I leave my brother’s house here in New York. On one hand I’m sad about it; on the other, I’m a bit relieved.

Kids are hard work. Brother’s been around, but sometimes he’s been sleeping (he slept in yesterday, took a long nap), or sometimes he’ll run an errand and leave me with one of the kids. BoyPenguin and I babysit for our neighbors somewhat frequently, so we know kids can be hard, but it’s so much harder when the kids are: 1. in transition in life, 2. used to getting their own way, 3. eating unhealthy foods leaving them feeling full but not actually getting what they need 4. don’t have any routine to their day or especially their bedtime, and 5. don’t really get any exercise during the day. So watching them is hard. Even with two people, kids are just a lot of work. And it’s always about them.

The oldest one (7) had meltdowns around bedtime, and last night complained that her tummy hurt. She’d said something yesterday morning about her chest or her tummy hurting or burning (it wasn’t clear) which my brother told her was probably heartburn. Honestly, I’ve never heard of heartburn in a child. I’ve also never had it, so that’s not what I thought of when she explained her symptoms. So she had chocolate milk. All day it was processed foods for meals. She would not eat anything fresh, like a banana, apple, not even a peanut butter and jelly. She was always polite about turning down my food (“No, thank you.”), but by bedtime, had a tummy ache. She then said she felt sick, and eventually started throwing up.

Brother was in the bathroom while she threw up and he scratched her back between episodes. She kept asking to talk to her mommy, and Brother texted his ex, but she never responded. 5 text messages about her daughter wanting to talk to her mommy because she was sick went ignored for 2 hours. Once she fell asleep on the bathroom floor, Brother took her into her room.

He came downstairs sobbing.

He’s just so sad that he’s in a point in life where he’s the one laying down with her and her mom can’t be bothered to talk to her sick daughter because she has a new boyfriend and new kids down the street (this woman is on the phone literally all the time). He’s sad this is his life now, and angry. But mostly hurting for his daughters.

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We had a long talk last night about things he needs to do to keep it together. He says “I can’t do this,” and I’m like, “Well, you’re going to have to.” He’s got all these tools for coping: Write, exercise, play guitar, establish routines, etc., but he’s doing none of them. So nicely, but firmly, I told him “Look, this is going to be long and hard. It’s more about endurance because settling the divorce and custody isn’t going to happen overnight. You’re going to have to deal with weeks when you’re alone. So USE these tools.”

This whole trip, he’s been giving me lots of excuses about “Well, this is hard, you don’t understand, kids are exhausting, etc.” I told him I understand it’s hard. It’s going to be hard, just accept that. But you have to be ready for the long haul with this and keep yourself together mentally and emotionally.

I wrote him a note, too, with much of this in it and more. I’m leaving it with him to read, or keep, or burn, or whatever. I didn’t really touch the parenting advice because, although he desperately needs it, he can only take so much at one time, and working on his mental health is the priority right now.

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It’s 8:16 am here now. I leave town at 10:00ish headed to Cleveland, where I’ll stay two nights and a day. From Cleveland, I drive to St. Louis, where I’ll also stay two nights and a day, and hope to get to the City Museum while I’m there. Then leave for Kansas, where I’ll stay at BoyPenguin’s mom’s for a night (she said she’d clean, and I can get along with her well for a night), and then back through all of Kansas to get home to Colorado.

I really miss my plants, my cat, and especially BoyPenguin. It’ll be good to get home.