Hold on loosely, but don’t let go
When I agreed to move out of the apartment, there was one element of the negotiation that was non-negotiable: I wanted to see the boys every weekday. I worked as a teacher, so every afternoon I was able to spend at least a couple hours with my kids, who were then 6 and 3, in the apartment until Moxie came home from work. It wasn’t the best arrangement. I didn’t like feeling like an outsider in the place I’d lived long before Moxie was ever on my radar, and she didn’t like me hanging around where I no longer belonged. But those precious afternoons were a lifeline during that awful first year, when I was adjusting to a new life 10 miles and half a world away.
The day-to-day got much easier when Moxie moved near me, and the kids could spend afternoons at my place. They started embracing it as another home (instead of That Remote Urban Outpost Where Daddy Lives), and I felt a lot less exiled. I grew very possessive of those hours, when the boys were mine and the place felt like home. When you don’t live with your children, there’s no such thing as nonquality time.
About a week into the school year, a note was sent home about after-school programs, and I didn’t pay it any attention. Because I had come to view afternoons as MINE DAMMIT. On signup day, however, a frying pan fell out of the sky and pranged me on the head and told me I might want to rethink things. The boys are both in school full-time now, and they’re navigating the hazardous waters of schoolyard socialization. They need more time with their peers, to explore new activities they can jabber about incessantly when I pick them up.
You have 50-50 custody now. You can loosen your grip.
So I hung around for a few hours and signed them up for some stuff and forked over some cash. And now, two days a week, I arrive at school 90 minutes later than usual, and R boasts how he backstroked the length of the pool, and T exuberantly shows off his new dance moves. And I’m emotionally conflicted enough to resort to quoting ancient .38 Special lyrics that reveal my complete cultural obsolescence.