By Lisa J. Keating
Less than twenty minutes before school started Morgan asked me if his Nana told me about their conversation the night before, I said no. Suddenly he looked trapped, as if he opened a can of worms and desperately wanted to take those words back. After a few moments, the confession began.
Every parent can relate to a child dropping a bomb like this at the most inopportune time; major life topics and/or questions typically requiring more than a five minute conversation. I haven’t talked with a parent who hasn’t had this experience. I think it’s in that secret handbook none of us got with our first diaper bag!
Morgan confessed that he’s been afraid that my husband and I would get a divorce for years. “I love daddy and I don’t want to see him on just the weekends. Most kids whose parents are divorced only see their dads on weekends. I want to see him all week, too. I want to see you all week and on the weekends. I don’t want to go between two houses.”
Once I started breathing again, my first word was profound, “Wow!” After collecting my thoughts, grounding and centering myself, I was ready. “Honey, daddy and I don’t have any plans to divorce. Is this coming from a conversation you overheard?” He said “no”, and told me he’s had this fear forever (at least that’s how it feels). I shared that my parents were the first parents to get a divorce when I was twelve (eons ago!) that most of my friends were scared that just being my friend would cause their parents to divorce. A couple of them stopped being friends with me because of it.
This also taps into the stereotype of the weekend dad or “Disney Dad”, as some of my girlfriends call their ex’s. My father was a weekend dad who didn’t share in the daily responsibilities of caring for and raising his kids. He saw my mom as a gold digger the courts forced him to write a check to every month. The truth is that “Disney Dads” exists and there are countless single dads who are committed, loving and dedicated to their children.
Morgan brought up how sad divorce is and I used his Nana as an example of the good that can come out of it. “Nana became a world traveler only after she and Papa divorced. Sometimes it gives people the courage to do things on their own they would never do if they stayed married.”
Taking the opportunity to incorporate a little math (my husband would be thrilled); I had Morgan calculate how many years we’ve been a couple. With the help of an air chalkboard he came up with sixteen years…WHOAH! Then I brought up the struggles he has communicating with his friends, the misunderstandings, hurt feelings and making up. “Imagine if you lived with your friends when that happens. How much harder would it be?” Morgan shook his head and wrinkled his nose at the idea. “It’s through conflict that we grow the most and understand ourselves better,” I said.
I told Morgan that it’s not my intention to divorce daddy and there are no guarantees it won’t happen. My parents divorce was the greatest gift to my identity as a mother. I wouldn’t change it for anything. It taught me to look for a partner like his dad, to face fears and speak up before they get too big to handle or can’t be fixed.
My husband and I are not any different than other committed, long-term couples. We have similar challenges, debates, fears, doubts, and temper tantrums. Some years have been longer than others. I’ve been known to throw things when I’m at my wits end (not my most mature moments). Without surviving and choosing to deal with conflicts head on we probably would be divorced by now. I also made a personal commitment to Morgan when he was born that I would practice being the best version of myself. So I couldn’t promise my child that his parents would never get divorced because I can’t predict the future. And I am not going to make a promise I can’t keep. “A promise I can make is that your father and I are fully committed to being the best parents together possible,” then Morgan and I walked hand in hand into school.
To read more from Lisa Keating, check out her site My Purple Umbrella
Photo credit: Flickr member eyeliam