My children are so blessed. Cynics may say, “How in the world are they blessed when they come from a broken home? How is THAT a blessing?”
First, we may have what some call a “broken home,” but we do not have a broken family. Their dad is remarried and they have a great stepmom and an adorable little sister. Since I just got remarried, they now have a wonderful stepdad and a new brother and sister. We are not broken… we are still a family. ALL OF US – we just look different than other families.
And we DO look different than other families. We even look different than most divorced families. We don’t meet in the Kangaroo parking lot to “exchange” our children. Their dad is welcome in our home just as I am welcome in their home with their dad. My ex will walk right in the house and go up to see the kids in their rooms and I feel no need to follow him. We don’t sit across the gym from each other at school functions… we often save seats for each other or sit near each other so that our children will only have to look in one direction. We have only one birthday party for each child and every member of the family (from both sides) is invited. We want our children to be well adjusted and know how loved they are by all of us. After football games we all go out to dinner together and it’s wonderful to see how happy the kids are when they have their mom, dad, stepmom and stepdad breaking bread together peacefully.
There have been plenty of times when I did not want to have to see my ex-husband. I admit that. There were times when things were so contentious that it was easier to just avoid him. But for our kids we have always faked it. Even if we had an email war all morning over something, we would still smile in front of the kids at the school play to reassure THEM. We are the adults… we can handle the stress, but the kids should not have to know anything about it.
I am so thankful that my children have not allowed my divorce to define who they are. They have recognized from an early age how lucky they are to have so many people from both sides of their family who love them very much. I’m not saying it is always easy and I’m definitely not saying it has always gone smoothly. Those who are in the midst of a heartbreaking divorce can at least have peace knowing that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is so many parents fail to see what they need to do to reach that light.
FOCUS ON THE KIDS. We are adults and we will get through all the drama and heartbreak. It’s not our first rodeo. We have been hurt before. The children are the ones who need us to step out of the dark and SHINE. If parents focus inwardly on their own depression and bitterness, then the children suffer. They are acutely aware of our weaknesses and depression and it immediately puts them in a caretaker position, which is not healthy for a child. They feel like you NEED them and so they may have anxiety when they go to the other parent’s house or they may feel like they have to sit with you at events because you can’t “handle being alone.” Our children do not need the extra pressures that come along with that!
This is the time when they should be chasing fireflies and fishing and dancing to their own music. They should NOT be put in the middle of a bitter fight between their parents. Even if you think they aren’t aware of what is going on because you don’t fight in front of them, THEY KNOW. They know that things are not ok. They know everything is different. They know they can’t talk about certain things because it would be too upsetting to you… And they internalize everything. If there is ever a time that they need their parents to work together it is when they are at their most vulnerable point. They have already lost enough, so why rob them of everything? After all, you cannot be a good parent and be selfish at the same time – whether you are divorced or not. Learn to let go and focus on the kids. One day they will thank you.
It is clear to my children that we may not have been able to make our marriage work, but we will do whatever it takes to work together for the benefit of our kids. I overheard my twelve year old talking to a friend one day about his friend’s parents getting divorced. The other child asked Warren if his dad and I were friends. Warren said, “I wouldn’t say they are friends, but they are always nice to each other.” That is exactly right. We may not be friends, but we are working hard together to make sure that our children are able to enjoy their childhoods.
It takes a while to reach the point where we are – if people are even able to reach that point. I see Joe struggle with it daily because he wants so much to be in the same place – he recognizes how good it would be for his kids. We can work toward it, but it cannot happen overnight.
The fact of the matter is this: How could it be bad for children to know non-stop, every day, no matter who they are with at that moment, that they are loved by everyone? How could it be bad for a child to know that you encourage them to love their other parent and that it’s okay with you if they miss their other parent? Why not encourage the kids to call the other parent… and pump the kids up to have a good time when they are with the other parent… and show the kids love by getting along with the other parent even if you don’t want to? THAT would be the true blessing for everyone involved.
And then you can proclaim that your family is not broken either… just different.
**** This is a reworked blog that I previously published on October 3, 2012****