Two nights ago, I fixed dinner and set the dining room table with cloth placemats. I put the utensils, napkins, and salt and pepper on the table, too, so we wouldn’t be grabbing them at the last minute. I got everyone’s drinks and even put a lit candle in the middle of the table as a centerpiece. When I was finished, I called my children and my boyfriend in for dinner. We said grace (those of us who do that) and then, as we began to eat, my daughter piped up, “So, mom, tell me about your day…”
We went around the table, everyone sharing a bit about what had happened to him or her at school or work. The kids occasionally threw out a general complaint about the meal (stuffed shells) which the dog, conversely, seemed to be very happy about. My boyfriend told us about the printmaking project his kindergarten classes were working on. Someone told a dumb joke and we all laughed. We were sitting down for maybe only about thirty minutes,total.
But, let me tell you- it was the best thirty minutes of my week! Maybe the best thirty minutes of the past year.
I miss family dinners. When I was a married, stay-at- home mom, it was difficult enough to get everyone to sit down for a meal in the evening; the kids had homework and extracurricular activities, my husband would sometimes have to work late, or something else would get in the way. Still, I tried to institute a three dinner per week rule which we were able to achieve with some regularity. Now that I am a single mom with a full-time job, it can be overwhelming to think about planning and preparing meals, much less getting everyone seated- together- around the table. But, oh my God, it’s so much better when I can!
The chronic pain that I live with every day is the ache of missing my kids. I can’t sit around second-guessing my decision to leave my marriage, but I also can’t deny the huge cost of that choice. To sit down with them every evening that we’re togehter, the way we did before their world came crashing down, is to try to put our pieces back together. It’s the type of “normal” thing I wish I’d have paid more attention to in the weeks and months following my split from their dad.
When I moved out, I was focused on trying to just get by: getting a job, finding a place to live, moving in, setting up utilities, working out schedules, and trying not to fall apart. I took the kids to a counselor and found one for myself; I did everything I could to try to just keep going.But, now that the fog is starting to lift, I want to do the everyday things that remind us that, even though things are different, we are still a family. Regular dinners together are just one of the ways I’m trying to rebuild.
After everyone was finished eating the other night, my daughter and I lingered in the kitchen. I washed the dishes and she dried, each of us lost in our own thoughts. A few minutes passed and then, looking up at me she said, “I’ve been waiting for this for so long, Mommy” as tears filled her little eyes.
Me, too, baby. Me, too.
(This post was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)