My fingertips were bleeding. It had been a while since I pulled the weeds that like to peek through my patio bricks, and my temper with the boys was short, so I spent a couple hours with that task. Earlier in the day I faced the relentless reminders that Sundays are falling out of sorts with me again, and that worries me a bit. For a long time Sundays were the worst, but they got better and more tolerable, until recently when they started to go downhill again. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that the boys and I haven’t seen eye to eye in a few weeks, and maybe by Sunday afternoon we’ve had just about enough of each other. I don’t know.
They really are wonderful kids. They don’t fight or argue with each other, and the closest they get to complaining is the pouty faces when I tell them we have to run to the grocery store. I’m bothered by the thought that they are reluctant to challenge me because I may be unpleasant to be with sometimes, and that’s all on me. I forget that they are probably too young to be able to adequately process the reasons for my frustrations with them, and I worry that I’m asking too much of them. I don’t imagine there’s a good age for your mom to die, but even if there is, I can pretty much guarantee that it isn’t when you’re 7 and 9. I don’t want to make them grow up any faster than they should, but I still have no idea where the line is between being a kid and helping me get through every day. I know there is more asked of them than any of their friends, and that has nothing to do with taking out the trash.
I was reminded a few days ago that they have their own life and challenges they struggle with every day. Learning new things at school and growing physically and socially, while still keeping one foot behind for fun things like playing with pillow pets and video games and reading Garfield comics. I never really thought how their everyday is probably, in its own way, just as stressful as my everyday. I forget that their everyday has that tinge of losing their mom, whether they realize it or not. I forget that they’re still just 9 and 11.
We sat down this evening and talked about taking a few steps back and regrouping. We discussed the things that were losing direction and tried to come up with ways to get the easy things back on track. We agreed to make some changes in hopes that we could make effective use of our time without leaving ourselves alone on an island, as it were.
Bear with me while I switch gears a bit to give some background to this.
I’ve recently found love and happiness with a wonderful woman who has three children of her own. She’s nearing the end of a rather difficult divorce, and she has absorbed a lot in hopes of protecting her children. “They never asked for this,” she’d say. “They don’t deserve this.” And no, they didn’t, and no, they don’t. She ran blocker all summer for her kids, and because of her nature, because she always looks and hopes for the best of everyone, she had to absorb a lot of abuse, for lack of a better word. Her optimism and joie de vivre are what attracted me to her initially, but it was her willingness to share her pain and weakness with me that made me fall in love with her and appreciate her that much more. She lives for her kids, but sometimes she needed to ball herself up in my arms and cry, and sometimes I think that’s what saved her and kept her at it. That and an occasional bout with brutal honesty I gave her. And now, I think, the sun is beginning to shine for her again.
I tell you this because I admire how much her life is about her children. She doesn’t get a lot of free time for herself, and when she gets some semblance of that, she’s wrestling the pile of laundry that buries her dining room table or building a pool in her back yard. She even became a runner, because even just sitting around for 40 minutes isn’t good enough. This is not a bad thing. I do not live my life like that with regard to my kids. If they are here and in the playroom, that’s always been good enough.
But it isn’t good enough. Sundays aren’t for laying on the couch and watching football all day. They visit their grandparents regularly but essentially, there is just me here for them. I’m running blocker for them every single day – not from a person recklessly finding their own way, but from me finding my own way, and life pushing them in all new directions. My time isn’t all mine, and the longer I ignore acceptance of that, the longer and more difficult my days will be with them.
And Sundays will never get better.