Tonight I miss my daughter. She is ‘with her dad’. Divorced parents speak in a certain sanitized code. These simple statements serve to prevent embarrassment in front of others and to try and make the situation less painful.
“Where’s your daughter?” someone might ask me.
“Oh, she’s with her dad,” I say very casually.
This is a subtle way of letting people know that one is divorced with shared custody, in addition to answering the question of where one’s daughter might physically be when the question is asked. Married women say things like “Oh, my husband is home with the kids so I could have a girl’s night!” Married women do not say “My children are at their father’s tonight.”
Tonight, I really miss my daughter. We were together on Thursday night. But Friday night, one of ‘my nights’ I had to work at a concert that my radio station was hosting. So on ‘my night’ she was on a play date with one of her best friends, whose mom happens to be one of my friends. While I’m at the concert, laughing and joking and chatting with clients, my heart is aching. It’s ‘my night’ and my daughter is snuggled up on someone else’s couch.
After entertaining my clients at our VIP Party, before the concert begins, my boss comes up to me. He is kind enough to ask, “Are you getting out of here soon?”
“Yes. As soon as everyone has another drink then goes in to be seated, I’m out of here.”
I’m so grateful he understands that I’ve given up one of ‘my nights’ and it is hurting me and I don’t have to stay till the end of the concert to prove I’m committed to my career. As soon as I can reasonably sneak away, I battle Friday night traffic in downtown San Francisco and I drive as fast as possible over the Golden Gate Bridge without calling attention to myself by the police or Golden Gate Bridge patrol. When I pick up my daughter she is exhausted, but soon I have her securely tucked in bed in my house by 10pm. I can breathe again.
On Saturday my daughter and I spend the day together. On the weekends that ‘I have her’, all day we talk about how wonderful it is to be together, because it is.
“What shall we do today on this most perfect of Saturdays?!” I ask her.
“Ohhhhh, Momma! Let’s bake and then make vision boards!”
“How fun! Then let’s watch a movie! What shall we watch, The Sound of Music or Spy?”
This is a joke because one movie is rated G and the other is rated R. My 11 year old has gleefully seen both, with me covering her eyes on a few of the comedic, but still violent parts of Spy. I’ve given up trying to cover up her eyes on a few of the more off color jokes. So kill me. She could do worse than learning comic timing from Melissa McCarthy.
On Saturday we go to Staples and buy way too big thick poster boards. I already have glitter and glue and all sorts of sparkly letters at home. My daughter has recently seen The Secret at her next-door neighbor’s house, well the next-door neighbor of her dad’s house.
Seeing The Secret has inspired my daughter to start envisioning her singing and acting career. The Secret has told her that if she starts visualizing the future that she wants, it will be called forth from the universe. A few days ago I found a $1 bill taped to the back of her door. It had enough zeros drawn onto it to make it a million dollar bill. I secretly wonder if she has heard me talking on the phone late at night to a friend, worrying about how I’m going to cover all of my pending expenses. As a child, I had no worries about money. None. My daughter does apparently.
We spend the day making vision boards while watching The Sound of Music. Having spent more than a year now in a Jewish school and studying World War II, the movie strikes her differently this holiday season. She now understands that Rolf is a Nazi, in addition to being a narc and a total weenie. She also notices for the first time that The Baroness throws a lot of shade on Maria.
On Sunday I wake up early to teach yoga. The house is a disaster with pictures cut from magazines and vision board décor still scattered about in front of the TV. Last night after dinner we were too tired to finish, but for once I didn’t try to clean up the house before going to bed. Who cares, it’s ‘my weekend’ and I don’t want to waste time cleaning. As I head out to teach yoga, I feel uneasy about the day even though it’s Sunday and I love teaching. Then it occurs to me that tonight is ‘Claire’s Dad’s Night,’ and I’m sad.
I come home from teaching a nice yoga class and walk up to my little house. I push open the door expecting to walk into the previous night’s mess, but instead the house is immaculate. The pillows are all neatly arranged on the couch, candles have been lit and our tree is all twinkling. Claire has blown up balloons and written on them in gold Sharpie pen, ‘Happy Mother & Daughter Day!’
“Oh my gosh, this looks so amazing! Claire what have you done?! Thank you so much! This is so wonderful! Why have you done this?!”
“Well, it’s Sunday and today is going to be a Mother Daughter Day!”
I want to throw up.
I take a moment to collect my thoughts and give the joy of walking into a cleaned up home the time, space and appreciation it deserves. After awhile I say, “Honey, tonight is your dad’s night.” The worst part about this is she already knew it, but hoped that by cleaning up the house and writing on a balloon ‘Mother Daughter Day’ we could avoid the inevitable.
In fairness to my ex-husband, he understands that sometimes a kid just wants their mom. He very often respond to my texts asking for just one more night with our daughter, with my two most favorite letters in the English language… ‘ok’.
What my daughter does not know is that I’ve already asked him to have her tonight. His response was that he misses her too. And I have to respect that. It is, after all, ‘his night.’
There are worse things that can happen to a kid than to have your two divorced parents desperate to spend more time with you. And I don’t really feel like justifying the reasons for my divorce at this moment, it happened and it was the right thing for all of us and we seem to be doing okay. I will also have my daughter back in my arms by Tuesday, for neither her father nor I could ever give her up for more than two days in a row. This is just how it works for all of us at this time. For me, a week of not seeing my daughter would be an unbearable lifetime.
So while this is not a tragic story, and there are so many people with I’m sure much more heart breaking hurdles to overcome…tonight… with all my heart…I simply miss my daughter.