As we conversed, the attorney who was both married and a father, looked at me and asked me a very pointed question.
"Sandy, what do you think about this as a mom? Did you feel like you were the better parent and that your kids only needed you?"
Taken off guard by his candidness, I initially wanted to spotlight my ways of being a great co-parent and my ex and I being outside the norm of divorced parents. A pat on the back lingered in my mind.
But instead I spoke the truth.
"Initially I definitely thought I was the better parent. That my kids couldn't survive without me. And then I decided not to call them on one of the early weekends that they were with their dad. And an amazing thing happened. My phone never rang."
I found that once I gave the kids their space and didn't project my thoughts on them, they were perfectly fine. They adapted. And frankly, I found that they adapted on both sides. Life wasn't perfect with me, their mama bear, as I originally thought. They needed their dad as much as me. Although our parenting styles were different, I had to come to grips understanding that our kids needed the love and support of both their parents.
It did sting at first, but I slowly became acclimated to our new life as divorced co-parents.
Basically what I told my attorney friend was that I had to get over myself. Not an easy task as a messy human. But climbing that seemingly insurmountable mountain has given me and my family unbelievable peace.
Divorce is not easy. I would argue that it is a top contributor to many problems we as humans encounter in life; financial stress, many self-made issues with the 'next generation', lack of commitment, struggles with trust, lack of faith. The list goes on and on and seems to be in direct correlation with the rising divorce rate.
Being a person high on positivity, my focus post-divorce quickly moved from 'woe is me' to my attempt to make lemonade. The benefits have been abundant. Taking it one day at a time, we have collectively smiled and done the best we can. We have worked together to make the best out of a bad situation.
I eventually got used to not being by my kids' sides 24/7. I eventually appreciated that they found much joy in life that didn't necessarily involve me (part of getting over myself). I appreciated their own lens of life and happiness coming from many places. And we often aren't together for these moments.
Last weekend, post attorney conversation, was a great example. I didn't see or spend time with any of my children. They were doing their own thing with their dad and others on a weekend that was not meant to be with me. Their life from their eyes was wonderful, as was mine. And we didn't need to be together to experience this joy....
Zach (Picture he sent from the backyard view from his new place in Fort Collins):
Ben (Picture he sent from my home base in Omaha. As the newly minted 'man of the house' when I am out of town, he basks in the importance of this role and proves that all is well 550 miles away from me):
Grant (Oh, to be 16 again. This was his view from one of four College World Series games he attended through the weekend):
Sandy (And then there is me. I miss my Omaha peeps when I'm gone, but make sure to enjoy the Colorado scenery when I find myself 550 miles away):
Our Father's Day hike on Sunday was in Colorado with Garrett's kids. My kids spent a fun day with their dad playing golf and then enjoying a family dinner.
For me, Sunday night bedtime didn't come soon enough. I was wiped out from the activities of the day. Dead asleep, I still awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. A typical occurrence for my middle-aged self.
Waking up, I found myself groggy and unaware of my surroundings.
Was I in Denver? Was I in Omaha? Confused, I found my way to the bathroom without incident. But laid back in bed feeling a bit sorry for myself. Why did we have to travel so much? Would life ever feel normal and would I ever remember where I was at?
The next morning I awoke remembering these feelings from the night before. And then suddenly I thought of my own kids. This is what they must have felt for the last 8+ years, moving back and forth from the homes of their divorced parents.
Whose house am I at? Where is the bathroom? Temporary confusion must have been a common occurrence for them.
Life hasn't been easy for them, but they have adapted. As parents, it's our job to not make their lives even harder for our own agendas. I had never thought of it from this perspective. Divorce is often too focused on the parents and not the kids. Many times the parents argue that their focus is the kids, but when peeled back to reality, it is not...
"I am 100% committed to what's best for my children."
<assumes and implies the other parent is not>
"I am doing all of this because only I know what is best for my kids."
<assumes the other parent doesn't care what's best for the kids, even if they demonstrate it in different ways>
Humans are gooey. No doubt. And I am no exception. Parenting is hard. I have made many, many mistakes along the way. Throw in parenting from separate homes and things have escalated to a whole new level of complicated.
Although I would never wish divorce on anyone, I would offer my own advice to all going through this as you adapt to parenting on your own...
It really is all about getting over your own feelings of self-preservation and truly letting the relationships of your kids nurture outside your own cocoon. Your kids will not only be fine, but will be better kids and well-adjusted because of it.
As I look at the weekend pictures from my kids, I know in my heart that everyone is going to be okay within our own definitions of happiness...
|Another random picture received this weekend.|
The 'man of the house' enjoys CWS fun as well (3rd from left...big bad Ben)