“And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness.” B. Pasternak
Last year my wife and I rented a buggy from a shady car dealer in Cozumel, Mexico. This vehicle had no roof, no speedometer, no seatbelts, a cracked windshield, and it’s previous owner was Paul Walker (the salesman would never lie about that?). While enjoying a leisurely drive around the island we got a phone call from a neighbor telling us our fence was broken and all three of our dogs were gone. To make the situation even worse, only one of the dogs was mine and the other two were my in-laws who had agreed to watch the kids while we were gone. We were in the middle of nowhere, with poor cell reception, and my in-laws dogs were missing because of my broken fence, so to say it took us away from the cool breeze of Cozumel would be an understatement.
After several phone calls, and with the help of our neighbors, we were able to track down the dogs and repair the fence before my in-laws returned with the kids. However, our trip to Mexico was riddled with similar experiences and we found it impossible to enjoy ourselves with teachers calling to say a homework assignment was missed, or my mother in law calling with questions about custody scheduling. As I mentioned earlier, due to our arrangements, we have court ordered obligations and driving back and forth across town while keeping up with two houses worth of activities can be a bit overwhelming to the uninitiated. Our household is a well-oiled machine and without the proper gears in place it can quickly fall apart, so no matter how much we tried, it was impossible to relax without our children there too.
When we first met, my wife and I bonded over our dedication to our children, which defined who we were. I met her while fighting to retain my paternal rights, and she met me while working countless hours as a retail manager struggling to provide for her children. Since our children live dual-lives, we decided a long time ago that we were going to do everything in our power to maximize our time with them, regardless of societal norms.
When dealing with a blended family there is always a constant countdown in your head, either one until you see them again or one counting the seconds until they leave again. Our kids stay up very late, watch all the same media we do without censorship, come to parties with us, and sit in on adult conversations because we want to spend all our limited time with them. We also want to teach them about the world and prepare them for a potentially difficult future by not sheltering them. In Mexico, the guilt of wasting my already reduced time hindered any kind of enjoyment I could have experienced, but having a teenager was also an advantage because we weren’t tied to the room after everyone fell asleep.
The day before we left I started to have some second thoughts about that philosophy, but who ever said bringing three kids across the Atlantic would be easy?
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