Last Sunday was Ex-Wife’s birthday. Child One realized too late that she had no plan. And, as Ex-Wife’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day, reservations at any restaurant were out of the question. So Child One decided to throw her mother a party - a Japanese party with sushi and inari and a variety of Asian treats. But we were running a little late returning from our weekend away and it seemed to me that Child One shouldn’t bear the whole burden of prepping the party. So I offered to help.
“Help” really just meant going to Whole Foods (twice) to pick up trays of sushi and boxes of edamame and some inari and soft drinks and various other treats. Child Two came with me for the first trip. Child One joined for the second. And as we stood in the check out line with our little plastic containers of rice-wrapped veggies, Child One flung her arms around me and snuggled a thank you into my neck. She pulled back and we smiled at each other and shared a laugh. “Of course,” I said, “after all, its my ex-wife’s birthday.” The checker looked at us sort of funny but went about her business as Child One turned to me and said, “That’s funny, L. That’s just what I was telling my friend the other day. I told her about you and mommy and that there are just no normal families anymore.”
This particular friend’s parents are splitting up. This is unusual in Child One’s world. Child One has mostly been surrounded by “normal families.” Unlike Child Two, most of the parents of One’s very dear friends are still together. Her friends don’t have familiarity with awkward step-moments or the frustration of wanting the pair of shoes that just happen to be at one house when he or she is at the other. Among her friends, Child One has always been the different one – the one struggling with the issues of traveling between houses and navigating betwixt parents. But now Child One gets to be the expert, using her experience to help her friend thru the brutal terrain of divorce.
Meanwhile, Ex-Wife seemed happy with her party and her presents and the kids were happy they’d pulled it off. The holiday weekend ended and both children settled back into their “normal” life with two households, three parents, four dogs and one slightly overweight cat. Child One will continue to counsel her friend and will undoubtedly describe a life of bouncing between houses and keeping track of shoes and sweaters and books and time. But hopefully she’ll also remember that she often thinks that three parents are better than two and that weird families are more normal than not.