After dinner at a neighborhood pizzeria/de facto indoor playground (Jeff's trial by coal-fired oven), we returned to my apartment. While I helped Elizabeth into her footed pajamas, Jeff busied himself with the CD player. She padded into the living room, demanding a story. Jeff volunteered. I hovered nearby as he read. Funny voices flew out of his mouth, shrieks of delight out of hers. I relaxed a bit but watched intently. I couldn't help but notice that she seemed so happy. She had not seen her father since we separated, but even when he was living with us, he'd never been playful the way Jeff was. Still, it was impossibly early, and I was scared I'd done the wrong thing, putting my wants before her needs. After storytime I tucked her in, kissing her. She snuggled under her comforter and quickly fell asleep, contentedly, arms akimbo, one hand clutching her new rabbit's ears. How To Minimize Kids' Anxiety During A Divorce
The original plan was that Jeff would meet Elizabeth, have dinner and go home. But that's not what happened. I wanted him to stay—it was like we'd spontaneously combust if he left. We stayed up late, whispering quietly about his past, my past and our future. Exhausted, it was early morning before we fell asleep, entwined.
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"Mommy?" Uh oh. Jeff was supposed to have left, but he was still next to me—I'd forgotten to set the alarm. I felt my stomach contract. I was a bad mom.
"Morning, sweetie pie," I said, crawling out of bed and pulling a robe over my nightgown.
"Daddy used to sleep there," she said, pointing to where Jeff was sitting up, suddenly wide awake. She said it simply, a fact like the sun is yellow or snow is cold. There was no judgment in her voice. although the jury in my mind had already condemned me as an irresponsible mom.
"Yes, he did," I said.
"I want to come up!" she squealed, hoisting herself onto the bed. The Danger In Putting The Kids First
"In a minute—first I need your help in the kitchen," I told her, giving Jeff a chance to get completely dressed. After she helped me pour orange juice into ceramic mugs, we returned. Jeff was sitting, fully dressed, on the comforter. We crawled on top of it and told stories.
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The experts in my head scowled and then slowly dissolved as Jeff, Elizabeth and I nestled together and giggled over our silly invented tales. The whole thing—meeting a person online and introducing him to my daughter—may have seemed foolishly risky, but it just felt so right. It was a bit like I was climbing up onto the high diving board, trembling, unsure whether the end result would be a graceful swan dive or a painful belly flop, but somehow knowing deep inside that everything would be okay. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. Two years later, our daughter wore tulle and sneakers to our wedding.