This is probably only going to attract a somewhat limited audience. Nevertheless, there might be a message in here somewhere.
Did you ever sit back and take the time to just watch your kid at play? I do it often. I sometimes choose to be a somewhat distant spectator from the porch rather than trying to join in the fun and games. Many of the other neighborhood parents seem to feel the need to be involved in every activity that their child is involved in. Whether it be walking the dog to jumping rope to playing catch with a Frisbee, they seem to feel the need to have their presence felt. Believe me, I’m not in any way condemning their actions, I just feel that sometimes, kids ought to be left alone so they can act like kids. So they can be themselves and work out their little differences without mom and pop jumping in to solve every little inevitable dispute. So they can be at play and not have to worry about impressing either of their parents. Maybe it's because I do the single parent thing and I don't have the luxury of splitting duties while my kid is with me. Maybe it's because I know they’ll be adults soon enough, and that there’s plenty enough of time to go about trying to impress the world.
While I’m watching from afar, I often take notice of my kids’ mannerisms. Everything from her style of walking, running, talking, and posture to the way she throws and catches and rides her bicycle. None of it escapes my eye. I see a lot of me in her.
I’ve been doing this joint custody gig on a fairly consistent basis and, barring a couple of hiccups over the last seven years, things have worked out reasonably well. Although, I sometimes feel sad that my ex and me couldn’t work things out while we were married. While the animosity I felt from the circumstances of our divorce has certainly faded over time, I doubt it will ever go away completely. On the other hand, I feel glad about how we have worked things out while we are apart. We try and remain flexible towards each others schedule and often adapt our plans to suit the needs of the other. We don’t chitchat too often about the events going on in today’s world, we’ve both got other ears in our lives to hear those opinions and stories. No use cluttering up what already seems to “work”.
So there I was last evening, prepping the grill to cook the perfect cheeseburgers and corn on the cob. Since last night involved piano lessons for the little one, her mom was going to drop her off at my place around 6:30. Finding myself with some time to kill, I flipped on NPR, broke out a beer and a copy of the latest Atlantic Monthly, settled in on my porch and felt the cool breeze sifting through the neighborhood. The neighborhood kids were across the street, playing whatever kids games they were playing under the watchful eyes of their parents. An idyllic setting indeed.
Sure enough, around 6:30, the car pulled up and they got out. My kid took notice of the activities going on and asked me if she could join in the fun. Realizing that fun was more important than the perfect cheeseburger, I told her to go ahead. She took off running…
Normally, this is the occasion when me and my ex are forced to share an awkward moment of silence or two. Vague pleasantries are exchanged, the upcoming schedule is confirmed and we both go our separate ways. Last night was a little different.
As my kid took off running, her mom walked up to the porch and sat down. I was little surprised and, expecting the worst, asked her what was on her mind.
”She’s you, you know that don’t you?”
She went on to describe some of the same things I mentioned earlier and some other things that might’ve escaped me. I made some self-deprecating remarks about how that wasn’t so much of good thing, that I’m sure, given time, my influence will fade and hers will take root. She smiled and said it was time to go.
I watched her drive off and give a beep of the horn to the kids as they played down the block. I felt a certain something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I don’t know if it was misplaced pride or that if it was the fact that even though we’d been apart so many years, that it felt nice to be remembered, however slightly.
I gathered myself off the porch and went down the street. The kids and their dutiful audience of parents were engaged in a game of hopscotch. I told my kid that dinner was going to be ready in about twenty minutes or so and she should make her way home soon. I gave her a hug and a peck on the forehead. I turned my back and began the walk home, a huge smile spread across my face.