This past Christmas, my children and I sat around a table with my former mother- and father-in-law, my former husband, my
mother and my long-term boyfriend. We ate a delicious
Christmas feast, shared drinks and stories, and created a wonderful memory for my children by celebrating together.
About the Author
April C, a retired API Leader, lives in Maryland, USA, with her children, whom she co-parents with their father.
Three years ago, during the turbulent time of early separation and co-parenting, I wished that one day we would be able to gather again in joyous peace. Three years ago, I never expected it to actually happen.
Early separation and divorce are messy and complicated. Aside from the inner grief, bruised egos, shame and anger, everyone’s world falls apart. The children’s reality shifts from a home with two parents to a home, or homes, with only one parent present at a time. The adults’ reality of expecting a marriage to last “’til death” shatters and is replaced with “’til it doesn’t work anymore.”
During this early time, my former husband and I were lucky to have well-grounded, realistic and practical parents who did not take sides and encouraged us to take only one side: the kids’. His parents reminded us that our children had no say in our decision to marry, have children or dissolve the marriage. These were our choices and ours alone. The children are innocent. We are to be their voice.
Quickly the reality hit us: If I hurt my ex, it will only hurt our kids.
We successfully resolved to settle our divorce out of court and without lawyers. There was a lot of mutual anger and hurt, so it was extremely hard to talk to my former spouse to discuss the custody, schedules, parenting decisions and how we would divvy up what little assets we had together. But from their births, we decided to be our children’s voice when they are unable to speak, and this voice was never meant to be given up to anyone else, certainly not to lawyers or to the courts.
As bad as it was working with my former partner, I knew it would be much harder if we had to shell out college tuition in lawyers’ fees or had the courts making the choices for our children. In the back of my mind, I had to remind myself that an act against their father is an act against them. Every one of us is someone’s child, so in proceeding with divorce agreements, we resolved to do nothing against the other that we wouldn’t want done to our own child.
Our goal as parents always was to have strong connections with our children, with them always knowing they come first. Divorce does not, in any way, change this goal. Divorce can certainly impede its success when parents are not respectful of the child’s need to have a unique and special relationship with the other parent. Divorce can impede the child’s need to have both parents present at special moments in their life.
The kids come first. Regardless of how we felt toward one another, it needed to have nothing to do with us coming together to show support for our son’s first soccer game, or their birthday parties, or their school celebrations. We could be mad at each other as much as we wanted to in our own time alone, but when it came time for the children to be in the spotlight, all of that noise needed to be silent. If we had nothing nice to say to each other, we said nothing. If it was hard to sit close, we gave each other distance. But our family team was still there, full of support and full of love, as all families should be, regardless of their marital status.
When making arrangements for this past Christmas, I asked my children what they wanted to do. They decided where they wanted to have Christmas dinner and who they wanted to invite. They were very precise in deciding who, what, where and when. It was up to us to make it so. It was all of us, and we were successful.
Their father and I are not best friends, but if we see each other out socially, we will be social with one another and then part ways. Time has allowed us to heal and let go of old wounds.
At some point, my children will be grown, and they will look back at us and look at how we treated each other. I want them to look back and know that, while we were unable to maintain our marriage, we maintained our family—a strong family that will always be there no matter what.