The cold weather had set in, and with it came the snow. Cody had never played in the snow before, so as soon as it was deep enough we let him go out into the garden to build his first snowman.
Cody hated the cold but he loved the snow, and would stay outside playing in it long past sunset, when we called him back inside for dinner.
While Cody was busy with his snowman outside, Aidan approached me with a request.
“Mum, I know you told Bridie that we could change rooms when Cody got old enough. I really wouldn’t mind sharing with him now, so I was wondering if you had thought any more about that?”
Ian and I had been discussing the kids’ rooming situation just the day before, and we both agreed that it was past time for the girls and Aidan to have their own space. Now that Cody was no longer a toddler, he and Aidan should be able to peacefully share a bedroom, and the girls could move back into their old room downstairs.
I smiled at my son, who was patiently awaiting my answer. “Your dad and I have already talked about it,” I told him. “We think that you especially deserve your own space away from your sisters now that you’re all getting a bit older.”
“Thanks, mum! Does this mean I can have my own room?” My heart sank a little at what was, after all, a perfectly reasonable request, and I wished that I was able to give him what he wanted.
“Aidan, hun, we don’t really have the money to build new rooms just yet,” I explained. I felt awful as I watched his face fall. “But I promise as soon as we do, yours will be the first priority,” I hurriedly continued. “For now, would you be okay sharing a room with your brother?”
He did his best to smile. “I guess so. Thanks mum.”
“Sure, honey.” I hugged him tightly, grateful for his understanding. I resolved to work even harder at my job so I could fully provide everything for my kids.
The next morning, Ian and I bought and assembled a new single bed for Cody and put it in Aidan’s room, where the twins’ bunk-bed had previously stood.
The cribs went into storage, and the girls moved back downstairs into their old nursery. We also bought a dollhouse for the girls now that they had a room to themselves, and some new toys that were stored in their room but to be shared with their younger brother.
Since all the kids were at school now, I had been encouraging Ian to pursue his dream of a career in Science, which he had given up to become a stay-at-home dad. So, the next week he drove out to the Science Lab on the edge of Bridgeport to inquire about possible work there.
The higher-ups at the Science Lab were very impressed by his previous work, and some still remembered him from his two-year stint in Bridgeport. They offered him a job immediately.
Ian’s previous experience meant that he was able to get a well-paying position, though we made sure that his new job would require no inter-city travel. Being as family-oriented as he was, Ian wanted to be sure that he was still around to spend time with the kids.
The schools were due to go on Winter break in a few days. I called my boss in the morning to tell him that I wouldn’t be accepting contracts for the first week of the break, because I wanted to do something special with my kids. The girls were growing fast and were due to start high school with Aidan the next year.
When the last day of school came, I told the kids over breakfast that I wanted to take them all to the Winter Festival in town over the break. Ian would be at work, but I hoped that I would be able to spend some quality time with the rest of my children, something I hadn’t been able to do in the years since I had gone back to work.
Bianca and Cody were enthusiastic about the idea; Bridie notably less so. Aidan was silent. When I prompted him, he responded vaguely that he already had plans.
“What kind of plans?” I asked, disappointed.
“Going out,” he said shortly, gazing fixedly at his plate and refusing to look at me. I was curious and a bit worried, but I decided not to push him since he clearly didn’t want to talk about it.
“As long as it’s okay with your father,” was all I said. Aidan nodded as he left, and I could hear his heavy footfalls on the stairs going up to his room. I sighed, watching Bridie leave in the opposite direction while Bianca washed both their plates in the sink. None of my children seemed to know or care much for me, their mother. I hoped it wasn’t too late to change that. I knew it was my own fault for leaving them to Ian’s care all these years, while I focused on advancing my career. Maybe it was time to start paying more attention to my family instead.
“Dad, can I talk to you?” I heard Bridie’s voice behind me addressing Ian, who was cleaning in the bathroom.
“Of course, honey,” he replied cheerfully. “What’s up?”
“Well, I was wondering if I could go out tomorrow.” She sounded nervous, and I couldn’t help wondering why she felt the need to ask permission from Ian to go on an outing with me.
“With your mum?” he asked, sounding as confused as I was.
“No…” she admitted reluctantly, and my heart sank again. “It’s with Brittany from school. She wanted me to come over to her house and I told her I would.”
“You told her you would?”
“Yeah, and I really want to go! Please, Daddy?”
“Bridie, you know your mum wants to take you to the festival tomorrow.” Say no, say no, I prayed silently.
“I know, Daddy, but I promised Brittany! It’s not fair for her if I say I can’t go now.”
He sighed. “Well, okay, you can go to Brittany’s house. But I want you back for dinner, alright?”
“Yay, thanks Daddy!” she called as she ran out of the room.
Apart from being slightly hurt and disappointed that Bridie had chosen to go out with her friends instead of spending time as a family, and with Ian for saying yes, I was indignant that she had gone to him in the first place to ask permission for something that directly concerned me. It saddened me that she obviously didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask me things like that. I would have to make an extra effort to get to know my children in the future. In the meantime, I resolved to have the best fun possible the next day at the festival with Cody and Bianca.
True to plan, the next day saw me and my two youngest children heading to the Winter Festival in Bridgeport’s central park. Like the Autumn Festivals I used to visit with Julie and Ian, the park was set up with a range of season-specific games, attractions and food stalls. Bianca’s eye was immediately drawn to the skating rink. Although none of us knew how to skate, she was determined to try, so, with the help of a friendly attendant, the three of us fitted our skates and were soon taking our first hesitant steps on the ice.
“Woaahh!” Bianca gasped. “It’s slipperier than I thought it was, Mummy!”
In spite of that, I thought, she seemed to be doing very well. She was already starting to get the hang of the movements.
Cody and I were not so fast at catching on. After half an hour of skating and more falls that I could count, I was finally able to skate once around the rink.
With that, I decided, I was finished with skating. I left the kids under the supervision of the ice rink attendant, while I waded through the snow to the nearest food truck to buy lunch for the three of us.
After we had eaten, Bianca and Cody insisted on riding the swings, even though I told them that the swings weren’t part of the festival and would be at the park when we came back.
Since they were so excited regardless, I decided to let them play there for a while and instead took advantage of the time to try out one of the adult-only activities: snowboarding. At first I could barely keep my balance, but after some practice and careful instruction from the attendants, I found that I picked up the skill fairly easily.
Late in the afternoon when the three of us were on our way to the temporary booth for a commemorative photo, we ran into Julie, who had been enjoying the festival by herself. I invited her to join us but she politely refused, saying that she already was on her way home.
I didn’t press the issue – I had more important things to worry about, like enjoying my time with my kids. After just a single day in their company, my heart felt lighter, and I knew that with my family was where I truly belonged; they were more important than any job could be.