January 31: National Holidays

Letter: S
CD Number: 14
Track Number: 7

Song: “National Holiday” by Spymob off the album Sitting Around Keeping Score

A man, Rob, stands several feet away from a girls youth soccer game, near a group of trees. He is by himself. In the distance, the bleachers filled with parents are visible. A loud snap of clapping is heard.

ROB (whooping and spinning towards audience)

Did you see that?! Top corner! Wooo! That’s my little girl. Number two! Man…that was great!

Pushing hair back on his forehead, puffs out his cheeks. He looks sad and a bit lost for a moment.

Huh? Oh why am I back here? Well, strictly speaking, I’m not supposed to be here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I am breaking the law or anything—

Aside to self

At least… I don’t think I am. I really ought to ask my attorney about that.

Back to audience

—it’s just her mom and I just got divorced a bit ago and this is her weekend. We both agreed we shouldn’t “show up” during each other’s weekends. We said it was because it might confuse Betty—Betty’s my daughter’s name—but I think it was really because we both know we still can’t be in the same area without getting in a fight.  I mean, really, confuse her? Our daughter has a bit more smarts than that.

He turns back to the game for a moment.

I never even knew she wanted to play soccer until she gave me her schedule. Her mom and I agreed to not make decisions about big stuff without consulting one another, but I kind of gave a blanket ok for physical activities. Kids spend too much time in front of the TV today, you know? Don’t get me wrong, like all right thinking Americans of my generation, I hate soccer. But if Betty likes it, I’m onboard. I wouldn’t even have hesitated to say yes, but—

Turns back to the audience.

Look, even when you agree with the choice, you don’t want to be left out. My wi—ex-wife and I have shared custody, but shared custody is really a fiction. It sounds nice, but short of living right next door to one another it is unworkable. There’s the custodial parent, and that’s Terri, and there’s the non-custodial parent and that’s me. For the non-custodial parent, divorce is a series of reminders that you are the one of the outside. So, yeah, I would have been fine with Betty starting soccer. It just feels lousy to never have had a chance to say that.

Kicks at the dirt a bit, shakes head.

Like today. If I didn’t sneak out here to see her, I’d miss this. That’s why us non-custodials get a reputation for pandering to our children. Every visit has to be an event. When you can only see your child a relatively small amount of time each week, you better plan more than just letting them read chapter books in their bedroom, you know?

So, you are stuck in this shitty position, right? You don’t want to be like every divorced parent ever and spoil your kid, of course. You want to be as normal a parent as ever, keep things like they used to be.

For instance, her bedroom at my new house is almost exactly like the bedroom at what used to be our house and is now just my ex’s. But it’s not exact. Glidden discounted the green color we used to paint Betty’s bedroom so I had to go with an Olympia shade that was close, but not the same. Her comforter is a hand-me down Toy Story comforter from my oldest nephew. You can’t get it anymore, so she has a Toy Story 3 one in my house instead. And so on. It’s normal, but not. I keep worrying that she sees my house like that guy saw his son. It’s the Diet Coke of homes; almost home, but not quiet.

That gets at you. And you start to feel if you act the same as always, do the same things like before, you are kind of being…well, lazy, I guess. When I was around all the time, we’d maybe see a movie once a month, go to a museum or a zoo every couple of months, go to the beach two or three times over the course of the summer. The rest of the time, we were doing chores or reading or watching TV or visiting grandma or…normal stuff. The stuff that fills in the space between the cool things in life.

With Betty not living with me though, we don’t have time for that stuff, we only have time for the cool. And that sounds great. You finally have a chance to be the fun parent!

Visibly shrinks, looks sad again.

The thing is though, when you aren’t doing the cool stuff, that’s when you get to know your kids. If Betty and I hadn’t spent all day at the petting zoo, maybe I wouldn’t have spent all of dinner peppering her with questions about what she had done last week. And if I didn’t do that, maybe, eventually, we would have naturally ended up talking about sports. And then I’d know she wanted to play soccer.

Instead, you have to do everything at once, know everything at once and you miss the little things. At least it seems to me that’s how this is going.

  So, what do you think? Enjoy it? If so, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@UnGajje) for various bon mots and links directing you to the newest updates on this site as well as my other various writing gigs (Marvel, Complaint of the Week at the Living Room Times, and New Paris Press, set to debut shortly although information may be available before then here). If not it was not so enjoyable for you, feel free to tell me that too. And still check me out at all those things above. One of them you are bound to like more.

Feedback or questions? Offer them up here or drop me a note at the aforementioned Twitter account, tim[dot]g[dot]stevens[at]gmail[dot]com or Facebook.

This is the end of January, but it still worth coming back tomorrow to see where we go from here. Because, believe you me, there is more content to come.