This week, for the second time this summer, JT is away from his home and his Mama, to spend some time with my ex. It's always strange for me to be in this position. Every day, when I wake in the morning, I listen for the breath of my son in the next room. This week I hear a silence. And then I remember that he is away and I know that's why I feel oddly untethered. The legal arrangement that made this a necessary part of our lives calls my ex's time with my son "parenting time."
Its clinical tone makes it an apt characterization. Though I don't deny that my son loves her and I dearly hope that that she loves him back, since she walked out on our family I don't think of her as a parent. Parents are the people in your life who are there every day, the folks who pack your lunchbox, wash your clothes, set down to eat supper with you, and love you in person. They are present for the laughter and the tears and everything else that makes up daily life. It needn't be biology that unites a child with his parent. But I believe that being a parent is in the actions and the words of a life lived together.
And together takes time; together doesn't adhere to a schedule.
The people who come every other weekend, who sometimes return you home with the announcement that "we were too busy to get his clothes washed"; who don't know the names of your friends; who have no idea where soccer practice is, let alone when it happens; who aren't there when you cry and miss them at night.....they are something, no doubt something meaningful. But they are not a parent.