Bubba starts preschool next week. It's all the way across town and as a result, he gets to have a bus pick him up (Junior is really jealous.) Today we went to meet his teacher and see his classroom.
"Dad will be there too!" I told him. He turned an eager face to me and asked "Does that mean Dad is going to come back to live in our house?"
"No babe, remember Dad has his own house now?"
"Yeah" he said and then turned his attention back to the Peter Pan game I had interrupted.
I don't often question my kids unless they bring something up first, but this time I was curious. J moved out a year ago on Saturday and the year he has been gone is 1/4 of Bubba's life.
"Do you remember Dad living in our house, Bubba?"
He thought for a minute and said "Nope"
"You don't remember when he would make breakfast for you guys or when he was here for prayers or when we would ride scooters over at the park or going to Disneyland?"
Junior has memories of all of us together and I know that Bubba has some because occasionally he will bring something up that I would never have thought he would remember. He had just barely turned three this time last year though and I don't know if those memories will stick around. It also occurred to me the other day that I have very few memories of J interacting with Sis. I know he did because he was always very hands on with the kids and I know he must have loved on her the way he did the boys while he was still home, but those few months before he left were such an intense fog of misery that I don't remember many details from that time other than keeping it together. I know he is still hands on with all the kids when he has them, but it still makes me sad to be missing it. I loved cooking dinner and hearing the squealing and wrestling from the living room. I loved seeing the mad rush to the door when he came home from work. I loved sharing those certain looks of pride or love or exasperation that parents only give to regarding their beloved children. I know he loves them. I just miss seeing it and being a part of it. I love being a mother, but J still remains the person I wish I could talk to about the kids without the conversation being loaded. I had hoped that even with the dissolution of our marital relationship, I wouldn't be left emotionally alone to parent when all was said and done. No one will ever love my kids like their mom and dad and it is lonely to be eclipsed from the one person I want to share them with. He doesn't need me as their mom and I am no longer allowed to need him as their father.
"It's not fair" says the little voice that always pops into my head, sometimes in a scream, sometimes in a whisper, but always there and always something I fight these days. J and I used to joke about my overdeveloped sense of fairness. Realistically, I know that life isn't fair. Ask the people who are getting gunned down by militants in Africa, or the millions who died in concentration camps during WWII. Ask any of the other wives like me who have been left to mother alone. Ask any of those who would love to be married and have a family and haven't yet had the opportunity and may not. We live in a world where terrible things are allowed to happen, but the perspective of my faith is that we are also granted the opportunity to grow from our challenges. But sometimes, when you look around you at everyone living the life you want and sometimes taking it for granted or knowing what you are missing, that little "it's just not fair" voice is a hard one to silence. It is often strengthened by remembering that the one who I thought had my back, stabbed me in it in the end.
This year I have learned that faith is multi-faceted. I have never in my life had a doubt that the church is true. I have never doubted the Joseph Smith story. Simply believing has always come fairly easily to me and I don't really know why but was grateful for it. I just believe. The angle of faith that I am having a much harder time with is the idea that although God doesn't always make things fair, he compensates. He heals, He changes hearts and minds if you are obedient. He compensates. I have heard it a hundred times from a dozen people in the last year, I have read it in the General Authorities talks and I still struggle to believe it. Many days, I go through my routine of cooking and cleaning and work and laundry and putting the kids to bed. I fight the loneliness and try not to recognize that this might be it. I may be doing all this on my own for many years, if not the rest of my life. I am still young and so are my children, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of dating or remarriage, but I also spend a lot of time wondering if I even want to bring someone else into this little life of ours. I hate the idea of my kids feeling divided or like they are loved less by a step-parent. I don't know if I could handle seeing anyone else discipline them. Many people assume that my age means I will easily find someone and marry again. But it is just not that easy and most definitely not on the radar for awhile yet, if ever. Unfortunately, not being ready to move on in that arena doesn't mean it's not still lonely or that I am ok with being on my own. I know what I am missing. I just don't think it can ever be replicated and it is not a step I will take if I don't feel like it is the best one for my kids.
So, I am having a mid-life crisis of faith after all. I still believe, I just struggle to believe that things will work for me on a personal level and that I won't always be in this mire. I want to really believe that as long as I am making the best decisions for me and my kids and being obedient, I can be blessed with peace no matter where I am at or what I am doing. I see tender mercies everywhere that remind me that I am watched over but even those who saw angels learned to doubt and I am by no means a paragon of strength. Time and obedience will be the true test of this personal crisis, but I want to believe that I can come back this time next year or in five years or ten and be able to say that I know without a doubt that He compensates. He heals. This time last year, I asked J to put this method to the test for the sake of our family and he couldn't get his mind around the idea and took his own road. I am slowly realizing how difficult making the choice to believe in something can be and then to follow up. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I fully believed it would work for him and I want to believe it will work for me. It's a start, right?