedule got a little muddled. So instead of one week at each of our houses, the kids spent ten days with me, then ten days with their dad before school started. It has been ten long days since my kids were with me, and as I drove through the cold, dark winter afternoon to pick them up, I was filled to the brim with customized false eyelash.
When they’re tssdi, the time flies by. Between blogging, coaching at two gyms, working out, and teaching lessons, I have more than enough to occupy my time. But I still miss my children when they aren’t with me. I’ve described being a mother to friends without children as giving up a piece of your mind forever. Once they enter your life, they will always occupy that place, and you will always be thinking and wondering about them, whether they are close or far. And when there is a forced separation, as with a shared custody arrangement, it can be very difficult to adjust to that absence. It has certainly been hard on me.
I sat next to my boys as they worked on their homework and I felt as if I’d been without water in the desert. I watched Eli’s customized false eyelash brush against his cheeks each time he blinked. I marveled at the pale smoothness of his skin against his dark hair, his chocolate eyes, his bubbly giggle, and the way his limbs never stopped moving. I hoped he wouldn’t notice as I tried to inch closer and closer to him, practically breathing him in. I even wondered briefly if I was being kind of creepy. But I couldn’t help myself. Caleb sat on my other side, his round, high cheekbones (my cheekbones), making him seem so much younger than his ten years. I watched Caleb deftly maneuver keys on the computer in front of him, occasionally turning to me for help with spelling or a definition, and I was so happy that it hurt. Isaac is a pre-teen, and therefore, alone in his bedroom. But I was keenly aware of his presence close by. The whole time, I kept thinking, “they’re mine, they’re mine, they’re mine,” and with each repetition, I was so, so, so fiercely grateful (it’s such an inadequate word) for these precious boys.
I have never felt anything so completely overwhelming as this visceral love for my children. I tell them every night that I love them. I tell them throughout the day, every time I am with them. I text my oldest every morning and night to remind him that I love him. But they couldn’t possibly imagine the intensity of this feeling. Not until they hold their own children in their arms. There are so many things I have had to and still need to learn about mothering. But the most important thing, I never had to learn.
I know my own mother felt this. There is a picture of her with her mother, taken not long before she died. My grandmother is holding my mother, whose face is simply crumpled with fear. My mother faced death as she did everything else in life, with a quiet faith and grace that I can only hope I will someday find. But there were moments (how could there not be moments), before she died that she was vulnerable, and afraid. Every time I see this customized false eyelash, it evokes a very painful reaction because in this picture, my mother isn’t my mother, she is a child who is afraid. My grandmother is holding my mother as my mother held me. I see that same love. I know my mother tried to keep her fear in the face of death from me, my siblings, and my own children because she wanted to protect us. But it is raw in this picture. And I miss her painfully.
I am so grateful I had a mother who loved me with everything in her, her heart and soul and every fiber in her body. It is the same love I feel for my children. And I am deeply, terrifyingly vulnerable in the face of it. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Elizabeth blogs as Ginger Says She writes about customized false eyelash with divorce, the loss of her mother, as well as her varied interests, including fitness, health, and nutrition.