Published in The Ferndale Record, July 31, 2013
If you’re a member of any social networking site, those positive “you can do it” messages are plastered everywhere. We’re told we can be whomever we want and to disregard scoffers.
It’s a little overdone, but people mean well. So, please keep that in mind while reading what follows.
All of my children, grandchildren, my former husband, his wife, and I went on a vacation together last week. It’s been 12 years since our divorce and we’ve created an amicable, if not friendly, family atmosphere.
It should be noted that my former spouse and I don’t make a habit of vacationing together, but this occasion was a beautiful exception that one of our children arranged for on a houseboat at Lake Powell, Arizona, and involved some of us traveling to and from the same destinations. We figured it out and made it work.
I’ll bet you’re thinking: “Her situation is different.” “I could never do that,” or “I would never WANT to do that.”
Think again. Children make all the difference. People do things they would never consider doing when children are in the picture. Then, after a while, you do it because you know it’s the right thing to do—to accept, let go and be kind. This doesn’t happen in a couple of weeks. But with effort, it happens.
It hasn’t been an easy process. But neither is bitterness and holding grudges. The latter is exhausting and turns us into someone no one recognizes.
Our family is not made up of wonderful, ‘better-than-you’ people. We don’t know everything and we grapple with touchy relationships like anyone else. It’s all uncharted, and with each family gathering, grandchild and major life event we do what works for us. But the difference is in the decisions we’ve made.
The result has been open conversation about any weirdness that needs to be addressed, facing awkward situations with humor and candor, and the ability to all be under the same roof (not to mention on a houseboat) for awhile, and still appreciate each other in the ways we can.
I’m no longer married to the father of my children, but I care about him and our history. He’s married to a woman I’ve learned to know and love, who has been kind to my children, and welcomed me into her home. Is this a little weird? Yes. Does it make all of us happier than the alternative? You’d have to poll my family, but my immediate answer is “absolutely.”
Now here’s that warm, encouraging message I was talking about. Anyone can do this. Ordinary people like you and I are always doing extraordinary things. Tightening every family bond in spite of divorce is unique, but we are proof that it’s possible.
People are who they are. Situations shake out into whatever they’re going to be. But each individual has a say in how he behaves personally.
For a divided family, divorce isn’t the ultimate sadness. The real tragedy is widening the gap even further, to exclude, to let past hurts cloud what can be quite lovely.
I promise this is true.