When I returned to full-time employment, my new job’s hours were exactly the hours of my son’s preschool. Which meant that I would need to be commuting to work at the times I would otherwise be transporting my son to and from school.
I negotiated a daily rhythm that had me coming in an hour early and leaving an hour early. This would enable me to make it to school in time to pick up Teddy every day. My plan was to find a babysitter to cover from 7 to 8:30 every morning and drive him to school in my place. Instead, Pete volunteered to do the morning shift. This would save me money and give Pete and Theo daily time together for the first time since we all lived together. Win/win! The hitch was that Pete did not own a car. We agreed that he would use mine.
As a result, my days looked like this: Wake at 5:30, leave the house by 6:45, drive Teddy to Pete’s and leave both son and car with Pete. Take the bus from Pete’s to work, arriving at 7:30 while Pete fed Teddy his second breakfast and then delivered him to school in my car. Pete would use the car for the day and then make sure it was in his apartment parking lot for me by 5 when I’d arrive by bus to drive to the preschool and collect Teddy.
It had been nearly two years since we split, and I was long past the point of needing as little contact with Pete as possible. It was actually sweet to have a daily hand-off where we discussed our son’s sleep, mood and needs for the day. Equally organized and well-prepared, Pete and I tended to do transitions smoothly. Usually, the necessary stuff was where it was intended to be. We could count on each other for that. As I loaded up with purse, computer bag, coffee mug and whatever else I was lugging to the bus, we’d have a group hug, and then my son would gleefully run up the outside steps with his father to their apartment home in the sky. It was as good as a co-parenting collaboration gets, as I saw it, and both Pete and I had pitched in to make it so.
When my dog was sick, Pete came to collect me at work–and then brought both the dog and me back to work. When I was sick, Pete delivered the car to a nearby, downtown parking lot so I would be able to get home whenever I was ready to leave the office without a major commuting ordeal. He used my car on some days to do errands, commute to work, drive to remote running spots. Everyone’s needs got met.
On the bus one morning, I was looking out the window at rain-streaked Portland blurring by and found myself wondering if maybe our rhythm worked as well and felt as good as what “real” families do. I knew for sure we couldn’t have arrived anywhere as sweet with the original shell of our family in tact. Maybe, I proposed to the disinterested sky, some things just work better once they have been broken open.