Custody of the Heart: A Letter To the Parent Really Missing Their Children on Thanksgiving

photo by Daiga Ellaby

photo by Daiga Ellaby

Dear Mommy or Daddy, 

I could see how painful it was for you to say goodbye to me today, knowing we will not be spending Thanksgiving together this year. I know how much you each care about me, and there are some things I'd like you to know...

I want you to know it's hard for me, too. No matter how old I get, I will always long for my family to be together for the holidays. I will always wish away the separateness. And the anxiety. And the tension.

The hardest part, for me, is knowing how lonely and sad you might feel without me. I don't like when you are sad. Please don't be sad. Promise me that you will call your friends and not spend Thanksgiving alone. I don't want you to be alone.

Maybe I'm too young to know this, but there is a fine line between what will damage you and what will heal you. Please let your Thanksgiving without me be something that will heal you- heal you from the loss of how our Thanksgivings used to be, as a family. Let this Thanksgiving be joyful, one that you can't wait to tell me about, the next time I see you!

Since I will be with my "other side" of the family, and because divorce is so tricky and complicated, I know I might overhear some things about you that aren't nice. But I want you to know that I know the truth. I know the truth about who you are and where I come from. I am so grateful for you.

I know you want me to have a good time and not feel bad, so I'll do just that. I will eat and play and giggle and get into trouble with my cousins. I will look at the finished turkey and remember how you like to take polaroids of your finished, cooked-to-perfection turkeys, because you feel so proud when its done. I will remember how you write the year on the polaroid: "Thanksgiving Turkey, '92". It'll be a little secret I can have a laugh about. Thank you for doing things that make me think if you when I'm not with you. 

I really, REALLY want you to know that while you may not have custody of my physical company today, you have custody of my heart. I mean, you helped to create it. And it's so strong, strong enough to know that there are many kinds of families. Unique in their own way. BOY! Are we unique! (And a little whacky.)

We will get through this, because Thanksgiving is both just another day AND everyday. And this is what our family is meant to look like. I mean, after all, birds have to fly, fish have to swim, Cookie Monster's gotta eat whatever the hell he eats and you have to share your time with me. It's really that simple. 

Most importantly, I want you to remember that, deep down, we're still a family. I am deeply loved and wanted and looked after. This, I know for sure. 

Happy Thanksgiving, I love you!

 

A note from Erica:

I do remember. I remember the look on each of my parents' face when it was time for one to take custody of me over a long weekend or a holiday. My heart ached for the parent that would be without me and I wanted to always make sure they would be okay. 

ivorced or separated parents, my heart goes out to you, this holiday season, as many of you share custody, where a piece of paper determines where your child will spend their time. 

Please know two things:

1. You are the EXACT parent you are meant to be today

2. Your children are okay. And if they're not, they will be...

May Grace & Peace be with you and your unique & dynamic family <3

The Way We'll Be

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A letter from me, to my Mother, just before I was born...

Mom,

   I know, I'm late; I've needed every bit of these last forty weeks, and ten days, to prepare for what lies ahead. Thank you for your patience and for understanding I like to take my time to think about things. I wasn't supposed to, but I peaked a few times to see what's in store for us, and while we're on our fourteen-hour parade through labor, I'd like to share with you some things I've come to know...

First, I know I'm going to be an only child. I know your marriage will not last long enough to give me a sibling. I know I will have a very difficult childhood and I also know that you won't enjoy Motherhood for very long, before your marriage falls apart.

Mom, you won't be the only one who suffers through this. I will feel alone a lot. I will be alone a lot. It will be isolating and confusing being raised in two separate households, living two separate lives, with two very different people and two sets of beliefs and rules around food. I may need a lot of therapy from a young age and it will take me time to access my thoughts and feelings and this may be frustrating for you.

Mom, I'll have a hard time on the playground, relating to my peers. I will find it easier and safer hanging out at the 'grownup table', hearing very grownup things. This will no doubt take away from the potentially carefree, spirited and simple qualities of my childhood, yet, ironically, I will spend a great chunk of my career life working with children and finding bits of the childhood I missed, through watching theirs. And because I will have an extensive background and comfortableness with older and wiser generations, I will be successful working with parents and several of my closest friends will be considerably older than me. This will make me a better friend, a more compassionate human being. All will not be lost, Mom.

Mom, one of my favorite pastimes will be looking at old photos of you. They will remind me that you are every bit as human as I; that you've had your own youth and that there was a time I was not with you or even a thought in your mind. It will be important for me to acknowledge this and it will help me better understand your reasoning for things, especially when you have trouble understanding mine.

Mostly, I'll love to look at yours and Dad's wedding video and album, often. I will spend rainy days, sunny days and several birthdays looking at this album, secretly trying to piece together what went wrong for you and Dad in such a short amount of time. I will, on a deep level, understand your divorce, AND I will also long for the family structure I will not have.

Mom, I'm going to feel disappointed in you, a lot; you won't be able to drop me off at many extracurricular activities. I won't see you at many of my recitals and talent shows, because you'll be working. You won't know the names of the parents who's children I hang out with and this will bother me. Alone, I'll walk to and from school everyday, wishing I was dropped off and picked up like everybody else. Your being a single mother will heavily impact the love you are capable of showing me and the love I'm able to feel from you.

You need to know that my relationship with food will heavily reflect my relationship with you and I will struggle with disordered eating for many, many years.

And eventually,

my relationship with food and my relationship with you will heal and I will navigate my way through recovery. Only then will we build trust and genuinely enjoy one another, and it will be clear why we couldn't have that closeness any other way, at any other time.

Mommy, it's been really fun in here; I really love how happy and upbeat you are. I love how much you like to move, except when we took that giant spill off the stage, while you were teaching Jazzercise, at seven months pregnant. I get it; sometimes we're just so excited, we forget where our feet go...happens to me ALL the time! You're very loud and you have a weird accent and you eat lots of chocolate. You laugh a lot and this helps sharpen my nervous system so much.

Mom, thank you for sharing your space with me, for taking such good care of me and for wanting me so bad. Thank you for letting me wiggle and twirl and flip and kick and dance with you. Thank you for letting me take my time.

Mom

I'm so glad I'm yours.

I like you,

I adore you,

I love you.

Also, just a heads up, I accidentally pooped just now and my cord is wrapped around my neck so I'll probably need our team to come and get me soon...

Love,

Erica