I’ve done a lot of waiting and hesitating out of fear over the last five years – fear of change, fear of looking bad, fear of losing my gay wife. (Really.) All of those fears are stupid right on their face.
But the one I clung to, the one that always seemed valid, is the fear of screwing up my kids. I have four; three are still minors. I kept myself married for many years past what I should have with a couple of core beliefs:
– Not living with my kids 24/7 would be failing them, and
– The kids would hate me and end up maladjusted.
So I stayed stuck, for four full years after the final “gay bomb” of my wife expressing her ache at not being able to be with a woman, of having to live this long lonely life monogamously married to a man. (This is stuff for another post. It’ll come.)
Both of us were inordinately worried about our kids. We had created a quiet, stable, careful life for them. They never had to deal with change. I’ve worked for the same organization for 19 years; she for 17. We had even lived in the same house for 14 years. And we told ourselves that this was good for them.
Although they can be completely oblivious to a mess or unfinished homework, kids are very active observers of what is happening around them. They absorb tension and strangeness in their and either act out or internalize it as stress and depression. Or both.
As the years (years!) wore on and I agonized, knowing I was unhappy and needed to leave for me, but also “knowing” that breaking up my family would destroy my kids. I was told this was not true. But I’m stubborn. I clung to this idea. And my kids grew depressed, restless, troubled. They could tell. The knew. I was living in the damn basement, for God’s sake.
My oldest daughter grew particularly depressed. And once we told them – Mom’s gay and we’re separating – it was like the air had been let out of an overblown balloon. Her relief was visible. “I knew this,” she said. We’d been lying to her and all of them for months. In retrospect this is and was far worse than any changes we could have/should have/and have made. All the delays cost me was my integrity, a part of my sanity, and a relationship with an amazing, beautiful, sexy woman, who finally had enough of being put off.
I just moved into a new place, an upper duplex big enough to have my kids half the time. It’s a kind of crazy, cheap place in a central-city neighborhood of apartments, thrift stores and crappy corner markets that sell candy, cigarettes and $19 TracFone flip phones to throw in the trash after the deal goes down. There’s a lot of yelling outside and a few sirens at night. My kids are getting used to that, but it’s a 10-minute walk to their school on the other side of the Interstate, eight minutes to the park and rec center. I don’t have much stuff for them, and they are sharing beds right now, but they love it. And so do I. They’re going to be just fine.