A couple of months ago, our fat cat Patrick disappeared.
We went out of town for a couple of days and we never saw him again.
We searched the neighborhood, put up signs, and put out an alert on Facebook.
It sucked. He had been with us since the summer of 2002, while we were childless, in school, and living in the ghettos of Baltimore.
But ultimately, he’s a cat. Not a child or a parent.
Everyone wanted to know how the kids responded to his disappearance.
Honestly? I think they took their cues from me.
I acknowledged that it was sad that he was gone. I spoke fondly of his sweet nature and monstrous appearance.
I also shared my suspicions that he was probably dead.
Cats do that. They go off in the night and find a comfortable place to die. It’s the circle of life, y’all.
Sydney’s five. Dylan’s three. They don’t really understand death. They’ve been told that it means you will not see that person/pet again. They may not really understand that death means you will NOT EVER EVER EVER see that person/pet again. But that’s okay; they don’t need to understand that right now.
I guess I thought the separation would be kind of like that.
If I remained calm and positive and relaxed, they would too.
If I presented Daddy’s absence from our home as simply “this is what we’re doing now” instead of classifying it as some life-changing event, they’d absorb it slowly and it would become a non-issue.
Kinda like that time we canceled cable and stopped buying as much junk food.
We missed it at first, but then we gradually learned to like PBS and low-calorie popcorn.
It turns out, however, it’s not daddy they miss.
They were used to Daddy working until 6:30 or 7:00 pm during the week. He was on-call two weekends per month and would often go in to see patients during weekend afternoons. While he was gone, we’d all snuggle on the bed during naptime and plan what activity we’d do when Daddy got home. Maybe go for a walk? Buy that birthday gift for a classmate? Go get some ice cream? Find a playground?
Aside from infrequent trips to the grocery store unencumbered by children or my monthly book club, they spent the majority of their non-school/non-daycare hours with ME.
While daddy was around, SO WAS I. Having Daddy around was a bonus; for those few hours every week, they’d get Mommy AND Daddy.
Now, they are whisked away to the “new” house to spend time with Daddy.
A Daddy who now comes home at 5:00 or 5:30 pm on Tuesday and Wednesdays; “his” days. Mommy gets Monday and Thursdays, and Thursday is go-to-dance-come-home-eat-do-homework-and-go-to-bed day.
Our time after school on “Daddy days” feels rushed; hurry-up-and-do-something-fun. Get-your-homework-done. Eat-this-food. Pack-some-things-to-take-to-Dad’s.
They know it SHOULD be awesome. They can’t quite put their finger on why it seems to suck.
They can’t quite figure out why one parent moving out means feeling as though they’re losing BOTH parents.
Sydney clings to me sometimes with this desperate look on her face. She wants to be carried. She holds on to my hand. She stops playing with her friends at the playground in order to sit on my lap for a few minutes.
She always seems to be dreading the next time that we’ll be parted.
But because she’s 5, and she loves her Daddy, and she WANTS to spend time with him, she doesn’t understand why she feels so bereft.
She’s learning that there is a price to spending time with Daddy.
Every minute she spends with Daddy is one less minute she spends with Mommy.
She misses Daddy being home.
She misses her mommy, period.
I miss not feeling resentful.