Like many children of divorced parents, I had to be flexible growing up. Sure, things were mostly static, but there were rotating holidays, spending weekends in a different home, moving, things that were different and the same and the same at being different. I’d like to think that those experiences have made me a relatively go-with-the-flow kinda gal, but really, I’m just organized and can turn difficult situations into ok ones by comparing them to really bad scenarios. I’m not winning any Buddhist medals with that strategy, but hey, Buddhism doesn’t have any medals, right?
The result of my experiences is that Lil’ Miss Red has a pretty normal life. Sure, we change things up from time to time, but we mostly adhere to the “schedules are good” rule. That, combined with her current temperament of being somewhat stranger-shy, has led us to not really leave her in the company of others – family included – while she is awake. We go on dates when she has already fallen asleep, and when we need to go out earlier, call upon my sister or her Grandma to watch her. Still, she literally will turn a cold shoulder to her tia (aunt) and go on silent protest by not eating while we’re gone.
Despite this, my husband and I planned a trip to NYC. We had gone on separate trips before and twice together, but to say that it went well is kind of, well, um, putting it nicely. My parents and said tia gratefully watched Lil’ Miss on two vacations, but she spent them crying, lethargic, not eating, and just not having fun. For this vacation we asked Grandma to watch her and she agreed.
The preparations for a toddler staying at a separate residence are mind-boggling. I made check-lists and documents about her “general” daytime, including information about food, daycare, sleeping preferences and what she calls each milk cup. This was in addition to the updated emergency paperwork. I packed her clothes days before and labeled Ziploc baggies with the day she could wear them, including socks. I sorted, prepped and organized. It took hours. My husband took Lil’ Miss to Grandma’s to “get her room ready” – taking over items and having her see where she’d sleep. Grandma prepared extensive plans and was ready.
Then, the morning we were supposed to leave, our trip was canceled.
It’s a long story, but the flight was canceled and the options were horrendous, so we took the refund and changed the our plans.
I threw away the flight information and toddler documentation. We thought about what to do. We decided to drive to see family since we had the days off and needed to make the trip. We made it work. We went with the flow.
Of course, Lil’ Miss had no idea of the change. After weeks of talking about sleeping at Grandma’s house, after countless conversations with Grandma about what to do even after the trip was canceled, after dozens of emails exchanged, she was unaware of the big change. We took the well-packed items, loaded them in the car and set off for Michigan.
As I sat in the back seat with Lil’ Miss, I thought of my countless trips between my parents’ homes – via car, plane, the Milwaukee-Madison “Divorce Bus,” and realized that going with the flow is something I’m still working on. Sure, we made it work, but not without enormous amounts of emotional energy on my end. What I realized was that I might have been a little more like Lil’ Miss in nature but circumstances necessitated that I go with the flow. What sometimes felt forced can now feel like an opening in my adulthood. It’s having options, choices, different roads to travel and a home to call my own.