On Sunday night, the phone rang.
“We’re at Gymnex,” my ex-husband said. This is a well frequented workout venue as well as a hospital, though the hospital has a different name. “And they said he probably doesn’t need stitches after all, but we’re still waiting to hear from the doctor.”
Wait, I said. I must not have gotten an earlier message. You’re WHERE?
“Oh, no, this is the first message,” my ex-husband said. “His eyebrow split open again, while he and his brother were wrestling. Probably not a big deal. Anyway, he’s a little upset and wants to talk to you. Here he is.”
And I got on the phone with my younger son, who immediately burst into tears.
This post isn’t going where you think it’s going. First of all, my kids (and lots of other kids I know) have banned their mothers from the baseball fields because they, the kids, are able to hold themselves together only until their moms show up. Mine are no exception. A fly ball right to the face, a bunch of coaches and concerned assistant coaches and assistant to the assistant coaches crowding around, and they’re fine. Their mother comes in from the sidelines, worried because the outfielder in question has not moved for several minutes? Instant sobbing, burning tears. “I was fine till you came,” I’ve been told before.
So the tears weren’t a surprise. The phone call shook me a bit, I’ll admit. My younger son crying full force on the phone, saying he was scared of getting stitches, saying he wasn’t mad at his brother for smacking his eye open again (there was a previous injury, which hadn’t required a real doctor’s visit), saying he knew he’d be okay but was just a little bit worried, nearly killed me. My younger son is a preternaturally mature and generous child. He didn’t say he needed me, and I know he didn’t need me, but oh, boy, is he the kind of kid to whose side you’d unthinkingly rush.
He needed stitches, it turned out. Five of them. Above his eyebrow. His brother left the room, his father–I was told, a day or so later–stayed and held his hand.
This is the story of a minor success. This is one small example of how divorce can make everything better. Because I would, before the marriage ended, always have been front and very fucking center to any medical procedure involving one of my children, and my ex-husband would have been relegated to a minor post. And yet, while I wrung my hands a few minutes away, I fought myself and stayed home (I would have made things worse) while my sweet baby had stitches put in his head, a few minutes after he hung up weeping in fear of stitches, and his father stayed and held his hand and reassured him, to the point where he was able to call me and cheerfully relate what happened once they all got home.
He had five stitches right over his eye. I wasn’t there. And when I talked to him after he’d gotten back to his dad’s house, and I asked my ex-husband whether I should come by to see the bandage and kiss our kid goodnight, he said (and he was right) that it would really upset our son more if I showed up and kissed etc and then had to leave, and that he was pretty sure things were on the up and up, considering.
And I, though I wanted to see my stitched-up baby more than anything else, knew he was right, and refrained.
Divorce means you miss important events in your childrens’ childhoods. It’s not the end of the world, of course. It’s only habit that makes me think I’m indispensable when my kids are upset, or in physical crisis. And, as my boyfriend said, it’s good to let my ex-husband, who never had to deal, deal with less than perfect child scenarios once in a while. Still, it felt a little funky. The next afternoon, my younger son came home with a crusty scar above his eyebrow and a band-aid he was fairly certain only I could properly remove. Meanwhile, my ex-husband has copped a great deal of what is (to me) intolerable attitude, given that this is the very first crisis he’s ever been called on to cope with.
But. Still. I am relinquishing the vise-grip of control I hung onto, to my detriment, ever since the separation. It’s okay. They’re okay. He’s an okay father. It will all, in the end, if I can bring my own tardy consciousness around, be okay.