Friday, 26 December 2014

Divorced Parent Challenge

My dear daughters many years ago!

This is the blog that most bloggers would write before the holidays when their readers are interested in how to make the holidays this year better than the fiasco of the year before!  Unfortunately, I am an observer of life and often I only get my Ah Ha! moments after the fact!  I still like to think I learn from the pain and move forward into the gain but some lessons I seem to keep re-learning - if only to allow them to sink more deeply into my spirit.

We have just recently moved into a 50+ complex and have started socializing with many others of similar age or, at least, of the same generation.  As Boomers we have been at the forefront of many trends and changes that swept the country.  Our "burn the bra" phase symbolized the giant leap we hoped for in a wishful world mirroring gender equality at home and work.  Our music embraced the introduction of rock and roll and opened the door for a generation that produced some great musicians and lasting trends.  We were also the generation that pushed divorce from the closet of shame to the banner of redemption (although that trend is reversing, thank goodness!).  Whether it was due to the "free love" connection our parents warned us about or the increase in financial equality experienced by the two income families we purported as the way to go, the divorce rate increased.  That, I found, is mirrored in the strata we live in today.

I don't know why that came as a shock to me but I think I always felt I was one of but a few divorced women with children in my little corner of the world.  To discover that there are many even in my neighborhood was an eye opener.  At a recent gathering before the holidays, many were discussing holiday plans (hence how I discovered many are on their second marriages).  There was a lot of talk about balancing out which child of which marriage would be the host and which one would get what amount of time and if it meant that the couple split up for their holiday between households and children, then that also weighed into the decision.  I thought I was the only one who was caught, at times, in the quagmire of divorce fallout.

When the children are small, most divorced couples ensure that the children are front and center throughout the holidays.  My children always had two Christmas Days every year as their dad and I shared their excitement and wonderment.  That meant two stockings, twice as many presents, two dinners and two parents who love you to pieces but at different places and times.  We made every effort to ensure our children did not get caught in the back and forth quibbles of divorced adults raising children.
One graduation that was full of smiles!

Then came the time when we watched our fledglings leave our nests and mature into busy adults with graduations, weddings and babies of their own.  With the emotional roller coaster at the beginning of our separation, I have to admit I did not handle this stage very well and spent one wedding in tears and one graduation stuffing the tears in subsequently difficult places that needed to be "un-stuffed."  I got better at it, but like I said, the practice does not always make perfect and I am a learner by observation!

Many years have now gone by and many weddings, graduations and new babies have entertained us.   I had thought that the co-parenting was parked right about the time everyone was over thirty but not so.  And I get that.  So thankful that a recent article by Dr. Gwen Randall-Young Soul-Centered Psychology reminded me that my children are dealing with at least three sets of parents/grandparents and sometimes more depending on what situation their spouse originates from.  All of a sudden, I can see how complicated their lives at holiday time must be.

Grandchildren are great equalizers!
And right about when you think they might understand the situation of the divorce etc., I am reminded that no one wants to be told that their mother or father was a jerk!  It kind of goes back to that childhood boast that "my dad is bigger than your dad" or "my mom makes better cookies than your mom!"  Every child sees their parent through rose colored glasses and not one - no, not even mine - want to hear bad things about either of their parents.  Our children want to know that they were loved by both parents, that love transcends anything else that has happened back then or right now, and never do they want to choose between you.

I remember how hard it was for us to go home to Manitoba for Christmas and try to spend equal time with both sets of our parents.  We sometimes dashed from one dinner to another huge repast two hours later just so everyone could have us physically at the Christmas dinner table.  Crazy.  What is more crazy is when I count the days or hours that my children spend with their dad and demand equal time - no matter what.  I feel so embarrassed to say that but then think of the tears of anger and disappointment I shed over that very thing.  I don't think that the feelings can be erased completely but I do believe that the feelings can be contained and morphed into something happier and accepting for the sake of the four children I love with all my heart.  It bears reminding, as we move into a new year, that the easier we make it, the bigger our acceptance of all circumstances and the more relaxed we are about the difficult choices our children face, the happier they will be to see us.

Wishing all of you a wonderful year full of family memories - new and old, at your hearth or theirs!

My four little angels!

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