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…

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