Second Thoughts

March 6, 2014 • Posted by PartywithMoms in Anne's Parenting Column • Tags: , , , 5 comments  

Marina Overton was setting up her desk in her new room, taking things out of a cardboard moving box: her tape dispenser, a little pair of red handled scissors, several drawing pads, lots of crayons and colored pencils.  As she arranged them on her white desk, she was thinking of her old room in the house she had lived in since she was born.  Her little brother Thomas sat in a bigger moving box, humming discordantly.

“I might sleep in this box, Marina.  I like it in here better than my room.”

In the kitchen, their mother, Shawna was setting up for a new life.  Dishes, bowls, and glasses were placed in a cabinet.  She put the toaster on the counter and wondered how to make the place feel like home.

Looking out the window, Shawna called, “Children, come look at the beautiful sunset.”

Marina ran down the stairs.  Thomas knocked his box over and raced to see the pink and orange stripes across the sky.

“Maybe it won’t be so bad here.  If we can see sunsets and I can sleep in my box, I’ll be happy,” Thomas said unconvincingly.

Back upstairs, Marina looked around her room.  Her desk was ready for coloring or writing.  The closet was in good shape and her mother had made the bed with her favorite yellow and white striped sheets, with her soft white comforter on top.

“I’ll sleep in my box near you, Marina.”  Thomas flopped his box into the room.

“Just sleep in my bed.  We can talk till we fall asleep,” Marina said maternally.  “I hope Daddy saw the sunset.  It might cheer him up.”

“Yeah.  Maybe he thought of us.”

Charlie, their dad had been living at his brother’s house, about an hour away, ever since he and Shawna had separated six months ago.

The phone rang and the children ran to try and find it.  Marina and her mother answered at the same time.  It was Charlie.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Shawna.

“Hi Daddy!  It’s me!”

“Charlie, this isn’t a good time,” Shawna said coldly.

“Daddy, Thomas and I were just wondering if you saw the sunset.”

“No, I was in a meeting with Uncle Roger.  I’ll look for it tomorrow and I’ll think of you when I see it.”

Thomas got next to the phone.  “Daddy, I’m going to sleep in my box in Marina’s room,” he shouted.

“Marina and Thomas, how about if I have a word with Daddy?”  Shawna was annoyed.

“Okay, Mommy.  I love you Daddy.”  Marina’s voice cracked.

“Me too, Daddy,” Thomas was holding the phone tightly.  “Hope you come back soon.”

“I love you too, Marina and Thomas,” Charlie told them.

The children quietly crept to the kitchen door.

“Charlie, this is a whole new time.  The children need to settle in.  I think your calls make them sad.”

“I want to stay in close touch with them.  I can call them at a specific time, if that’s easier for you, Shawna.”

“We need space,” she countered.  “We need to separate if we’re going to get into our new lives.  The children might not know it, but they need space, too.”

“Shawna, the children and I will make an arrangement that works.  I’ll try not to burden you, but they need me and I need them.”

Thomas had been leaning against the door and fell into the kitchen.

“Charlie, I have to go.  The children are calling.”  Shawna hung up and turned toward the children.

“Snooping around, listening to me on the phone is a pain.  Go back to what you were doing.  If you have a question, ask it.”

“I wanted to talk to Daddy.”  Thomas’ lip was quivering.  “Marina got to but I didn’t.  Will he call back?”

“Not tonight.  That call was an interruption.  I hope that isn’t going to be something he does a lot. ”

“I miss him, Mommy.  I want him to come back.  So does Marina.  Daddy is fun.  Why are you angry at him?”  Thomas was crying.

“He’s not coming back,” Shawna declared firmly.

“You don’t know everything in the whole universe!”  Thomas’ face was a mix of rebellion and sadness.

Shawna was not as sure as she sounded.  She had asked for the separation, which had really upset Charlie and the children.  Charlie had always worked too much.  When he came home, he wanted to be with the children.  Checkers, piggyback rides, popcorn with movies, hide and seek and board games filled his time away from work.  Not much time alone had been planned for Shawna and Charlie.  Shawna felt Charlie really preferred time with the children.  Wanting more for herself, she told him to leave.  In retrospect, she wasn’t sure of her decision.

Marina came down to the kitchen with a picture for Shawna.  It showed a sunset, and her mother watching it out a window.  She had a folded one for her father too.

“Do you have an envelope?  I want to send this picture to Daddy. “

“I’ll find one tomorrow.”

They both looked at the picture for Charlie.  Marina and Thomas were holding his hands.

“I really miss Daddy,” Marina began.  “He misses us too.  I can tell.  Mommy, can you fix it?”

Shawna absorbed Marina’s words, knowing how wounded she was.  “This is the way it is now.  Get ready for bed.”

Placing the picture for her father on the counter, Marina went up the stairs.  Thomas had fallen asleep in Marina’s bed.  He had the little stuffed sun his father had given him in his arms.  Marina brushed her teeth and washed her face.  She found her soft pajamas with clouds and a blue sky on them.  She got into bed.  “Goodnight Thomas.  Goodnight Daddy.  And goodnight, Mommy.  I hope you are happier tomorrow.  Please find an envelope.”  Curling snuggly next to Thomas, Marina began to drift off.

Shawna finished up the kitchen and made a little dinner for herself.  She found an envelope and a stamp and addressed the envelope for Charlie.  She wondered if she could have tried harder.  Charlie was a great father.  He loved Marina and Thomas so much.  And his salary and bonuses had given them a very good life.  Maybe if she hadn’t been so demanding, he would have wanted to be with her more.

Shawna turned out the kitchen lights and went upstairs.  Her children were asleep in Marina’s bed.

She had wanted to hurt Charlie.  But she was hurting everyone.  She could see that now.  Turning on the light switch in her very unfamiliar bedroom, she dialed Charlie.

“Shawna?”

“Charlie, I’m sorry I was such a pill before.  Why don’t you come over tomorrow night for dinner?  The children miss you. ”

“I can’t wait.  I’ll be there and bring wine.  Thank you.”

Getting herself ready for bed, Shawna felt a bit hopeful.  She couldn’t wait to tell Marina and Thomas that Charlie was coming for dinner.  She smiled as she slipped into bed.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

We welcome your comments and questions.

Comments ( 5 )

 
  1. This story puts a finger on one of the all-time traps of married life with children. It’s much easier to play with the kids than it is to play with the spouse.

    Why is that? Why do moms and dads lose their desire to play with each other? Why does it seem to be the kids that somehow do that to their parents?

    Clearly the answer is that Someone up there is having a big joke on us by introducing caring for small children into the delicate equation of nurturing a marriage.

    This story ended on a glimmer of hope with Shawna getting over herself and inviting Charlie to dinner. Well done.

    The only false note I sensed was Shawna questioning herself if she hadn’t been too demanding. Hello?

    What woman in a marriage is not demanding of her spouse? What are they there for anyway? Men need to be demanded of the way dogs need to be walked, cars need to be driven and gourmet chocolate needs to be eaten.

    Did Zeus divorce Hera for being too demanding? Of course not, she was the queen of his heart.

    Demand away, Shawna, but keep on asking Charlie over for dinner. He’s been missing you. No, not just the kids. You. Really. In all your demanding, womanly glory.

  2. Mary Alice schulte

    This is such a sad story. At first I thought that Shawna had moved so far away from Charlie that the sunset looked different. I am happy that she is close enough that it is easy to plan a dinner together. I really hope that they can put their marriage back together again. Those children are so sweet and adorable and this separation is already so difficult for them. Everybody makes mistakes and with less judgement and more love/understanding, I really think this family can be happy again. Xoxo

  3. lizzie

    shawna might see the big picture now. i hope she does, because i think they are a happy family and very lucky to all have each other. nothing is perfect, but love is always the answer! happy 40th column, anne! thanks for all the wisdom and tears of happiness!

  4. auntie mom

    It seems as if Charlie is such a nice father, he very likely could be a very nice husband too. I love the line
    about not knowing everything in the universe. Let it happen, Shawna ! If you have a question, ask it !
    We’re all rooting for you !

  5. k v

    Anne’s little details really make the story seem real. I am wondering how old the children are, probably both under 6 years old? It’s sad that the Shawna doesn’t seem to know how to enjoy her husbands
    love for the children and make the sweetness for the entire family! Her reaction seems so extreme.

    I am glad she realizes this is a tough road to go down and will change her children forever. There are no “Perfect situations”

    Congratulations to Anne on her 40th column! Such sweet, sage advice. It always makes me pause and to think about mothering and family life.

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