Deep End of the Pool

Feeling sorry for myself is not something I spend much time on, but last night I got gobsmacked and dove, however briefly, into the pity pool. The kids and I piled in the car for dinner at our home-teacher’s house. Now that I’m single, we are assigned to an older man (recently released as a bishop) and his wife. They have been an absolute godsend to us- we love them, and they clearly love us. I cannot even list all the ways in which they have shown us tenderness and care.

When we got there, the house was piled high with grandkids and grown-ups, as several of their grown kids are in town for summer visits. It was wonderful to meet the grandkids I’ve seen so many photos of, and have a parent to attach to the kids’ faces. Everyone was lovely and friendly. My kids changed into their swimsuits and hopped in the pool with about a dozen other people, but I could see Bean was already on the edge of sketchy. It was loud and chaotic, and with so many new kids who didn’t know him or his, um, peculiarities, I could feel myself start to tense up.

For the most part, it was fine. He had a few moments where he began to honk and flap, but it wasn’t catastrophic, and diffused fairly quickly. One young woman latched onto Abby and was helping her around the pool on a floatie, and Jeffrey was having a water fight with a pool noodle with another boy around his age. Bean floated around in his own world, as I sat on the edge, trying to keep an eye out and my fire-extinguisher ready should anyone touch him off.

That was the scene when I suddenly burst into tears. No reason. Nothing happened. But there I was, alone with my three wildly different kids, trying to balance all three of their needs, by myself. In the pool were piles of kids with a mom AND a dad to look after and care for them. There were toddlers with dads tossing them in the pool and playing gleefully, there were moms fussing and worrying while those dads tossed babies a little too high in the air, there were men barbecuing and children calling gleefully to their grandparents to “Look at me!”… and there were my kids and me. Alone.

And just for a second, I felt completely abysmal and hopeless. I felt like I couldn’t possibly do this myself, and I felt gut-lurching sadness for my children, and their lack of a father. I felt waves of guilt wash over me for not choosing wiser for my husband, for how that choice has and will impact the lives of my children from here on out. I felt aching loss for the healthy relationship my kids are missing, and the loss of what a blessing a good father can be. I watched those men, and was jealous, and sad, and wished, for just a second, that I could have a second chance. How would life be different had I known then what I know now?

Jeffrey was misbehaving, and I called him from the water, covertly wiping at my eyes with is towel. He was indignant and sassed me as I pulled him towards the changing room- he looked at me, and then he burst into tears. I closed the door of the room, and hugged his wet body tight to me, and we both cried. “I want to go home, and I want tot stay too, mom. I’m sad.” he mumbled into my shirt.

I know. I know, my darling son. I know.

Divide and conquer. It’s the only option. I let Jeffrey have a cry, then helped him squirm his damp body into clothes. There is no one to sent him to, or to catch the other two as I tend my crying boy, and I have to rely on the kindness of others. I set Jeffrey in the kitchen and retrieve Abby, and repeat the process, sans tears. Bean is the last, lonely floater in the pool, and our home-teacher actually has to turn on the automatic pool cover to chase him out. Bean thinks this is awesome, as he races the rolling lid to the edge. I’m so thankful for his patience and sense of humor with Bean.

By the time we all sit down for barbecue, I am emotionally wiped. Anyone who knows me knows my heart is not on my sleeve- it’s on my forehead in neon lights with arrows pointing to it. My only choice is to simply avoid eye contact and focus neurotically on my kids and getting them fed. If I try and talk or socialize, I’ll cry. Dammit.

Like I said, it ended up being mostly fine. My mini-meltdown over, we enjoyed dinner and the kids played pinball and “Q ball”, Jeff’s name for billiards. My hosts helped me wrangle Bean into the car when it was time to go, and we ended the night quietly at home.

It’s so unpretty. But there it is. My moment of unexpected, uncontained sorrow and regret. I’m glad it was fleeting, and I don’t want to visit that part of the pond again any time soon. But there it is, for whatever it’s worth. Damn, this is still so hard. Someday…

16 thoughts on “Deep End of the Pool

  1. “There is no one to sent him to, or to catch the other two as I tend my crying boy, and I have to rely on the kindness of others.”

    There’s not no one–there are dozens of “others.” Children are bottomless pits of need–2 parents are not exponentially more adequate than one. Everyone needs an extended family or a ward. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that when it looks like every other nuclear unit is self-sufficient. They’re not.

  2. Thank you for sharing your moment with us. We have all been overwhelmed by our emotions at one time or another and it usually is not pretty and it is not fun. Lots of hugs and prayers for you and your little ones – you are stronger than you think and more inspiring than you know.

  3. Can I just be selfish for a minute and be intensely happy that you posted today? Your last post sounded like you were going to take a much deserved bloggity break. And yet, here you are, sharing your fantastic writing again.

    Your kids are some of the luckiest on earth. I had two parents but never felt loved the way your kids know you love them.

  4. Lady. You are dealing with the poop end of the stick and I hate that for you. You are on our prayers. You are amazing for posting it.

  5. Thank you for being bold enough to share your pain. I will be much, much more careful with the tender hearts around me because of your willingness to tell us how it is.

  6. You’re in my thoughts constantly, Tracy. I’m happy to know you still have friends around to help and love you in person. I’m glad you could have a cry with Jeff. Sometimes it can be cleansing to get some of it out. It hope it was that way for you and Jeff last night.

  7. I’m so sorry Tracy! But remember, you DID choose wisely when you married your husband. HE is the one who made the choices that tore your family apart. You are not to blame. Hugs….

  8. Hugs to you and your kids. You are so strong and it is natural that things catch up to you sometimes. Be kind to yourself. Your children are so blessed to have you.

  9. ah! Ditto, Ditto everyone!
    I am so glad you posted. And I heartily agree with Liz. It is not your fault that your ex husband chose to opt out of your amazing family and some day he will regret it. You are so amazing and so strong. Don’t pick yourself apart, you are fabulous and talented. I have no idea how you feel, but I know a small portion of the pain of family issues. My mother has been mentally ill (with out treatment. they think “that’s just the way Mom is”) for many years, which has caused hurtful and sometimes violent behavior. I mourn for the mother I need and cannot have, the grandmother and extended family connection my children cannot have (It is simply not allowable). It is not at all like what you are going through, which is so much bigger than my little issues, but I am so jealous when the mothers of the women in my ward visit, come to stay when a baby is born, and are willing and dying to see their grandbabies. My husband’s family is nice, and my mother in law is… great… ish. I am a daughter, that is until there is a need (small, we stand on our own feet and rarely need anything) or my pretty children are a hassle (2 & 4 year olds are almost always a hassle! :cD ) so I will always be ‘the daughter*’- the one that made the pretty grandchildren that get trotted out when pretty grandchildren are needed… I am, simply put, an accessory.
    Most of the time it is okay, I am busy and obviously this loss isn’t at the heart of things. It is no where near as vast and far reaching as what you have been through. But in my small way, I know that moment where your chest gets tight and you fight for each breath and rail against things as they are… when I wish I had a mom…
    and I am sorry. Because it’s NOT fair. But you are handling this with such faith and grace, and you are an example to me. :c)

  10. Tracy, I am familiar with the deep end, though my pond is different than yours. I cry with you. My heart breaks for you. And yet… I find so much strength and courage and faith from you! Thank you for sharing your journey, the joys and the pains. All we can do is take our occasional dips in the deep end, and then emerge filled with determination to continue to divide and conquer – one day, one moment, one episode at a time.

  11. Oh oh oh: bing bing bing–that was my Memorial Day! Excited to be invited to a pool party/BBQ with good people from my ward and their kids my kids’ age and then…being the only mom in the pool because my kids need supervision and there is no dad to do it. Dads throwing their kids around and splashing, moms talking all civilized in their dry clothes and chairs in the shade. My conversation partner: my one-year-old. Lonely lonely lonely. Later at dinner, all I can do is manage my kids’ plates and envy all the fun-looking adult conversations scattered around the yard.

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