My youngest turns three tomorrow. I have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading this day for quite some time now. While I always count down until my children’s next birthday, (“Just two more sleeps until your birthday!”) this one has been a constant, ticking clock in the background of my life for the last couple years. When my son turns three, his father and I move to 50/50 custody.
Currently, I have the majority of custody. But, as part of our court agreement when we divorced, that all changes in just a few short hours. I was more than hesitant to switch to 50/50 custody. In fact, the mere thought of it still makes my stomach seize up and catches my breath. But, in the best interest of the children, I agreed to split custody. Now, here it is, the reality of my decision staring me in the face.
My baby boy is turning three. That means in just 15 years, he’ll be graduating high school. And out of those 15 years, I get half. I get half as many days of dropping him off at preschool, half as many times of taking him to get weighed and measured at his checkups, half as many chances to kiss him goodnight. And it’s not just him. I have a seven-year old boy and a ten-year old daughter. That means half as many chances to see him tear down the road on his bike or tell me excitedly about his day. Half as many chances to brush her hair or let her paint my toenails or show me her latest drawing or other work of art. Half.
Tomorrow, while my baby boy opens his presents at Chuck E. Cheese (yeah, I know, I never learn) I will watch him with tears in my eyes. I will remember to cherish every moment – some good, some not-so-fun – that I get with him and his brother and his sister. I will happily play all the sticky games and eat the crappy pizza. And then, that night, after I lay them all down to sleep, I will sneak back into their rooms and kiss their little heads and whisper how much I love them. Then, I will go to my room and cry.