Paul Schneider misses his kids.
I went to pick up my 11-year daughter last Friday afternoon after school. It was my weekend to be with them.
“Daddy, come in,” she said. I get an uneasy feeling in my gut every time I go back into my old house. I was married 17 years, the last 10 of which was spent in this early 20th century Victorian-style farmhouse. But if Natalie wanted me to come in to listen to her piano recital piece, then odd feeling be damned.
I hadn’t heard her play since her last recital during late spring; I don’t have a piano in my third-floor walk-up. It was a complex piece, a snippet of a piece called “Spanish Caballero,” and she played beautifully, her technique and confidence so greatly improved since that early June day.
Suddenly, a different sort of odd feeling washed over me from head to toe. It made me realize what the worst part of divorce is. Not being married to my ex-wife anymore is fine. In fact, it’s liberating and I’ve thrived since being kicked out of what amounted to a parent-child relationship (me as the kid). I’ve realized what an amazing support group I have thanks to the men who let me emotionally cut myself open and bleed in front of them, and I am very much in love with a woman who possesses the biggest heart in the universe.
The worst part is not seeing my kids every day. It took months for me to realize that, even though I don’t live with them anymore, I’m not abandoning Natalie and her 15-year old sister Ruby in the same way my parents abandoned me emotionally.
When my older daughter was still in single digits, in fact even after she turned ten, I loved nothing more than helping her with her homework whenever she asked, or at least checking it every day. And while it was stressful at times driving one kid to one activity, then coming home and taking the other kid to another activity, there was nothing else in the world I would rather have been doing.
These days, I check my younger daughter’s homework only on the days I see her as mandated by the Illinois courts. I try to talk to them every day, but not physically living with them full time, I’ve come to realize that I’m missing out on their day-to-day development, the subtle evolution of child growth into adolescence and all the adventure and drama that goes with it.
Instead, I get updated reports, like turning on The Weather Channel or listening for the traffic report on the 1s or the 8s or whatever it is.
Just writing that last paragraph saddens me. I’ve learned to savor every moment I can spend with my girls, and for that I am grateful. I take very little for granted with them. I listen closely to every story and enjoy every joke, corny as it might be. And my sadness lessens a little bit each time I have to drop them back off at their mother’s house after my court-ordered time with them is finished. But I still get sad.
And it’s OK that I get sad. I’m a divorced dad. My kids are eternal blessings for me, and everyone they come in contact with is impressed by how well-mannered, polite and intelligent they are (good parenting at an early age!)
I only wish I could find a way to be with them every day.
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