Tag Archives: Co-Parenting

Why I let my teen move out

I know I already wrote about this.  In fact, she has already moved.  But after much thought, I decided to also write a newspaper article about what’s going on in our home.  I figure plenty of divorced families are going through the same thing as their child decides which parent to live with full time.  So I am sharing my own personal story.

Note: I am doing ok.  DQ is too.  It’s still a transition, and a lot to get used to.  But so far, everything seems to be going smoothly.

This article will print on January 11, 2013 in the Press Democrat.

LETTING GO

My 14-year-old daughter, DQ, is moving out.

It’s weird, I never thought I’d type these words before she turned 18. But here I am, standing by as she packs up her bags and prepares to leave the nest. My nest. The one I have padded with protection and comfort since the day she was born, through a messy divorce, during financially tight times, and in her tumultuous teen years. She is flying the coop with my assistance when I drive her a full three hours away to live with her father.

And this might just be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

For 14 years, I have been her primary caregiver, the one who is responsible for every aspect of her life. I am the one who has filled out her school forms, checked her homework (till her homework got too smart for me), packed her lunches, and made her doctor’s appointments. I was the parent she told about her first love, and the parent who picked up the pieces when her heart was broken a few weeks later. I am her chauffeur, her personal chef, her nurse, her cheerleader, her everything she needed me to be so she can be a happy kid. I’ve gone to every one of her soccer games. I volunteer at the camp she attends every year. And I have done all this on my own. So to hand over the reins to her dad, allowing her to move three hours away and out of my realm of parenting, was way beyond my comfort level.

My first impulse was to say no, absolutely not. But she asked me to at least think about it. So I agreed to mull it over before I ultimately said no.

I was at war with what was the right thing to do in this situation. Of her two parents, I had proven to be the more responsible. Our two children, DQ and Taz, live with me full time, and I have fit my whole entire life within their schedule and comfort. Their father, who moved several counties away a few years ago, has never had the privilege of moving heaven and earth to make it to a parent-teacher conference at the same time as a mandatory meeting at work. I’ve been the parent while he’s been the one they visit occasionally. I’ve accepted that this is what works for raising the kids, and hold no bitterness over this. It’s just the way it is. But to give up my place as my daughter’s primary parent was rocking a boat I didn’t want rocked.

During the time when I was to be thinking this over (even though my mind was still set on NO), DQ took the time to patiently discuss all the perks of her living with her father. She talked about her new baby brother over there, how she would get a chance to know him and help take care of him. She took me on a virtual tour of her new town through Google Maps, pointing the cursor towards all of her favorite hangouts a few blocks from her home. She told me about the friends she had there, helping me to get to know them though her description. She handled the whole situation like she was the adult and I was the child. She was patient and kind, helping me with a hard transition. I was stubborn and tearful, refusing to budge.

Then a funny thing happened – my eyes were suddenly opened.

It didn’t happen on my own, but through a lot of help. I talked with my husband at great lengths about the whole decision. I discussed it with a counselor. And eventually, I called my ex-husband himself and talked about the possibility of our daughter moving in with him. After much deliberation and thought, I realized I had much less reasons to say no, and many more reasons to say yes.

So I let her go.

DQI know in my heart that I’ve made the best decision I could for her. DQ gets a chance to get to know her other side of her family, the part that makes up the other half of her. I, in turn, get to feel what it’s like on the other side of the coin – the one where I merely get to visit her instead of seeing her every single day. This still feels like a bad dream. I keep waiting for DQ to tell me she’s changed her mind. Of course, she hasn’t and likely won’t.

But I’ve realized something. Loving a child isn’t just about holding on to them and protecting them. It isn’t just about being there every step of the way.

Sometimes love is knowing when to let go.

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One more day

DQ leaves tomorrow for her dad’s. I’ve distanced myself from this reality, treating it like one long vacation. And for the most part, I’ve been blissful in my little world of denial. She’s been busy packing up her room, taking over the washer machine and boxing up anything she thinks will fit into my car for her last trip away from our home. I took her shopping for warmer clothes, since she is leaving the warmer winters of the Bay Area for the snowy weather of the mountains. And I’ve forbid myself from dwelling too hard in “lasts”.

Like, last time we watch cheesy sitcoms together. Last time we trade movie quotes. Last time we bake snickerdoodles. Last time we wrestle over my Spotify account. Last time I treat her to a cupcake. Last time she confides in me over matters of the heart. Last time the two females overpower our house of boys.

It hasn’t been all wine and roses, though. She’s a typical teenager, which of course means she’s been pleasant as pie. That’s sarcasm, if you can’t read between the lines. She’s totally checked out of our house, and counting down the moments when she is out of our evil clutches and living in the wonderful home of her father. It’s funny, a year ago when Frizz was going through his own annoying adolescence of treating adults like gum on the bottom of his shoe, DQ told me she would NEVER be like that. At the time, I was actually dumb enough to believe her. And then she entered high school, and Shawn and I became the stupidest people on the planet. Shawn has received the brunt of this title from her. There is a very small percent of me that wonders how much more peaceful life will be after she moves from here, moves into a home that offers much less in just about everything, and finally sees all we do for her on a daily basis.

Of course, if I think too hard about where she is going to live, I can’t help but freak out a little.

The Ex is barely making it financially. He has a job now, but he’s not known for keeping jobs. Half the time he is working under the table to avoid paying child support. He’s struggling with his addictions, still unable to get a full year of sobriety under his belt. I never know when the guy is telling the truth or pulling my leg. Sometimes he’s lying to hide stuff he’s ashamed of, sometimes he lies to keep himself out of trouble, and sometimes he just lies to amuse himself. He lives in a tiny one-bedroom apartment that he shares with his ex-girlfriend’s female cousin and her two kids. He has his infant son several days a week. And DQ will be sleeping in a closet that’s been turned into a cramped mini bedroom. He doesn’t have a car, and it’s unclear how she is going to get to school every day. His roommate has a car, but knowing the Ex, he’ll burn that bridge soon and will be left with no transportation whatsoever. He can’t even pick up the kids tomorrow as planned, since he failed to secure a car before then, despite the fact that we planned this trip a month ago. He has never been the primary parent of DQ and Taz – that job has always been left to me. And I worry about what he really has to offer her as a parent. Does he have it in him? Can he do this? Am I sending DQ to the sharks, and will she come out worse on the other side?

This is a man who used to abuse me, who chose drugs as his answer to handling life, who took my paycheck and left me to starve, who made my life a living hell until I finally walked out. This is the man who gave me nightmares for years after until I was finally able to let it all go and move beyond the thought of him, leaving all those demons in the past. I no longer hate him. I am no longer angry. But I also no longer have faith in him.

But I know I have to let her go. I feel like this is a God thing, like God is telling me to just trust that everything will be ok. She has friends up there, the kind of friends I wish she could have made down here. She has a chance to really start over fresh, having realized the mistakes she’s made here. I have people all around me who are angry with this decision, questioning me and DQ about this decision. And honestly, I don’t have an answer that will appease everyone about why I am letting this happen. DQ would hate me forever if I forbid this. I have to let her see what it’s like on her own for her to understand. I am running the risk of her deciding she loves it there, and never coming back. I know this, even though my denial is telling me she will most definitely be back when the school year is over. How could she not? What is there over there for her that is so much better than here?

“You’re in denial,” my cousin told me when I let her know for the first time that DQ was moving away, and who she moving in with.  She said it because I was so calm, treating this as if it were a normal case of a teenage girl living with her father.  But it isn’t.  I know that.  It hasn’t been normal since I met the man almost 20 years ago.  But I’m powerless in this decision.  And I hate it more than anyone knows.  And the only way to cope with it is to remain in denial.

One more day.  And then the whole world will be changed.

Kid-free week

Right now my kids are a couple days into their visit with their dad. He doesn’t live close by, so their visits are mostly dedicated to longer weekends or vacation times. This means they don’t get to see him very much. Luckily, social alternatives like cell phones and Facebook have allowed for a constant communication between them. The other result of such few and far between visits is that I get pretty used to them being around. So when they aren’t, the house is pretty empty.

This time around, it’s a little different. It used to feel ultra lonely when they’d leave for their dad’s house and I was stuck in an empty apartment. There is only so much cleaning and straightening that can be done. And the quiet that was once so coveted starts to feel louder than the noise. Even taking advantage of being kid-free by going out still meant I was coming home to an empty house. This time, however, I’m not alone – Mr. W and his son are still around while my kids visit the other half of their life. But even with the added company, it’s hard to know what to do with myself when my whole identity is wrapped up in being a mother.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have definitely taken advantage of the reprieve from parenthood so far. I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve been moping around the house, because I haven’t. Even though my kids are older and don’t require a ton of assistance in whatever they are up to, I’ve found a ton more time on my hands to do things like read a book, relax in the sun, and even enjoyed a visit to Francis Ford Coppola’s pool in Geyserville (seriously a must for all you families!) without having to keep an eye on the kids to ensure they weren’t drowning or bugging anyone around them. A delicious Mai Tai even made it to my hand, thus enhancing my relaxed state. 🙂 

Before the kids left I made it a point to spend an even better amount of quality time with them. The night before their departure, I dyed their hair the awful red color they had been begging me to ruin their do’s with (see photo). Actually, I kind of like it – if I can just perfect the application process. The day they were to leave I did every single bit of their laundry, including all the towels that had been dyed red. I had been up all night with stomach yuckiness – no doubt a result of nerves over my kids being gone for so long – and I hung out on the couch with my daughter as we folded laundry and watched chick flicks. And before we made the long drive to their grandfather (who would transport them the rest of the way), I bought us all smoothies at Juice Shack, which we happily slurped the whole way there.

Since they left, the kids haven’t called me once. And I haven’t expected them to. In fact, it’s a good sign they haven’t because it means they are having a good time. Their dad, on the other hand, has been wonderfully keeping me informed of what they are up to. He called me the day they arrived with their grandfather to let me know they were there safe, and to go over the details of Taz’ diet and videogame restrictions, and other such instructions my little mini-mom DQ gave him just to be on the same page. He called on Father’s Day to fill me in on the events of the day and what he had planned for the kids. And he even admitted today that the Taz stayed up all last night (and has been sleeping all day) when the Ex forgot to snag the video game controllers before they went to bed, sending me a photo of the little gamer.

It’s a huge difference from the tumultuous way we used to interact with each other in the first few years of our divorce.

There are a few more days left before the kids come back. It’s funny, when the kids are here I can think of a million things I’d love to do that require kid-free time – most ending up in some sort of beachy scenery with a tropical drink and next to no clothing. However, with the kids gone, I find that my time is pretty much the same as when they’re here – just quieter. I do miss the kids, and can’t wait to see them again. But at the same time I would hate to let this rare opportunity pass me by without taking advantage of the situation a little – thus missing it once it’s gone.

If you could snag a good amount of kid-free time, what would you be doing with it?