After you’ve made the switch to two houses, what about all the kids’ stuff? Does it go with them? What if you bought it? What if your mom bought it? What if you bought it but the kid insists it goes every time? Where is the damn teddy bear!?
You know that scary place in between the dryer and the washer where socks go to die? I always envision it being occupied by that super scary clown from Stephen King’s It, and instead of children, he eats only one sock from each pair. Well, I have discovered his ugly cousin–somewhere on the side of the road between my children’s two houses lives the Divorce Monster. His appetite is much more diverse than the Laundry Monster–he eats school papers, tennis shoes, underwear, and school uniforms, and he does it with a smirk and a grin. I envision him as the kid from that 80’s movie Problem Child, intentionally wreaking havoc and laughing and skipping while he does it.
In December, my children and I acquired a new house when I moved out. This was a planned and slow transition as part of the dissolution of my marriage earlier in the year. We prepared the kids and ourselves very well for the day they would now have two beds, two kitchens, and two different backyards. What we did not prepare for was the Divorce Monster. Somehow each time we need a very essential thing like underwear or the second tennis shoe–it isn’t at the right house.
So you would think that buying two of everything would solve the problem, but it in fact does not, because the children migrate things between houses. How and why one tennis shoe or the beloved Violet The Puppy ends up at the other house is beyond me. I think it has to do with the precious four minutes of parental stress as I prepare for childcare and school drop-off, during which I am doing my best to adhere to a schedule, round everything up, and try to get the children and their things the two crucial steps from the living room onto the front porch.
I am lucky to have a scheduled 50/50 custody arrangement with my ex-wife. We’ve done hard work off-line to minimize the stress and confusion for the kids. Those first few weeks the girls packed suitcases to move between the houses. Now we have the system down to one small transfer bag. I am convinced (also possibly delusional) that the system is sound.
Learning a lesson from your kid is like a sucker punch to the gut sometimes, you double over, catch your breath, and then vow to be more alert next time.
But for some reason, I never have uniform skirts at my house and there is never a water bottle for school even though I have personally bought three. For awhile, I insisted that the things I bought stayed at my house. And then my oldest taught me a lesson.
“No, you can’t take those flip flops with you, those belong here so you can always count on them to be here,” I said.
“But they are my flip flops, and I want to wear them. The green on them matches my shirt,” she responded.
Well, yes, the green does match, and for a first grader that is very, very important–at least it is on the fourth Tuesday of each month (on Wednesdays, I have found, it is less important.) But seriously, what my kid told me was that these were her flip flops and she wanted to wear them. It didn’t matter one bit which mom bought them, they were hers. Learning a lesson from your kid is like a sucker punch to the gut sometimes, you double over, catch your breath, and then vow to be more alert next time.
Despite the divorce, I am continually thankful the girls have two loving homes with so many adults surrounding and supporting them. The reality of living between two houses has benefits and some downsides, but the confusion propagated by the Divorce Monster has more to do with the nuanced space of stuff and who owns it.
From the kid perspective–this is their stuff and they want it around. So that means we have late night porch drop-offs, morning swing-bys to grab that one essential thing, duplicate medications, and lots and lots of underwear. At the end of the day, the stuff isn’t so important, and however frustrating it is that the drain culvert in between the two houses sucks things away, what is important is surrounding the kids with love and teaching them to be good humans. Even if that means I have to buy a water bottle every single month.