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My girls are having a magical summer. It has included a trip to Mexico with their dad, stepmom, and stepbrother to celebrate his high school graduation. Then they hit the water slides in the Wisconsin Dells with me for our annual family vacation with my parents, my sister and her family. They were home one day before packing up and heading to their annual summer camp for the fourth consecutive year. Now they are spending a week in Yellowstone National Park for the first time with their paternal grandparents excitedly telling me in nightly phone calls about where the buffalo roam. To round their summer off, their dad’s parents will pass them to mine to spend a week in Oregon.
They are literally tugged in different directions week after week. They are spoiled and spent. They are happy and homesick. They are well-traveled and tested. It is a carefree time but not without challenge as they navigate being away from home for so many days. They miss their pets, their friends, and always one of their parents and some weeks both.
On the flip side, while they are having the summer of a lifetime, in all of their plans, it left me with four weeks in a six-week period without them. I had not processed that when I was doing the division several months ago and coordinating the calendar with my co-parent. We were focused on making sure everyone had time during the precious summer weeks without school and soccer schedules to manage. Gone are the days of one family vacation.
Divvying the days and dividing the already divided is part of being a divorced parent. We sacrifice time spent with our children repeatedly throughout the years. It leaves us to battle our selfishness and sadness in wanting more time and being unable to have it. It requires us to learn how to focus on the big picture. Are we more interested in dominating their days or fostering their relationships with all of their family? Are we willing to extend the olive branch to their opposite side extended family for the sake of allowing our children to be well-loved by so many? Are we okay with a summer of partial solitude to ensure their growth in having experiences without us?
In looking at our intentions and what we want most for our children, we are able to peel away the layers of parenthood and dig deeper into doing what our children need – to find who they are. They need too learn to travel this world at home and away without us. I should be grateful for so much practice, because in the end it makes time spent at home together all the more sweet.