Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gift of Perspective: A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving is less than a day away, and I have yet to post about gratitude or abundance or blessings or cornucopias or even turkey.  

(Or key-lime pie, because that deserves a shout-out too.)

Being a single mom often puts me at odds with myself, especially during the holidays when my kids spend a lot of time with their dad.  
Kids'-Best-Interest Me Vs. ME ME ME!
I’m both excited for them to create new memories and dreading a long indefinite cry while curled in a fetal position.  At least that’s what happened last Christmas when my children spent their first holiday away, joyfully celebrating in the living room of my ex’s then girlfriend.  I worked 8 hours that day—unable to make the long drive to my parents’ home—drumming over my keyboard in a mad attempt to ignore my distress.  

This Thanksgiving my ex is scheduled to have the kids, and my heart currently feels like an empty pocket, or as Junie B. Jones would say, a flatso.  

I am unthankful for the pending holiday.  

This epiphany came when I realized I hadn’t yet conjured any images of a family gathering with games and lazy conversations following a happy feast.  Where Thanksgiving should have been was a blank screen.

All that changed in a matter of hours yesterday, as did our plans and my perspective.  

But first, a string of events.

Spunk’s Despair
Last week, in a conversation with his dad, Spunk realized that he would only be spending four days with his father this Thanksgiving.  Somehow, he had anticipated 7—an entire week of good times with The Dad, as he calls him.  In his mind there would be 168 hours of sledding, wrestling, swimming, laughing, playing, movie watching, eating, mischief, tom-foolery, and cuddling with his Daddy-O.  His expectations were dashed.
He cried for an entire hour that night--hiccupping sobs that accompanied wide-eyed pleading.  “Please, Mom!  Why can’t we drive to see dad now?  I want to spend more time with DAAAAAAD!”

“But, Sweetie,” I explained.  “Our car is broken, and we have to ride with Grandma and Grandpa.  They can’t leave until Wednesday.”  

Sob, wail, repeat.

I’ll admit that initially I thought, “Am I not enough for my boy?  Do I have some substantial mommy-lack that makes him long for his father so desperately?”  
ME-ME-ME! Takes the Lead
But 60 minutes is a long time--3600 seconds to be exact—and by the end my heart (that’s now a flatso) became so heavy that it swung like a wrecking ball, knocking around my innards and making me feel all kinds of bummed out for my boy (how’s that for a metaphor?!?).  

As I lay in Spunk’s bed, my arms tucked around him, I decided I’d rather be the one crying in a fetal position than my child.
Kids'-Best-Interest Me Makes a Showing
Perilous Conditions
Per the divorce decree, my ex and I are to meet at a central location (i.e. Boise) in order to make the child swap for holiday visitation.  That was to happen today.  But then Utah (where my ex lives) and Idaho (where I kinda live) were hit by angry storms, and driving conditions became hazardous.  We called off the trip, decided to brave it, and then called it off again.  This year there will be no Thanksgiving with Dad.  

Sob, wail, repeat.

When I first began writing this piece, my heart was an empty pocket (another fabulous metaphor, no?).  Now my heart is full and my kids’ hearts are not, and once again I’m feeling the urge to curl into a fetal position and cry, only now for a completely different reason.  

At My Table
Last year at this time, we had driven in less hazardous conditions to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  The trip was a vacation from some sad times back in Idaho Falls, and it was then I began praying that I could move closer to my family.  Less than 6 months later, we were packing.  

I’m grateful to be here, and I can’t help but be grateful because my kids are here too.  And while I’m certain they will celebrate the day regardless of the dashed expectations, they will simultaneously be longing for their father.  

I get it now.  While I will get what I want every other holiday, they will always be longing.  

Today I’m grateful to finally understand.


Evil Pixie said...

Wonderful post. Too bad more parents don't get it.

Jim said...

There's no getting around how painful that must have been. Sometimes a flatso is all you can hope for, but then again, expecting the worst seems to yield the worst.

Hang in there, Shauna. We're thankful that you're willing to express everything you feel.

shauna said...

Thanks Evil Pixie and Jim! I was a little tentative about posting something negative right before Thanksgiving, but it's true to our experience and sometimes it's important to voice that (and it's cheaper than therapy!).