At home (my old one, anyway) we use sound machines in our children’s bedrooms to drown out noise and help them sleep better. It’s usually white noise or the ocean or crickets or birds.
I hate the fucking bird one.
When I moved into my new place, I had trouble sleeping the first couple of nights and I couldn’t figure out why. Other than the obvious culprits of going through a gut-wrenching divorce and not sleeping under the same roof as the rest of my family, I didn’t know why I was struggling to fall asleep – and kept waking up once I did.
Then it occurred to me: It was too quiet.
Our children are ten, seven, and four. We’ve been using sound machines for a decade. Actually two for the last four years since my son was born. Our daughters share a room (that’s one sound machine) and my son has his own room (that’s the second). We leave their doors open when we sleep and it’s a small house, so my sleeping ears had become accustomed to constant, repetitive, numbing noise throughout the night.
So on night three, I turned on the white noise app on my phone before closing my eyes.
I bet I didn’t last thirty seconds.
There is comfort in that noise. Noise that reminds me of ten years of parenting. Ten years of late-night feedings, nightmares, and bed-wettings. Ten years of “I’m thirsty”, “Can you read me one more book?”, and “Daddy, why can’t I hug God?”. Ten years of having a drink together after we got them down and watching an old episode of Frasier or The Office. Ten years of sex after they fell asleep.
I hope I don’t need it forever. I hope someday I can fall asleep in the silence. But until then, I’m cutting myself some slack and using it. It makes me feel not so alone. Like I might make it through this. Like there’s hope.
I told you before how I live next door to my soon-to-be ex-wife and my children. When it’s “her days” with the kids, she allows me to stop in for a minute after I get home to say hi to them.
I text her once I get inside my place and ask if I can come over. I have to ask permission to come over to the place I lived for ten years. Then I walk about 30 feet and knock on my old front door. I hear my children inside yelling, “Daddy!” and running towards the door. My son usually gets there first and lets me in. He gives me a big hug, the kind little kids do when they jam their shoulder into your throat. He usually brings me a picture he drew for me, or wants to show me something in his room.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t live there anymore, so I feel weird just walking around wherever he wants me to go. So I stand there awkwardly and tell him I’ll have to see it another time. The girls find me. My eldest is so big and grown-up looking. She says confidently and sweetly, “Hi Daddy,” and hugs me. I ask her how her day was and she tells me something short. My middle is usually last to greet me. Not because she’s indifferent, but because she’s usually absorbed in whatever her current art project is. But then she rushes over and hugs me hard. She lifts her feet and I have to try to not fall forwards. She’s so sweet and warm and I just want to hold her forever.
The house looks different now. She’s already made a lot of changes, but even the things that are unchanged are no longer familiar. I wasn’t even moved out yet and she had a painter in there updating the color in the living room. If she had murdered me, my body would have still been warm.
Other than seeing my children, I hate being over there. It’s not mine anymore and I don’t like the memories of when it was. It’s a Bizarro World Twilight Zone of surrealism that makes me uncomfortable and sad.
I hug and kiss them all again and say goodbye and I love you. Then I leave quickly before I start crying. I don’t say goodbye to her.
My wife filed for divorce yesterday. Things started falling apart about a week before Thanksgiving. The holidays were a nightmare. We told our children on January 4th. I moved out a month ago. In 90 days, the divorce will be final. I still don’t really know what happened. This blog will be my process of trying to figure it out.