I saw him as I rounded the corner on the way to my car. He was near sprinting in his suit. “Did Anna go in already?” he asked. “I don’t think so,” I replied as I looked over my shoulder to check and saw the last of her classmates enter the wide front doors. It was the first day of school. It was the first time he missed it. “Sophia is still out there,” I said trying to be helpful. “Thanks,” he replied as he walked briskly by to wish our youngest a good day.
I had triumphantly made it through the morning of dropping off my now 7th and 5th grade daughters without shedding a tear. Now as I slid into my driver’s seat, I could feel the familiar prick at my eyes. He had tried so hard. He had driven 45 minutes out of his way on a busy Monday morning to make sure his girls knew that he cared. He had shown up.
This sadness is a nuance of divorce. Had we still been married, neither of us would ever be at risk for missing these moments with our daughters. We would have both been in the house when they delightfully awoke at 6:15 a.m. with excited energy and enthusiasm. We would have both heard their incessant chatter about their new teachers, new schoolmates, and new classes. Instead, I was the only one to hear and see any of it, while their dad was stuck in traffic clear across town trying to get to the school on time.
Add this to the list of the alternating holidays, the vacations, the first moments divorced parents miss out on by virtue of the fact that they no longer live in the same household. Nothing makes it easier. Nothing eases the pang in the heart when you miss a special moment your children experience.
So what do we do instead? We show up. We sprint to get there if we need to. And as co-parents we should do all that we can to support each other in not missing out on anything more than absolutely necessary.
My heart ached for my ex-spouse, the father of my daughters, because despite his best efforts he had missed one of those moments – missed snapping a photo of his daughters together and telling his way-too-grownup 7th grade daughter to do good today.
When I picked my girls up at the end of their school day to hear all about it before they went to their dad’s that evening, Sophia shouted out happily that dad had come. Anna was surprised and said, “Oh he did? I missed him?” I told her that yes he had come a second after her class had gone into the school. Anna said, “I am sad I missed him but love that he came. He showed up. That’s all that matters.” Yes it is.