No matter what I do that I know will be hurtful to her, and no matter how much I find hurtful in what the Leaver says and does I still can’t get over a deep, over-abiding sense of pity.
Now she would hate this. Pity is the harshest of insults and it doesn’t take a psych course in your past to leap and say “aha! that is precisely vye you pity her!” (with faux Viennese accent and all.)
But the pity is not about us. At least I hope I can beat down the ego enough to say it’s not because I think I’m just such spectacular boyfriend and I pity her for her loss of me. I have no doubt that it is utterly possible that she could find a better relationship than the one we had. (But a shout out to all the single ladies in the house…. actually, I am a spectacular boyfriend and if you are sex starved, find a deep satisfaction in cleaning house and have an even passing resemblance to Zoe Deschanel, let’s chat off-line.)
My pity is precisely because she missed the wart freezing. And the impromptu light saber fight in the backyard. And being the one who makes the lunches too. The stuff that happens in normal times and being ultimately responsible for them.
A woman who’s thinking of breaking up with her husband and moving out, shared with me her blog. (matchpenalty.wordpress.com/)
And I just want to scream out to her —- don’t do it! Of course you might have to, people do, it happens. But if at all possible, really don’t. The price is too high, what you miss out on is too high. Apportioned parenting is just not the same thing.
Think back on your childhood. Now there are exceptions, but most people only have real conscious consistent complete memories of their childhood from about age 7/8 on. Some not really till older than that 10 or so.
I’m not talking about the fleeting moments that you remember to your friend who exclaims with the Viennese accent “Aha! that is vye you have a phobia ov turtles!”
I’m talking about the point where you really started to feel like yourself. In miniature, sure. Incomplete, forming, but still the beginnings of your adult self. You start your first likes and dislikes, your first fandom for music or sports team or TV show, something of which sticks for life. Your first teacher, book, big trip, that made an impression on you. This the age when the grownups form summary descriptions of that early you; “when you were that age you were always running/drawing/reading/eating/tinkering….” and on and on.
I am talking about consciousness and some who are a little more freudian than me may ascribe much more significance on the pre-remembering childhood self. Fine. But surely the conscious bit is really, really important too.
So to compromise somewhere between age 8-9 which puts us at grades 3-4 (for me grade 5/6 is more accurate) the consistent conscious thread of existence that ties you between your present and past self, begins.
Now think about that time till who you are now and ask yourself how long were your parents the primary influence on your life?
I’m not talking abstract legacy stuff here and values. I’m talking about day-to-day influence on what you watched, what you listened to, what you ate, when you slept, got up, what you did (sports, entertainment, work etc).
Till you went away to university?
I’d venture to say a lot earlier than that.
I’d say for most people the parental influence as prime influence stopped long before that. When was it that your peers took over in areas of taste, consumption or desire to consume? When did you start eating a lot of your meals outside of the home? When did you get your first boyfriend/girlfriend and your whole world was wrapped around that? Or there was an influential coach or teacher or even boss?
My guess is for most its no later than sixteen, (for me about 15 years of age) for quite a few its earlier.
Sure your upbringing always matters, and there are times when your parents come back into your life and have huge influence. But to what extent they’re able to do that is a legacy of a very short time that you consciously remember when your parents were your entire world.
So take those two points: start of consciousness, end of daily parental influence and how many years have you got in between? Maybe 8 years? I think counting on 10 is really stretching it. For some kids maybe as little as 5.
And that’s it.
You have your children for your entire life, yes. But really what does that mean? How long do parents really rule and make the big difference?
Thus the pity.
I don’t think my son will have much memory at all of his mom being in his daily life. Being a mom.
For my daughter there will be this break looming large.
She will always be there, she will always be their mother. But so much opportunity is lost when your parenting is apportioned. When you’re not part of the banal, the routine, the spontaneous, the casual and unexpected moments of everyday life.
There’s the rip-off. Its one the Leaver is doing to herself, because she genuinely believed that because they would come to spend some nights a week with her, that the relationship would be the same. We may think we can divide our parenting but they can’t divide their childhood. They won’t keep half the stuff they like at another house. They can’t feel as at home in two places — one they are visiting, the other is their home. And they can’t divide authority.
Its a dangerous game to generalize from your own children, but I think they are looking for one source of authority and influence. When you live in the same house, then its the “parents” and if you’re both involved and generally at home at the same time (i.e. one isn’t at the office at all hours, or constantly on business trips), the two parents are both the authority together. The kids try to divide and conquer sometime, but because for the most part you are together and keep a unified I think they consider the adults in the home as a single unit.
The other parent who’s left, gets an asterisk attached to them as parent. As my friends who have gone through the single parenting thing already have warned me an it seems to be manifesting in my reality, there is primary custody. The kids know who that is instinctively and crave it. And it is very, very difficult to divy that up. Particularly in the early years when they expect that authority and influence.
It is hubris to thin that you as an adult that you can apportion their childhood to your adult needs.
How can anything be worth that loss? That loss of not just influence and authority but the connection and trust that is the corolory to that.
I suppose it was to the Leaver. Or she conceived that it was — after all that was he decision. But I cannot conceive anything that is worth that price.
Honestly, it strikes me as profoundly foolish, and deeply sad.