When the talking points talk back
When Moxie and I split up, I was the one who moved out. (Eventually.) I can’t describe the heartbreak I felt as I packed up, nor can I ever forget it. As I was working through it, two specific pieces of advice sustained me:
- Make sure your kids know that even though you’re moving out, you’re not going anywhere.
- Tell your kids what’s going to happen, then make sure it happens. It’s the only way you’ll rebuild their trust.
As a result, over the years I’ve built a habit that started from an abiding neurosis. Every time I leave the kids, I say when I’ll see them again. I’d like to think I’m doing this on purpose, to show the boys that their parents have this planned out, that we’ve put together a semblance of structure amid the chaos. But the truth is, it’s become instinctive. It’s pure muscle memory, like reaching down for the toilet handle after I zip up.
Over the weekend, as I was driving the kids home from the 7-year-old’s soccer game, I was laying out the schedule for the next day or so. Mom’s coming by tomorrow morning to take you to church, then we’re all having lunch together, and I’ll pick you up for Scouts on Monday afternoon.
And out of nowhere, the 10-year-old said, “You know, Dad, we can still love you even if we don’t see you every day.”
I responded with something glib—like “That goes for me, too”—but I felt his words in my chest. I never doubted that the kids felt this way, but it had always been a tacit understanding. It surprised me how good it felt to hear it expressed so tangibly and simply.
We were silent in the car for a minute or two as I savored the moment. And when it inevitably dissolved into backseat squabbling over elbow room, I hardly noticed.