So you know I like to look at the stats tab that Blogger offers. It's not like I get thousands of hits here every day (ha) but I do find it kind of interesting to see how people find me, out of the billions of other sites in the world.
The gross/funny ones are always good for a laugh. Lots of guys in Germany looking for some hot hausfrau action. My post about "Craigslist, Segways and Again with the Anal" still hooks in a few poor souls every week (and I often wonder if they ever do find all that they're looking for on craigslist). And the fact that over the past year and a half I've mentioned "ladygardens", "boners" and "three pumps and an apology" draws in a few looky-loos every week too.
But the ones that always get me are these: "What to do when your husband leaves you". I still get at least a dozen of these a day, sometimes more. Way more. There are endless variations: "My spouse left me, now what?" "What do I do when husband leaves me with debt" "How to hold your head high when husband leaves" "Being left for another woman" "How to deal with being left". Etc. But last night, I read one that felt just like a kick to the gut:
"What do I tell my kids when their dad leaves right before Christmas?"
Cut to a chubby, fleece-clad Jenny weeping over the laptop.
Seriously, can you imagine what this person was feeling? And I honestly don't have any advice for her. Other than my standard, "be all strong, you'll get through this, yada yada yada" stuff.
What kind of guy would do this? Are there people out there who are so dense that they don't understand how this stuff is remembered? It's never just "Oh my dad left us" or "I remember when dad took off". It's that, plus so much more. Like an Anguish Layer Cake.
There's the base layer, of course, which is the thickest part of the cake: Daddy left. On top of that is however Mommy reacted. Was she crying so hard she could barely talk when she told us? Was she eerily quiet? Did she look like a zombie, or like a lifeless marionette being moved by some giant, out of sight hands? Or did she just pretend that EVERYTHING IS FINE? Third layer is what you were doing when you found out. Were you playing outside and a family meeting was called? Were you getting tucked into bed? Did they get you and your siblings together for it or break the news to each of you, individually?
And the icing on top of this horrible confection? What time of year it happens. I remember exactly where and when I found out that my parents were splitting: It was summer time, a few weeks before school started. My dad sat me down, alone, on my blue and white bedspread and he cried as he told me that my mom wanted him to leave. My parents were kind of the opposite of most, it was mom who found someone else and dad who was left, but I don't think kids care about those details. All you know, at that point, is that life has changed. Forever. And you never forget the small stuff. I still remember how rough and nubby my bedspread felt under my hands, still remember being confused, and still remember how my 9-year old brain thought is was oddly comical see my tough, quiet dad sobbing next to me. I remember asking him, "But where will you go?".
Big Daddy chose to leave us in the wee, early hours of the last day of school. I remember it was still dark as he loaded up his little car and headed off to greener, firmer and more attentive pastures. I made him tell the kids, because I knew, from my own experience, that they'd never forget finding out.
But Christmas? And not just Christmas...there's Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, et al. It's four weeks of the year that carry some pretty huge significance on our calendars. That's cold. That's cruel and unusual, sadistic, mean, awful. What could compel a man to leave his family during this time? Did he promise to spend the holidays with his girlfriend? Was the pressure of faking it under the glow of twinkling Christmas tree lights too much to bear?
I'm not thankful about much that Big Daddy has done over the past few years, but one thing that I think was halfway decent on his part was leaving during a lull. He gave me and the kids a whole summer to deal with the blow, to get the big questions out, to tell our friends. To prepare for the rest of our lives.
But for all of those women who stumble upon this little blog after sitting down at their computers, and through their tears type those words into Google or Bing or whatever, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say other than that. To wish you a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year rings hollow and phony, to say "hang in there" or "be strong" seems trite and worn out.
I will say that you are not alone. Even though you may feel like a tiny, solitary boat being tossed about a huge and violent ocean, you are not alone. This Christmas or Hanukkah and New Year's Eve may suck, I won't lie. But it will get better. Trust me. I'm sitting here next to a tree that was given to me at no cost because I'm poor and for Christmas the kids and I will be counting our blessings instead of presents under said tree, but it's better than it was before.
I will also say that this is when you need, more than EVER, to model the right kind of behavior for your kids. This is the time when you need to put on your happy face and keep it on. The kids are watching your every move, and even though I'm a huge proponent of being honest with them, it never hurts to put on a brave face even when you're dying inside. And here's a little secret: keep that happy face on long enough, and it starts to sink in. Before you know it, you will actually start to feel again, feel things other than despair or depression or doom. You'll start to feel joy again, I promise.
And someday? You will have a Merry Christmas again. More importantly, your kids will. You cannot change what has happened. He's left? That's his choice. You can choose to move on, to build a new life for you and the kids. It's not going to be easy, and believe me, it's not always going to be fun. But you can do it.
Ok, so I wrote everything up there yesterday morning, before going to work. And while I was in the bathroom at school that day, I was thinking about this post (like you think about anything more worthwhile in there??) and had a tiny little epiphany.
Remember how I recently learned to try and see things from other points of view? So as I sat there in the preschool bathroom, I thought, for a second, about why a man would leave his family at Christmastime. I thought about it like a man would think about it, and I came up with this: Perhaps they leave at this time of year because they think it's the right thing to do. Maybe they feel as though they're doing their family a favor, maybe they've done such a good job of separating themselves from their family (in their head) that not being there for the holidays seems like the right thing to do.
Or maybe they're just selfish, mean babies who let their pee-pees do all the thinking. Whatever the case may be, remember these two points:
It will get easier and
You're not alone.
Now on to the "hint" thing: So I mentioned up there ^^ that I got a free Christmas tree, right? I did. Apparently when you are deemed "food shelf-worthy" you qualify for a program that allows you to go to a special "Christmas Shoppe" and pick out a few gifts for your kids. If you know me, you know I'm a weeper.
I've done a lot of weeping over the past week or so. A lot. I mean, a lot even by my soggy standards.
So, this "Christmas Shoppe" was at a church not too far from my house. My friend and I went (not sure if said friend wants her life publicized so I'll refer to her as Friend for now). Friend and I were a little wary about this...we had imagined a dark church basement with a few piles of donated toys, and both of us were terrified that we'd run into people we knew. We shouldn't have worried.
It was a lovely, clean, well-lit and well-run operation. We were both able to pick out a few things for each of our kids. I was thrilled to the gills to find big packs of socks for all of my boys (believe it or not, all three have said they'd like socks for Christmas. Have I mentioned how much I love these kids?). A gorgeous scarf for Molly. A few other items that I can wrap and put under the tree. They even had rolls of wrapping paper and tape. If you are one of the kind souls who donate items to places like this? Know that what you do is appreciated. Very much.
So anyhoo. I approached the little table where you check out with your items, and who do you think I saw? Yep. The man from my church. The man from the food shelf. The man who lost his son, Nick. Our eyes met, and for the second time this month I found myself in front of the man who made a difference in the lives of my kids. And, for the second time this month, I started blubbering like a lunatic (this poor guy must think I just walk around crying). He was sweet, didn't bring up the food shelf thing, just asked me, "How are you?". That was all. How are you. Not, "Oh, I see you're still poor" or "Jeeze, you again?". Just "How are you?".
He checked out my bags, took my hand and wished me and the kids a Merry Christmas, and then, as I was leaving, called out, "Hey! Do you have a Christmas tree yet?". I shook my head, no. He walked over with a little slip of paper in his hand. "There's a tree lot out back. Give this to the guys there...we want you to have a tree."
And that's the story about how we got our tree. It's also the story about how I think God, or someone else pretty high up there, wants me to keep running into that man from church. I just have to figure out why...is it to remind me of how good life is? Or maybe that I need to realize that the hand I've been dealt is kind of crappy, but it could be so.much.worse. I think part of it is a reminder that I need to give back. The kids and I have been on the receiving end of so much goodness, so much generosity, so much LOVE, we need to pay it forward.
I don't have the means to give much, but I do have a little spare time, a strong back and the desire to help in whatever way I can.
Beginning next week, I'm volunteering at the food shelf. A couple hours a week...not much, I know, but it's a start.
And maybe, just maybe...I'll run into someone I know. Someone who needs a hand.