The kids are home, where am I?

It's been almost a year since I moved out. The kids have been home from boarding school for March vacation, the summer, Thanksgiving, and now it's their three week Christmas vacation. W and I are separated, and I just have a place in a group house in the next town over. She's in our old house still, and that's where they stay, that's where their friends are, and that's the only home they remember. Since Thanksgiving I've finally started making my apartment my own space, even though that has meant taking some of my things out of W's house. The holes left by what I take hurt me, but most was from my home office, and now a little bit from my library there. I worry about what the kids will think when they see the holes I've left behind. I even worry about my in-laws, who have been living there since last May (stuck here waiting for a citizenship application to go through (it did!) and afraid to return to Iran with the current unrest and suspicion there against Iranian's traveling to the U.S. (Ironically, the U.S. is home to the second-largest Iranian population in the world—L.A.. 40% of Beverly Hills is made up of Iranians, mostly Jewish, who fled the revolution.) But I digress.)

Each time the kids come home, I think I have a handle on it. Each time I'm wrong. I want to spend time with them, but they are busy. D1 stays up until 4 in the morning watching torrented movies with friends, and working on her video collages for college applications. She gets up in the afternoon and then may or may not stay at the house. D2 is the social butterfly, sleepovers here and there, window shopping, hanging out; hardly ever at home. Nobody has a fixed schedule, and this was never a family that communicated schedules well, even when we were all in one house. So if I go over there, I spend 90% of my time sitting around with W and the in-laws, or at best, watching TV with everyone. 

When they came home for the summer, I thought I'd visit a 3-4 evenings a week. Have dinner with the family and in-laws (yummy Persian food!), see the kids, relax by the TV, and then head back "home". But I couldn't do it. Being in the house was too painful. The greetings from my in-laws (so much more friendly than what they give to W) were too guilt-inspiring. And the kids were hardly there. It took most of the summer for me to find a balance.

Thanksgiving I had to be there, my parents were visiting too. I took my laptop, figured I'd do some work. But I can't work when the TV is on, and exiling myself to another room seemed pointless (and too much like the last five years of my marriage). It went better when I gave up on the work and just sat and watched TV.

Watching TV has never been relaxing for me. I grew up without one. I enjoy some shows, but they don't relax me, and while some shows are social (D1 and I annoy W by telling her what's going to happen next :), it brings back to many other memories I don't like—the years when I was torn between working in my home-office while W watched TV, or sitting next to her and hoping she'd actually interact with me.

So now it's Christmas vacation. In a week we'll go spend a few days with my parents, and that will be okay. But we'll come back before New Years, as the kids have plans to visit friends in New York. So right now, I sit here in my apartment and wonder what to do. D1 is probably just waking up. D2 is over at a friends. I've asked them both to let me know if they'd like to go out to a movie or dinner together or with friends, and to let me know what their schedule is. I've even said to tell me if they are hanging out watching TV, but I doubt they'll remember. There's no real place for me there. I sit here torn; I'm 15 minutes from my daughters, but it feels no different than when I was 15 hours away. I was there the first day they came home, I was going to go over the second, but just couldn't do it. Today I sit here and try to focus on work. I can't win. Stay or go, I will be stressed. 

The best I can do is try to find things that we can do together, offer them the options, and while I wait, try to be productive; try to pull my life together so I can make theirs better as well.

I miss them, but in many ways, they were already gone, whether I was there or not. These vacations aren't that different than when I was living there, it's just that they are away so much, so those little moments of unplanned conversation, flights of fancy about this or that idea, book or movie—all take on more importance to me.