One of the casualties of divorce can be the child and his or her relationship with one or both parents. Even if you cannot bear the sight of your ex-husband or ex-wife, always remember that your child is an extension of them. As a result, if you hate the ex you pass on that hate to the child. There is no separation, don’ t kid yourself. Does your son look like his momma? Does your daughter have her father’s facial expressions? You see the similarities, but the heart of a child not only sees those similarities, he or she “feels” them as well, deep down inside the recesses of their heart. Don’t lie to yourself….don’t think that the words you say about your ex doesn’t affect your child, or that they are old enough to handle it.
Every time you say something about your ex in front of your child, you are saying it to your son or daughter. “She’s so selfish – you’re so selfish.” “He’s so manipulative and crazy – you’re so manipulative and crazy.” A child internalizes their parent’s words and integrates those words and their meaning into the fragile makeup of their self esteem. Sometimes this is very hard to remember, especially since divorce is usually tied up in emotional turmoil, betrayal and just simple mental exhaustion. It takes true courage and selflessness to keep your heart guarded around your child. It takes LOVE.
I was fortunate to have a “decent” relationship with my ex-husband. We have a boy together, a son that shares many similarities in looks and personality to both of us. I tried my best to shelter him from our “story,” and since he was an infant during our divorce he did not have a front row seat to our tears, pain and anger. As he got older my ex-husband and I were very careful, eventually telling him the truth but reinforcing that it is “our” story not his, and that the love we feel for him is true and solid.
There were times when I felt that my ex-husband resented me. I had sole custody of our son and I was fierce in the way I brought him up. Trust me, I wasn’t always so nice to my ex-husband. I was a momma lioness (still am) and sometimes this spilled over to the interactions between myself and my ex-husband. I was never afraid to communicate or to apologize and sometimes things were a bit rough, but all-in-all, I believe my ex and I did a pretty good job at keeping things real. My ex-husband loves his son and although he and I have traveled down two very different paths, there were times I wanted to say these words to him.
“There was a time when we loved each other. During that time we had a son and rejoiced in his birth and our life together. Although that time was fleeting and other larger problems got in the way, do not hate me. I do not hate you. You are human and I am human, with all of the frailties and weaknesses that come with that condition. I am not your judge and jury and you are not mine. What matters is our little boy. If you love him and I know you do, reach down into your heart. Did you find it? Did you find that little remaining piece of pebble, that representation of what is the reminder of our long lost love? Polish it. Take care of it. Remember it. Why? For our son.
One day your little boy came home crying after school because he was being picked on at school. I sat down with him and hugged him, giving him guidance on how to find the resilience and strength in his heart to handle difficult situations. Every day your son fought me on doing his homework and every day I sat down next to him giving him his pencil back (he threw it on the floor), and demanded that he finish. You worked long hours and didn’t go to his games, but I did. I explained to him that you worked after school and on weekends and that you could not make it. I went to every teacher’s conference on your behalf. He threw up on me numerous times and I have the stubborn shades of a stain on the carpets as resilient evidence. I hope to replace those darn carpets one day! When he became a young man he started to ask me questions about “us.” I took out that pebble that I had carefully been polishing over the years and told him all of the wonderful things I could remember about you, giving him perspective into why you were not the baseball or soccer coach type of dad, and I made sure he knew he had full permission to love and accept you for the father you were and are.
One day our son will be at his wedding. I will take that pebble with me. I will take it with me as our mixed and extended families share the room together and our son’s face beams with pride and acceptance. Love will fill the room. That pebble will no longer be so small. It will have grown based on our own actions. Our grandchildren will have the foundation needed to freely love their extended families and our son will be so much better for it all. Thank you for helping me share this gift of love.”
When you are in the middle of the divorce tornado it is hard to see through the darkness. I want you to know that the light is there and your will find your way out of this turmoil. There will come a day when you will reap what you sow. I understand that divorce hurts and I often think of Billy Joel’s song “Stranger” when I describe the insanity of it all. Many times the person you thought you knew is actually a stranger.
Well we all fall in love, but we disregard the danger. Though we share so many secrets, there are some we never tell. Why were you so surprised that you never saw the stranger, did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself.
Don’t be afraid to try again. Everyone goes south every now and then. (Billy Joel #Stranger)
Are you getting divorced? Are you already divorced with children? My prayer for you is that one day you are able to find your pebble and polish it until it shines and that your ex does the same. It is never too late to create a legacy of love that will carry through to future generations.