We love it when The kids come stay with us… They bring more meaning to everything we do. Today we got to spend the whole day with K2 all by herself. That’s a full day of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” videos and jokes, goofy made up songs, girlie chapter book snuggling and sewing bean bag hand warmers for littlest pet shop animals. I am in pseudo-mom heaven. I always wanted a daughter that I could make magic for the way my mom always made magic for me. Every stitch we sew together, every chapter we finish… These are the building blocks of “the life I was meant to have” and I’m so grateful that Justin gifted me these kids. I need you to know that when I tell you what I did today that made Justin angry because I did it out of love. Even though it looks like meddling (and it was).
He was headed out the door to smoke a cigarette and he came into the kitchen where K2 and I were sewing and said, “I’ll be back.” No big deal, right? Well, K2 started to act funny. She grabbed her dad’s coat and tried to wrestle it off his body and said, “Just stay here! You don’t need to go anywhere.” Justin lied and said, “I’m just going to get some (insert type of candy here).” She grabbed his gloves and said, “We don’t need any candy! Don’t go anywhere.” Justin got kind of bugged and told her he was leaving.
As I watched this whole scene play out, I felt like I was reading the cliff notes to K2’s heart and brain probably because I have been in her shoes so very many times. She was scared. She knew he wasn’t REALLY going to buy (insert candy name here) and she was worried that he was going to “the shed”. These kids, they’re so far from emotionally and intellectually stupid and because they now know the truth about Justin’s drug use in the past, they’ve got a vocabulary in their brains to explain the past disappearances and exit strategies. It’s human nature to be triggered by similar looking experiences. And I was tired of watching Justin try to hide his cigarettes from the kids. After all we’ve been through. After everything that we’ve done to come clean. Enough.
So I inserted myself where I probably shouldn’t have. I said, “Justin, K2 knows you aren’t just going to buy (insert candy name here). She knows you’re going to smoke a cigarette. You should just be straight with her.” I said it in front of K2 and this embarrassed both of them. For that I am sorry. Justin was livid and mouthed a few angry words and sent me some searing faces across the room. And for a minute I felt bad about it too, but not bad enough to stop meddling… He went to the door and i nudged K2 and said, “Hey, go tell your dad you still love him.” and she got up and ran to hug him before he left and I heard him saying something like this to her in the most loving and careful tones:
I’m not going to do drugs. I’m going to smoke a cigarette. You know that I’m not perfect and I still have some things to work through. I don’t want to smoke cigarettes and I don’t want you kids to think that smoking cigarettes is ok, but for right now, it’s something that I’m working on. I also don’t want you to worry or to think that you have to take care of me. I promise I will be honest with you and won’t do drugs and you just take care of yourself ok? I love you so much.
She cried a little and when she came back to the kitchen to finish her sewing project, you could tell she was relieved. I think about the amount of reassurance I need sometimes and can imagine that it’s NOTHING compared to the reassurance these little people need. Later that day, we went sledding – we whizzed over hilltops and narrowly avoided death by snow or collision. At one point, my sled sent me reeling and I ended up prostrate on the ground with the sun blinding me as it glared off the snow. I lay there for too long, willing the cold to make its way through layers of carefully chosen fabric as the flecks of winter burned at my brow and cheeks. I had a vision of myself at K2’s age in the snowy Pennsylvania winters of childhood. I used to spend hours building snow caves that I would make just big enough to crawl in face first but not big enough to hold my whole body – I remembered the quiet in that cave that protected my face and ears and arms from the wind and the strange sensation of being half in and half out. Eventually, the snow would burn its way through my lower half cuing me to head inside where I would wait for the pins and needles to signal a return to life.
This is now. Half in, half out. Protected and exposed. safe and vulnerable. Confident and terrified. This is the healing process. Some days I’m in the cave and the mistakes I make turn into beautiful moments for all of us. Other days, I’m dangling out the door and no matter what I do or say, I’m creating freezerburn on everything that matters.
But really, isn’t that what it’s like for all of us anyway? Nothing particularly unique about any of this if I’m honest.