–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: April 02, 2019
My youngest daughter recently had shoulder surgery. After checking her in at the surgery center, I was asked to sit in the waiting area. As any parent understands, it doesn’t matter if your baby is 5, or in my case 25, they are still your little nippers. While waiting I was reminding myself to breathe and unsuccessfully trying to distract myself by looking through women’s magazines. After I confirmed that I am out of shape, my garden is not up to snuff and that I shouldn’t wear shoulder-length hair after age 50, I looked up from the glossy pages to a wonderful surprise. There was the father of my children walking through the hospital doors. In days gone by, I was the one on hospital/doctor duty. In that moment, it hit me of just how far we have come in successfully sharing the lives of our daughters. Post-op he was titrating medications and arranging for their pickup and I was gingerly getting her dressed and ready to go home. We were working as a team, putting her needs first, and giving her support.
It’s easier to dish out advice than take it. I have had many, as in NUMEROUS, what I refer to as “Alice in Wonderland” moments when I don’t listen to my own words of wisdom. However, even though at times I am still a work in progress, I have learned a few things along the way, that are worth sharing.
Find your person
Have one trusted person that you can vent to about your situation. No matter how many teeth marks you obtain from biting your tongue, do not speak negatively about the other parent to the children. They share the same DNA. When you criticize your spouse you are criticizing their offspring. Instead of trying to prove your “side,” work on improving yourself. Imagine what you look like through your children’s eyes. Do you want them to see a bitter, seething, negative person or do you want them to see a strong parent who is continually striving to hang on to the high road?
It’s all about love
Give your kids permission to love the other parent and his or her family. There is enough love to go around for both you and your former spouse. It’s not a competition. Ribbons will not be awarded for ‘Most Loved Parent’ but the rewards that come from allowing your children to openly love whom they choose without judgment are immeasurable.
What will people think?
I find it surprising that, post divorce, many people don’t know how to act regarding the respectful relationship I have with the father of my children. When they were younger, we would meet at church to worship together, we attend funerals of each other’s family members and for the past few years, their Dad, and his wife have been included in our festive gatherings.
I think people like to have a “bad guy.” Perhaps not having a clearly defined, public reason why the marriage failed makes others feel vulnerable about his or her own unions. Regardless, I try to remember the words of my grandfather who would say, “What others think of you is really none of your business.”
If your spouse wants the kids an extra hour, I guarantee that in the grand scheme of things your children will remember how awesome you handled the situation more than the hour they lost being with you.
Communicate like a pro
Make requests not demands. “How about we try…” or “Would you be open to…” are incredible ways to begin a sentence. If things get dicey take a deep breath before releasing words that can never be recovered.
Go to their strengths
I like to refer to the father of my children as “detail oriented.” Yes, there was a time when the word “anal retentive” came to mind. See how much growth has occurred? I’m certain he refers to me as “creative” instead of a slew of less positive adjectives. Hanging onto paperwork and color-coding anything that doesn’t move still remain under his jurisdiction.
Change your thinking
Change your way of thinking if your ex makes a positive change. For example, if they become more involved, resist thinking, “Oh great, you’re here for them now.” Change your mindset and rejoice and celebrate that they are here NOW.
The bottom line is to remember that your children did not sign up for divorce. What they desire more than anything and at any age is to have two parents who love them. I always remind myself of the words of the family matriarch, “Do not constantly battle and brace yourself for the storm, learn to dance in the rain.”