18 days. Eighteen whole days. Eighteen full days with my daughters to love, to cherish, to have and to hold, to not be obeyed, to get annoyed, to lose my temper, and to count down the days until they return to their dad… But eighteen uninterrupted days! Days to fully feel like a mom and be fully immersed in the good, the glorious, and the ugly of my own parenting.
Why am I counting? Under my normal schedule, my consecutive days max out at three. Summer months provide periods of vacation time that expand our normal paradigm.
For me, and a lot of divorced parents, the actual vacation is a complete afterthought – it is the perpetual parenting for which we most anticipate.
One of the most disliked realities of being a divorced parent, is that we split our parenting time. No matter the schedule, the tug on the heartstrings at not having our children 100% of our days is universal. Likewise, there is common ground with divorced parents when we get to feel just a little more “normal” and for a period of days we don’t have to do the mental gymnastics when making plans for whether or not we have our kids that day.
This time is treasured for the gift of not having to track nights and transition days; the luxury of not having to cram our calendar full with tasks and to-do’s that can only be accomplished on a “mom day;” and the bounty afforded by just being able to be. It sounds simple perhaps, but the tears prick at the corners of my eyes as sheer gratitude engulfs me.
I have learned over the years that the single-most challenge for me now during this gift of time is not to do the reverse and countdown the days until it is over – to dread all 18 days they are with me, the day they leave me for approximately 18 days on the reverse side. I brace myself to not fall into the lack thinking and to instead persist in being present.
I let my youngest teenager sleep until near midday because we have nothing but time. I kidnap my kids on a spontaneous Sunday drive through little known woods and we stop and take pictures. I am outwardly annoyed, but secretly delighted, when I get tired of them being rowdy around me and there is no end in sight.
In the days ahead, we plan to play a full game of Goonies monopoly, to try our first crab leg feast, and to read books together on the front porch. We will laugh, we will likely cry from laughing or frustration, we will bark at each other in annoyance, we will be quiet together, and we will love every minute. If I remain mindful, awake, and present, the gifts of this treasured time will be eighteen days that last a lifetime.