| It's been less than a year since the divorce
was settled. Although, some three-and-a-half years have passed since we
separated. Somewhere between the nightmarish ending of a thirty-plus
year marriage and this past week, life
seems to have finally uprighted itself. I am referring to a recent
trip I made back to our home state to visit our four children.
The breakup of what
was once a loving, sweet, passionate sharing of two intertwined lives is
difficult for any couple to endure. Furthermore, what seems complex
and tragic to them is absolutely mind-boggling to their children.
Doubtless, there are those marital situations where children are absolutely
delighted when one parent is finally able to cast off an abusive, hateful,
or otherwise disfunctional mate. Yet, in most cases, the children
find themselves confused and hurt, no matter what the situation.
My children were no exception.
| At first, their disbelief that such a thing could happened
to their parents turned into a guessing game of trying to figure out who
was more to blame. In turn,
that was followed by a combination of responses (or reactions) ranging
from anger to alienation.
In my case, the oldest was borderline understanding, his
younger sister was cautiously disapproving, the youngest son became quietly
confused, and the youngest daughter was lovingly confrontational.
In all four cases, it was obvious that each loved his/her parents but needed
both a way to deal with it and time to figure it out. Once they definitely
knew that their parents were ending their long-term
relationship, their upset became obvious. Two of them chose to
make their feelings very clear. The other two withdrew and kept whatever
negative feelings deeply buried within themselves. I had no say in
the matter nor did I feel it necessary to confront them. That would
only have made matters worse. They needed time to figure it out and
to heal as well. I chose to be patient and to keep communicating
with them as much as possible. I am glad that I did.
| I can't speak for those parents who neither care about
their children nor make any efforts to stay in touch with them after
their divorces are final. There are too many mothers who abandon
their children and too many fathers who refuse to pay child support.
Our situation is different.
My ex-wife is a wonderful mother. She never short-changed
our children in any way and has shown over and over again that she loves
them with all of her heart. The don't doubt that and neither do I.
As for me, I, too, was involved in their lives as they grew up. Whether
it was going to parent-teacher conferences, attending their home games
and school events, or taking time to talk to each one about life, I can
honestly say that simply bringing home a paycheck and providing for them
was not enough. They know this, too, and their mother will agree.
What happened between her and me was between the
two of us. It was the demise of our relationship and had nothing
to do with the children. Yet, the truth is that a divorce impacts
all those whom we love. It did affect them. It hurt them, too.
Still, we ended the relationship, thus, forcing ourselves to face whatever
response from our children.
It's been both difficult and, at moments, scary.
The oldest son was already approaching thirty years of
age. When he first understood that his parents were breaking up,
he did his best to assure me that, because I had been a good father to
him, he would not condemn me. However, it was obvious that he was
shaken by the news but simply did not know what to do about it, if anything.
The oldest daughter was clearer in regard to her feelings.
She explained that, even though she loved me as her father, she was disappointed
in me. She went on to assure me that she wanted both of her parents
to be happy and, if their separating meant as much, then fine. However,
she questioned our behaviour toward each other at the end, and rightfully
so. I could not disagree with her. It was enough that she was
trying to understand without shutting me out of her life. At such
times, a parent has no other recourse but to accept how their children
feel at the time and take it from there.
The youngest son withdrew. He wasn't sure
what to make of all of it. In his eyes, I had changed and was so
different from the father he once knew. It was true. Following
our separation, I shed another 35 pounds on top of the 35 I had already
lost. Instead of being the conservative and strict man he had experienced
while growing up, I had become more moderate in many of my views of life
and, whereas I previously had two left feet, was now a strong lead and
went out dancing two or three
times a week. His mother stayed the same. I changed.
This was also a factor in his big sister's dilemma
The youngest daughter is the only one still living
at home with her mother. She had the dubious experience of witnessing
those final arguments, upsets, and was there when the end came. No
doubt, she was more negatively effected than her older siblings because
of being with us when we were going through the last days of our discontent
with each other. As a result, she was more confrontational with me.
Still, it was obvious that the love was still there but so was the hurt,
the frustration, and the pain. She vented at me on several occasions
but it was understandable. Again, I had no other option but to be
patient and do my best to stay in touch with her and the other children.
My visits with them during the divorce proceedings
helped some. Nevertheless, I understood even then that the very nature
of going through the last throws of a dying marriage are not a good time
to mend any fences or heal any wounds. None of them were supportive.
How could they be? Yet, they continued to be respectful and assure
me of their love. I took what I got and was thankful for it.
Then, there was this last week.
It was the first week-long visit since the divorce
was finalized. Even though I had stayed in touch with all four of
them, there is nothing like a real hug in
person and being able to go out with them for the evening. That's
exactly what we did. I asked each one to reserve an evening for me.
They got to choose where we were going for dinner--my treat. I also
brought the three older children a box of some things that they would remember
from their childhoods. Since the youngest is still finishing up her
childhood, I gave her a large set of tapes that she was happy to receive
and took her out to the mall to buy a winter sweater.
This visit was different.
Time is beginning to heal their wounds.
As I spent the better part of a day with each one,
it became wonderfully obvious to me that, although, they were still disappointed
in their parents for not staying together, some acceptance was beginning
to take place. Confusion was slowly being replaced by understanding.
What maturity each had gained over the last several years was providing
them with new insights regarding what had happened to their parents.
I was not completely forgiven, but almost. Yet, I am completely loved
and that is still obvious. Until the healing is complete for all
of us, it is enough.
I suppose there are parents whose marital breakup
has been more devistating to their children. Taking sides when one
parent has been violent or abusive toward the other is much less confusing
than wondering why two good people took separate paths after many years
Still, life has a way of uprighting itself if one
is patient enough to wait until it happens.
As I drove back from my visit, I felt a sense of
A family that once
lived happily under one roof has been split up five ways. No doubt,
the youngest daughter will complete the process before long as she is about
to graduate from high school. If only we could go back, correct the
mistakes, and be able to do what is needed so that none of this would ever
It's too late.
Now, we have to pick up the pieces, find each other
again, and go on with our lives. We are slowly turning the corner
together and I have no doubt that time will do the rest of it's healing
work in all of us.
As for me, I am looking forward to my next visit
in two months. It will be Christmas--a time of giving and demonstrating
our love to those we care about.
However, I have already gotten my Christmas present--the
assurance that the future is filled with hope for my family.
|| Oh, one more thing....
The youngest son and his wife informed me that I am going to
be a grandpa soon for the first time.
Don't give up on your kids.
You can go home again if you really want to.
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