Suddenly the sunny, carefree days have run out and I’m packing three small suitcases, not to return home, but to deliver the children to their father for two weeks.
I’m not brilliant at Handover Day, which I consider to be one of the worst parts of divorce. But is it possible to be brilliant at planting goodbye kisses on the three faces of the small people you love most in the world, knowing you won’t see them for 14 days and nights?
The most important thing is trying to make it as easy as possible on the children. I’ve tried it long – breezily inviting their father in for coffee – and I’ve tried it short – ‘the kids are ready, here they come, well done everyone, have a wonderful time!’.
After four years, I think there’s a time for short, and there’s a time for long, but that overall, short is easier on everyone. So, this holiday handover day, we are going for short and we all know it.
The Boyfriend had arrived the previous night and I’m so glad to see him. Together we all pack the suitcases into the car, and drive in the direction of the rendezvous point, a local airport, full of jokes and laughter, stopping for a coke and baguette at one of the service stations off the Peage. We are still joking as we reach the rendezvous. I take the children to the meeting point outside Arrivals while the Boyfriend parks the car.
“We’re ok here, Mummy,” says Eldest Son. “Dad’s just a couple of minutes away.” A text from the Ex has told me the same thing. I look at Eldest Son. Just 16. A young man almost, and happy to babysit his brother and sister safely for a few moments, so his father and I don’t have to coincide at all. Perhaps, in this instance, with all of us caught up in the magic of a holiday, it would be best for me to just slip away. I think this is what he is telling me.
“Goodbye darlings, have a wonderful time, and I’ll see you in two weeks,” I say, and then I walk away, up and over the bridge that leads to the short stay car park. I stand on the bridge and watch my children for a moment, from a point where I can see them but they can’t see me. SmallFry is sitting on his new wheely suitcase, chosen with me yesterday after his previous one had exploded on the journey out. It has four wheels, and he is whizzing around the pavement as if in a small open top car. Eldest Son and Only Daughter are talking and laughing and playing with their ever-present mobile phones. My Ex comes into view, wearing his holiday wardrobe of linen shorts and velvet shoes.
I take a final look at my children, about to touch the portal. They are Lucy stepping into the wardrobe, they are Harry Potter on platform 9 and a half. I don’t want them to go but I know they must.
“They are alright,” my boyfriend says, walking towards me from the other side of the bridge. He folds me in his arms for a long moment. When I come out of the hug, I know that if I look down at where my children were standing, they will be gone.
So I don’t look. I hold The Boyfriend’s hand tightly and together we walk towards the car, and the start of the two weeks of adventures we are about to have together.
The children are alright. And although I feel a little bit sick, so am I.