Just got back from the grocery store and it was a real adventure. What made this particular trip so fun? The constant, ear-splitting screams of a small child.

I assumed, at first, that a baby was crying. If so, she had quite the set of lungs. This continued, nonstop, for a good fifteen minutes, the kid never once pausing or coming up for air. Her cries echoed through the entire store, making for a very unpleasant shopping experience – I could see this on the faces of the other shoppers I passed. Eventually the cries drew closer, and I spotted the offender. Surprisingly, she was about three years old. Her cheeks were blazing, tears streamed down her face, and she continued to wail incessantly. Her dad blatantly ignored her, pushing the cart with a stoic look, while her mom walked alongside, ignoring her with equally stubborn indignation.

The whole thing was sadly pathetic – and completely unnecessary.

All they had to do was pick the child up. Hug her, pat her on the back, comfort her. I don’t know what the issue was, and I understand that it’s none of my business, but a battle of wills out in public should never be allowed to continue unabated for so long. Eventually, the dad did scoop her up, and what do you know – the crying stopped instantly. Nobody said parenting was easy – I know this from firsthand experience – but it certainly doesn’t need to be that difficult, either.

I’ve been reading a lot of old blog posts lately. The summer of 2006 was a difficult and contentious time in my life; my marriage completely fell apart, and I have the whole thing chronicled elsewhere. Every event that transpired, every emotion I felt, is captured for posterity. This was unintentional; I’d been blogging for years, and when bad things started to happen, I continued to write. If anything, I stepped up the pace. So, for better or worse, I’ve got this very difficult time in my life all written down for me to look back on whenever the mood strikes. It’s difficult reading, but invariably makes me feel pretty good about my life these days, because it gives me a better appreciation for the happiness that Tara has brought me.

One of the things that I’ve been reminded of, in reading those old posts, is how crucial a role my kids played in helping me to survive a very trying time.

Divorce is difficult on everybody, and my kids experienced firsthand the disintegration of their parents’ marriage. It must have been an awful thing to witness, and I felt horrible that they had to live through it. And yet, through it all, they remained strong and supportive. I refuse to point fingers and place any blame – we’ll just call it an unfortunate situation and leave it at that – but throughout that summer, more often than not, it was just me and the kids, morning, noon and night. I think I depended on them just as much as they depended on me – but I don’t think they know that. Or knew that, because last night – some five and a half years after the fact – I let them know how important they’d been to me that summer. In fact, I shared with Rusty a blurb I had written one day in August.

Rusty, by the way, is the only person in the whole world I feel I can truly count on…my son’s stock keeps rising in my eyes every day…I’ve got Rusty, thankfully. He’s been awesome through this. An eleven-year-old source of strength. I think I’ll keep him around…

Audrey, too, was wonderful throughout the whole ordeal. At six, she was younger, and it was more difficult for her to process what was going on – but she rarely complained, and weathered the storm admirably.

The point is, I wanted my kids to know how thankful I was to have them, and how important they’d been to me then. And, how important they are to me now. It’s true that they are older and more independent. That they fight with each other and don’t always do as they are told and sometimes get on my last nerve. But, they are good kids, and I’m lucky they have turned out the way they have. Considering what they have gone through, and the fact that they still rotate between two households with very different lifestyles, ending up someplace different every week, they are remarkably well-adjusted and pretty well behaved. My friends point this out often, and Tara – who was understandably nervous over meeting them initially – has truly taken to them (and vice-versa). It’s made what might have been an awkward transition pretty damn simple.

So, Rusty and Audrey, even though I sometimes snap at you guys and nitpick over little things, know that I’m proud of you, and glad that you guys are around. I can’t imagine life without you.

And no, I am not dying. I just thought I’d tell you that!

One of our many outings in the summer of 2006, proving that even in the midst of turmoil we still managed to have a rip-roaring, bloody good time!

The topic of kids, actually, is an interesting one. When we first divorced, I swore to myself that I would never again have another child. I felt like I’d paid my dues and, back then, had no interest in going through the whole process again. But over the years, my stance softened, and my attitude changed. The older my kids got, the more I missed those younger years (which is pretty ironic, because when they were babies I couldn’t wait until they were toddlers, and then when they were toddlers I couldn’t wait until they were in school…there was this never-ending cycle of wishing they were older and more independent, until suddenly they were. Then I was like hey, wait a minute…  Maybe this is something all parents experience?). Plus, if I had it to do all over again, I know I’d do a better job. The kid crying in the store is a perfect example. When I was younger I was less patient, and more apt to try to prove a point, never mind the fact that it is impossible to reason with anybody under the age of 7. With maturity comes wisdom. I’d never let my kid cry like that. And, knowing how fast kids grow up, I think I’d appreciate those younger years more. I wouldn’t be in such a rush for my kid  to turn older. There’s a lot to be said for cherishing the moment.

Mom and dad, you can breathe easy – I’m not trying to tell you anything here. I’m not ending this post with some big, surprising revelation. And I know I’m not getting any younger. If I ever did have another kid, I’d have to bring along an oxygen tank whenever I pushed the stroller, as I’m sure I’d end up winded from the exertion.

Actually, I kid. Tara told me the other day she has trouble keeping up with me sometimes. And I’ve got eight years on her. Maybe it’s the fact that I do have eight years on her that has me thinking this way? Dating a younger woman without children, the idea is bound to pop into your head at some point. At least the thought doesn’t have me running in the opposite direction, or even breaking a sweat. And that probably has a lot to do with how good Rusty and Audrey have been over the years.

So again, I thank you two. For being there then, and for being there now.

And no, really, I swear I don’t have some kind of terminal disease…


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

26 thoughts on “Kids

  1. I cry every time I go to the grocery store too. Just an indicator: I don’t buy Jello but it used to be .49 and now 1.39 and that is just over last year or so. Dinner at restaurant really is cheaper.


  2. What a wonderfully touching and heartfelt post, Mark!

    “So, Rusty and Audrey, even though I sometimes snap at you guys and nitpick over little things, know that I’m proud of you, and glad that you guys are around. I can’t imagine life without you.”

    How sweet.

    “And no, I am not dying. I just thought I’d tell you that!”


    Even though I’m not a parent, I adore children. And I can’t imagine doing everything ‘right’ because when you first have children,it’s sorta a learn-as-you-go-along process (at least that’s what many parents have told me).

    It’s ironic, because my dad was also older than my mother and she said that same thing….it was hard keeping up with him because he was always on the go.

    I too have gone back and read some of my older posts this week, and it was so funny to read about what was going on in my life 5 years ago compared to now, and how I’ve grown, both as person and as a writer. That’s one of the things I love about having a blog, it’ll be there to read forever!


    1. Oh, it’s very much “learn as you go.” The hospital doesn’t give you manual when you leave (though they will make sure you’ve got a car seat properly installed). Trial by fire, if you will. And you’ve read of my post where Rusty nearly burned the townhouse down, so I mean that quite literally!

      I definitely agree with you about the blog being a time capsule of sorts. For better or worse!


  3. This one is going to be right up there as one of my favorite blog posts. They really are great kids and I’m grateful for the fun times we’ve shared so far.

    I remember when you first wrote that comment about Rusty and how impressed I was that the kids fared so well during and after the divorce. I’ve been reading about them for so many years, I feel privileged that I get to be a real part of their lives now.


    1. They’re the lucky ones, babe.

      And it really struck me how much I went on and on about them that summer. I truly couldn’t have survived without them. That fact alone makes them deserving of a little blog love!


  4. Love my kids with the same intensity you do…. Give me one more and I’ll crack. Mind you, I’m not 8 years younger than you. I’ll happily wait until I’m a granny. Then I will spoil them rotten and give them away at night so I can have a restful sleep thanks!


  5. Well. This one certainly tugged at the ol’ heartstrings. I still get teary-eyed when I look at pictures of Tara and Eric when they were little. There is so many things I would have liked to have done different but I can’t. I have a beautiful daughter and a very handsome son and I couldn’t be more proud to be their Mom.

    Now I get to be a Grandma in a couple of months and that is going to be strange. I’ve been Mom for such a long time (obviously) and it’s hard to be anything but Mom. It’s going to be a new chapter that I’m anxious to start on. I just need to remember…”Spoil them and send them home. Spoil them and send them home…” LOL

    Keep those chronicles Mark. Your kids may want to read them when they get older. I think at some point when kids get older, they get curious as to what happened. I know I did with my parents.


    1. Oh, I don’t know if I would ever let the kids read those chronicles. I was very open with what was happening at the time and the way I was feeling about it, and I did not hold back. I’d hate for them to read some of that stuff, even if it was true and honest and raw. If anything, a serious edit would have been in order.


  6. Mark…
    You know I haven’t been around much to read you, lately.

    Ironic I should pick this post…after just coming home from a mandatory parenting class due to my own circumstances…

    My kids…they bring me such joy. I am sorry they are having to go through this…and know God will use it in their lives for a purpose and plan only He knows.



  7. Aww, how sweet! It’s nice to see that you and your ex seemed to have left the kids out of the divorce as much as possible. I know my cousin heard plenty of unpleasant things about his mom whenever he went away with his dad, and it was years before he figured out that he ought to take everything one parent said about the other with a grain of salt. Kids should be able to rely on their parents, not have to think about what that parent said, and how much of it to actually believe.
    Clearly, your kids picked good parents 🙂
    Are you sure you’re feeling alright? not going in for tests or anything? Mysterious illness? No? well… ok.


    1. Comments from Jane and Lexy – it’s like a blast from the past! 🙂

      We’ve tried out best to be civil and shield the kids from any potential ugliness. It’s not always possible, but for the most part, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.

      I had my share of hospitals in November, thank you very much!


  8. Come on, Mark – you know you want to give Rusty and Audrey a little brother or sister – you’re not so old…

    And you’re right about the cherishing the moment thing – having my second child 15 years after the first, I knew exactly how quickly it was all going to go by – so with my daughter, I held her in my arms till she fell asleep every night for 2 years – none of this “cry herself to sleep” business. And when she woke up at least once a night for about 4 years, I just counted it as extra time together because I knew eventually, she wouldn’t need me in the dark hours any more and I would be a little sad about it.


    1. Thank you for saying I’m not so old. You’re right about that…and it doesn’t matter so much how old the guy is anyway, huh?

      Sure. A part of me does want that…

      And reading your comment, I couldn’t help but think, YES! That’s the difference in parenting a newborn again after an extended break. You really do look at things from an entirely new and different angle, don’t you?


  9. Children are truly amazing beings and I honestly believe they are smarter and have way more to teach us than we do them. I know that my little Lily is my rock and my reason I make it through many days and I wouldn’t know what to do without her.


  10. Mark, it’s always that way with kids. I try not to think to much about how I could have done SO MUCH BETTER. You don’t get a do-over. I’m happy that, in spite of everything, my kids seem to be all right.


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