Divorce is often cruel country to cross. Heartbreak, sadness, disappointment, regret — name a conflicting emotion and I can pretty much guarantee you that people who divorce experience it. Some couples split up and are overjoyed to be “free” or “liberated” from a marriage that was broken. Goodbye. Good luck. I’m blocking you on Facebook.
And they may never meet again.
But for parents who divorce, well, that usually doesn’t work. Moms and dads can’t just turn out the lights and step into tomorrow with no strings attached to the past. At least not if they’re doing it right. Parents who break up need to walk away from one another knowing that their ex will never ever just be their ex. Because that person is also still Mom or Dad to the most important people in their world — their kids.
I ran across a post the other day on the Love What Matters Facebook page that reminded me of all of this, and more. It was written by a divorced father named Billy Flynn, who shared just why it’s so important for divorced parents to show each other respect in front of their kids.
“It’s my ex-wife’s birthday today so I got up early and brought flowers and cards and a gift over for the kids to give her and helped them make her breakfast,” Flynn writes. “Per usual someone asked me why the hell I still do things for her all the time. This annoys me. So ima break it down for you all.”
He then straight-talks about the undeniable benefits that come from divorced parents raising their kids to see the respect and love that their parents still have for one another.
Of course, on paper it seems so easy; no one in their right mind wouldn’t agree that divorced parents need to stifle any differences they might have in order to raise their children with love and compassion. Yet, anyone who has ever been divorced can attest to the fact that there are moments — a lot of them in fact — when it’s difficult to conquer our own minds. Or our egos.
I have struggled with this myself. I have battled so hard against my own life at times that I can’t even begin to describe to you how shattering it can be. In divorce, we lose vast parts of ourselves. Or I did, anyway. My sense of security vaporized. Everything that I thought I knew about who I was and what I stood for died in my arms basically overnight. One day I was standing there in the kitchen completely oblivious to my own blindness. Ten minutes later, everything was different forever.
I have fought anger. I have silently wished bad things when my wishes for saving my marriage kept spitting in my face. I followed my own selfishness down a thousand dark trails that never lead anywhere good, only to catch myself every single time, usually as I looked down at my sleeping kids and realized that the woman I created them with, Monica, the woman who carried each of them in her body during long stretches of endless puking and burrito-craving — the woman who laughed with me as we tried to figure out each child’s name without insulting the other’s choice. She is their mom.
Their mom, man.
Way beyond being someone I was once married to, she is their Mommy and no matter what kind of juvenile inner-crisis I may find myself staring at in the morning mirror sometimes, the fact remains: there is nothing more important than letting our kids know that their mom and dad love them more than anything else. Nothing. And there never will be.
We are still together in this thing, their mom and me, because we know that it’s right. She teaches them all about me, talks me up to them when I’m not around. And I do that too now. I need to. I want to. Not so much because I owe it to my kids. It’s more that that. It’s 3 PM in the afternoon and that’s their mom standing on my front porch after the school bus drives away. That’s their mom standing there beside me, looking at the art they brought home. We’re telling them how awesome it is together. And it is awesome. It’s all masterpieces and brilliance. And we’re the two people in this world who get that.
“I’m raising two little men,” Flynn continues in his post. “The example I set for how I treat their mom is going to significantly shape how they see and treat women and affect their perception of relationships. I think even more so in my case because we are divorced. So if you aren’t modeling good relationship behavior for your kids, get your shit together. Rise above it and be an example. This is bigger than you.”
Jeez. That is some serious truth right there.
And the truth is never easy.
Because it’s so damn true.