There are so many things that can really suck about being a child of divorce. You get used to it over time, I guess, but still. You end up back and forth between two homes. You look around at your toys and books and clothes, and you realize that half of them are missing at any given time. You just settle in to sleeping in one bed and suddenly — BAM! — you’re back in the other one.
Kids are beautifully resilient though. Maybe even more than any of us goofy grownups deserve sometimes.
That said, it occurred to me the other day that there is this one thing happening in my own three kids’ lives as they grow up in this world of divorce I’ve helped create for them. And it’s a twist I never saw coming, even as this super-progressive, equal-rights modern man I always fancy myself being.
See, strangely enough, divorce has absolutely shattered all the old, ugly gender roles that generations of kids have been exposed to for the last trillion years.
My Violet, who is 7, and my Henry and Charlie, who are 5 and 2 respectively, don’t have the foggiest notion of what moms or dads are supposed to act like or who they’re supposed to be. Why? Because divorce has damned up those pigeon holes from the get-go!
Their mom and I are kind of both mom and both dad all the time. Divorce has made us that way. We don’t delineate duties according to the old-fashioned ways. There are no roles to pick and fill. We do it all when we have our kids with us. And we continue to prepare for and maintain our end of it all when they’re gone. Even if there are times when it sure would be cool to have a break from some of it. (And there are times like that, by the way. A lot of times.)
But there we are.
Except there’s not much difference in our roles in the kids’ lives. And when that hit me out of the blue the other day, it made me realize what an unexpected benefit divorce has brought into our separate homes and our collective lives.
Think about it: all my kids know is that both of their parents do the same things all of the time. Mom and dad both change diapers. They both make all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
They both throw baseballs, and they both send people to their rooms when they’re hangry and need a cold beer and some Netflix time without tiny people bugging them for ice cream.
Heart-to-heart talks about everything from the glorious uniqueness of people’s skin color to why you don’t bite your baby brother on his naked ass? Mom handles those. And so does Dad.
Mom drives us around. So does Dad.
Dad works hard at his job to make money to keep the whole shebang afloat. And so does Mom.
It’s making me smile just writing this stuff down. It’s making me so happy knowing that we’ve got no real gender roles happening in our homes. Because if kids are raised without being exposed to all of that “Well, moms do this and dads do that” kind of thing, then they’re also raised in a way that is free and clear of the still rampant sexism. If you ask me, that’s about as priceless a gift as any of us ever could have dreamed up. And divorce doesn’t always offer up too many benefits like that. (Even when the breaking apart is in fact the very best decision for everyone involved.)
Kids are being raised more and more these days to understand that girls can do or accomplish anything that boys can do. And vice versa. We’re in the midst of quite a few social revolutions, so being alive to witness these important movements and levels of consciousness pick up steam is both satisfying and exhilarating for a dad like me.
I can’t get enough. I want Violet and Henry and Charlie to grow up to be kind, compassionate humans. I want gargantuan happiness for each of them and I want it to come from a place behind their ribs, from back inside their hearts. Sure I hope they each follow whatever path they set out on and I plan to nudge them this way or that way towards safety and contentment. But mostly I simply want them to someday walk out into the world with eyes that don’t care about color or race or sexuality.
Every child deserve a mom. And every child deserves a dad, too. Yet divorce has opened my eyes to how subtle the differences actually might be. See, when two parents love their children with everything they’ve got for every moment they’re alive, it really doesn’t matter who is wiping their boogers or nuking their TV dinners or tucking them in at night.
Mom. Dad. Two moms. Two dads. One dad. No mom. No dad. Three moms.
It honestly doesn’t matter. If a kid feels love, they don’t care about much else. And then just like that, old lines of separation start to blur away for good.