Today marks two years since we finalized adoptions for Nia and Selah. I took the girls out for an extra-nice dinner to celebrate, because celebrating is something Nia has requested. (“I don’t want to see a judge again,” said Selah, who doesn’t particularly understand anniversaries. “And I’m NOT getting married!”)
It took six months or so after the adoptions to get our coparenting plan, which said that in the event of a breakup we’d either follow what we agreed to there or mediate a workable solution, accepted by the court. The next month I got shingles and was out of commission for weeks. Then I gave Lee an ultimatum that she be physically present as a parent for a certain percentage of our evenings together in the weeks before she went on her two-week solo vacation, which she wasn’t able to manage. She was overseas when the ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage came in and I remember turning the radio off as I drove the girls on our own little road trip because I didn’t want them to hear and ask when we’d be married because that wasn’t going to happen. I was going to break up with their Mama and we were going to have to figure out a different way to be a family. Before she came back she told me what she was willing to do to try to improve her relationships with me and with the girls and I told her that she was going to have to work with them but not as my partner.
This is not the outcome I wanted when we stood in front of a judge. (Well, Selah, who was getting over pneumonia, rolled around on the floor and took her shoes off, which made the bailiff laugh so hard the judge got up to see for himself.) But part of agreeing to be their mom meant making hard choices for them, not continuing to say that maybe it would be better if I could wait another year or maybe if I did more of something or less of something it would get good enough to be tolerable. Instead, it’s been hard on them to miss the mom they aren’t with, to be reminded about the other parents they’ve already been missing longer. But it’s also been a positive time with a lot of growth for them and definitely for me. I realize all of this is boilerplate about parental breakups, that it’s better for them to be with single parents who are leading happy lives than around conflict and tension. I’m listening to Aimee Mann (queen of breakup songs) as I write this and That’s Just What You Are just came on and that sort of hits what I’m getting at. There are some fundamentals that don’t and shouldn’t change and I was at the point where I felt I’d hit mine, and I think Lee felt the same about herself, whether or not I’d agree with that. We were always very different and it feels good to be authentically different and separate from each other, at least for me. (Music has moved on to “It’s not going to stop ’til you wise up.”)
It was a decade ago this week when we met, or at least when we talked for the first time. Today I saw a new therapist and distilled those ten years, seven children, personal evolution from 26 to 36 into a clear narrative. And I could do that surprisingly well, maybe because I knew what I was going to ask him to help me work on and maybe because a lot of it is obvious. Still, as I said I’m on dating apps and I find it baffling to think about dating a 26-year-old (though I did, essentially, once already) maybe because I feel worlds away from that me. But that same young woman is still in here somewhere, the clarity and uncertainty and hope, the soft spot for slightly cheesy singalongs with endearing wordplay. I write about her, about me, as clunkily as I do here because I’m out of practice and because I’m in aporia. I am bumbling through a lot of this and it feels weird and aggrandizing to write about myself, but I think I can find ways to do it fairly too. And kindly, because for all my self-deprecation and self-doubt I love myself and I am proud of what I’ve been accomplishing, at the fact that I’ve been able to muddle through and find some beauty and some truth. I’m grateful for all the years working on this blog for getting me to a lot of each.