Saturday, June 23, 2012

Visitation Day...or, "Are you there, God?"

I hate visitation days.

They knock me off-kilter in a bad way.   It's even worse when Hubby isn't around to help me buffer, like now.  I am immensely grateful that my mom will drive the kids over to the visitation location and pick them up.

I do not think I could see my brother and maintain a civil tongue in my head, much less the attitude that the kids need for me to portray so that they don't pick up on my own unease.  (As much as possible, anyway.)

I find it much easier to tell the Fries to have a good time--and mean it--if I don't have to see my brother in the flesh.

So that's what happened today.

I promised I would miss them, and yes, I love them, and yes, I'll be here when they get back at lunchtime.  "But I'll miss you," Small said.  "I'll miss you, too, but you'll have fun with Daddy-S," I said.

Mom returned from dropping them off and said that Bro and his wife had arrived with a laundry basket full of water balloons for a water-balloon fight.  And clean, dry clothes for the kids to go home in.  (I could only hope, based on past experience, that they would fit.)  I was irritated, because I had swimsuits I could have sent with the girls...if Bro had just checked with me.  (But noooo, he has to do this all himself.)


I tried to amuse myself as best I could throughout the morning.  I worked some more on the scrapbook of Po memories.  I listened to music.  I read.

Mom left to pick up the Fries, and I started working on lunch--pizza muffins, since the kids have been raving to Gramma about how woooooonderful they are.

Large Fry came in first, and leaned into my side.  "Daddy S said not to be sad," she informed me in a quiet voice.  "But I am, a little.  I miss him."

I gave her a hug and said it was okay to miss him.  She schlumped over to Dad's recliner and moped for a few more minutes until I called a halt to that, recognizing it as the attention-grabbing device that it was.

The twins piled cheerily into the kitchen, arms loaded with grocery bags overflowing with...Easter baskets?  Hoo boy.  At least this time the things purchased were generally age-appropriate (if cheap), but the sheer volume of STUFF was definitely my brother's tendency to go seriously overboard if he's going to make any kind of gift gesture at all.

Part of me sternly told the rest of me that he's not deliberately trying to make me look bad, even if it's how I feel.  He's trying to make himself look good, and make himself feel like he's a good, generous, well-providing daddy (when he's not).

Dad looked at the haul of loot that the twins were eagerly showing him.  Candy.  Toys.  Big, animal-shaped, super-dooper balloons.  Toys.  12"-long pens.  Necklaces.  Candy.  "Is anyone else hearing The Beatles?" Dad observed.

Having just finished a conversation with Mom about leaving the automatic slider for the driver's side rear door turned off, my first thought was "Let It Be" (we've been having issues with that door, and we keep the auto function off for now).

"♪ Can't buy me looooove... ♫" Dad crooned.

Okay, so I'm not the only one.

And despite the (admittedly very small) logical part of me that declared I was not a poor mother for not showering my kids with a ridiculous amount of cheap gifts, I still felt very much like my position as mother and parent was under attack.  I felt like he was trying to bribe their love away from me, to him.

Even knowing Bro's tendency towards sheer overboard-ness, I was still surprised by the staggering amount of stuff my kids hauled home.  They'd left today with their stuffed animals (the $8 ones we bought at the Museum of Natural History on Monday) to show to him, and came home with ten times as much.

I finished making lunch and called everyone to the table.

Medium wanted to pray first.

"Deawr God, thank you for dis food.  Thank you for everything.  And thank you for my mommy.  I'm so glad I have her as my mommy, an' that I have her hewre.  If I didn't have my mommy here wif me, we wouldn't be a family.  So thank you for my mommy.  Amen."

I squeezed Medium's hand--I'd been holding it--and gave her a quick kiss and a hug.

"Feel better?"  Dad asked, only to be overrun by Large Fry insisting on praying, in which she thanked God for the food and then pretty much everything in the entire world.

After lunch, Large Fry found the butterfly box that her butterfly necklace had come in.  She wanted to put it away for safekeeping.  She carefully showed me how to take out the cushioned bottom, rehang the necklace, and put it all back together.  Then she closed the lid.

And handed me the box.

"Mommy, can you hold onto this and keep it safe, until we go to our real home?"

I really need to do something about these lumps in my throat.

I smiled.  "Of course."  I set the box next to my purse, on the counter, where it would be safe.

As I was hunting through the other bags of stuff for the necklace boxes for the twins, since naptime was coming and I didn't want them to be wearing them then, Large was pawing through her candy haul, looking for dessert.  She held up a box with chocolate praying hands.  If you opened the box's outer layer, before even getting to the candy, you could see the words printed inside.

"Mommy, what does this say?"

I glanced over, setting down the fine-point Sharpie that I was using to write the kids' names on their necklace boxes.

The Serenity Prayer.  In sweeping script.

Oh, crap.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Dad started laughing.

"Shut up, God!" I said.

Which, of course, led to a mini-theological discussion.

"God was telling her stuff that she didn't want to hear," Dad explained conspiratorially to Medium.  He looked over at me.  "I thought it was pretty clear earlier exactly what mattered."

I knew he was referencing Medium's prayer.

Okay, Lord.  Message received.

*       *        *

After the twins were settled down for a nap, and Mom and I discussed some of the other things that happened while Large Fry happily decorated Gramma's lamps with ribbon (which we found after bedtime tonight), Mom decided she wanted to go to A.C. Moore.

Large and I went along.

Without warning, this pronouncement came from the backseat:  "Daddy S says Mommy J is my real mom."

There's this scene in an episode, somewhere in the first three seasons of M*A*S*H, where a patient comes into the 4077th with an unexploded shell embedded in his body.  Hawkeye and Henry Blake have to sandbag pre-op and do a grenade-ectomy right there, without exploding the shell and taking out half the camp while they're at it.

That's about how tricky this felt.

"He's right; Mommy J is the one who gave birth to you," I agreed.  "But I'm the mommy who takes care of you all the time."  I looked back at her.  "Did Daddy S say something about me not being your real mommy?"

Large shook her head.

"Okay."  Well, that's a relief.  There would have been holy heck to pay if that had been the case.

Mom jumped in.  "Mommy J gave birth to you.  So she is your mommy.  But your mommy here--" Mom pointed me "--she's your real mommy, too.  A real mommy takes care of you when you're sick, cleans up when you throw up, makes sure you have food to eat and clothes to wear, tells you she loves you, reads to you, plays with you, and is always there for you.  That's a real mommy.  And that's all the things your mommy does for you."

By the time we got through at A.C. Moore's (where Large Fry wanted everything in sight that had Minnie or Tinkerbell on it) and Kohl's (where Large Fry was supremely disappointed that I not only failed to try on everything that she thought I should but also failed to buy it all, and yet, still had a grand time playing hide-and-seek in the clothing racks), Large was getting bored and happy to be heading home to play with her now-awake sisters. She didn't drop any more bombs.

*        *        *

But...just in case I didn't get the message loud and clear before, when we sat down to dinner tonight, Medium prayed again:

"Dear God, thank you for dis food.  And thank you for my mommy.  She's my best mommy.  Thank you that she's hewre and that we'wre a family.  If I didn't have my mommy, we wouldn't be a family.  Thank you for my mommy."

And when I asked what she was thankful for at bedtime prayers tonight?

"I'm fankful for all the new toys and candy and stuff fwom Daddy S.  And I'm fankful for my family and my mommy."

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