My phone pings from the other end of the spacious commercial space. I take a break to cross the divide, wiping my hands on my work pants to clear as much schmutz off of them as possible before I handle my slowly self-outmoding device. The last thing it needs is permanent marks from the toils of my labor, since it keeps randomly freezing and resetting itself, causing me to pray to the technology gods that it just makes it to the end of January, when I'm eligible for an upgrade. Kyle has Instagrammed a photo of his whereabouts, with the kids, and for a minute my breath catches in my throat as the sting of longing and potential tears fill my eyes.
It is idyllic, truly. I am so happy -- and as always with that emotion, coupled with overwhelming relief -- that they are enjoying themselves and are seemingly unaware of my absence. I had felt better that morning, in only the way a mother can, when Kiedis shoved me back towards the front door as the three of them left for their afternoon adventure, telling me to "go back to the door" in his garbled speak. I'm sure he could tell by the fact that I remained in my pajamas while he, his father and his sister were dressed for the day that I was not accompanying them, so he merely wanted to get the show on the road.
It's amazing how relief and heartbreak can coincide so easily, so effortlessly.
It makes the buh-buh-byes easier, the likelihood of meltdowns exponentially decreasing with every assured step away from you. But it also opens a small, deep ache that you don't dare let show, lest you incite some sort of different reaction. You want them to want you, your presence in their lives, to include you. From your childhood spent constantly sidelined and othered to the moment you birthed these people and they made you a mother you want them to want you in their lives, forever and always. However equally, you want them to step out into the world with confidence and self-reliance and the knowledge that you will always be there when they return, whenever they are ready for Mommy again.
I've been working on a large project, out of the house, for three 10+ hour long days in a row, now, and will be for a couple weeks more as schedules allow. Kyle and I are playing more of a relay than a team sport, as he comes home and switches into Daddy mode while I dig out my construction clothes and kiss my family goodnight in the midafternoon, knowing I won't be home until the wee hours of the morning, my schedule operating on both first and second shifts, with an occasional third shift.
They are seemingly unfazed by this development, perhaps only more excited than usual to see me in the mornings, as if I magically reappeared right at that moment. With the last month of late meetings for Kyle after school and golf league's end, I suspect they are ecstatic to spend extended time with Daddy and to get a break from me, the decidedly tougher parent. It's good for me, too, to be around other adults and doing something I love both cerebrally and physically, and honestly, to have a break from potty training and toddler tantrums and everything that comes with these stages in their lives.
But it doesn't mean I don't miss them, and that seeing these moments of bliss only in photographs doesn't make me yearn to be there, in the moment, with them.
I am so lucky to have a husband who finally seems to understand what it is to be a supportive co-parent, and who takes these steps in stride and with a bit of his own new-found casual confidence. And I am incredibly lucky to have friends like Second Wife and his wife (and their dog) who are more than happy to open their home to 3/4ths of my family and treat them as such, even sending home some leftovers for the missing quarter to enjoy once time allows; we are equally as lucky to have friends who will agree last-minute to babysit so Kyle and I can actually celebrate our anniversary, however later than the actual date.
In these moments is when I feel our village around us, in the simplest gestures. Our village may be smaller than most and have shrunken slightly over the years, but I am so fortunate to know that it is there, usually when we least realize we need it. I am lucky to know that there are people out there who love my kids and my family as much as I do, and are willing to shoulder the burden of time with us, even for just an afternoon.