Do you ever think back on your own childhood? There are good memories, not so good memories, and lots of stories, aren't there? There's no such thing as a perfect childhood, but when I made the decision to become a Mom, I knew I wanted to provide mostly good memories for kids. When I made the decision to ask my co-parent for a divorce, the memories my children would have of their childhood is one of the major reasons I decided to ask for that divorce.
My ex and I divorced when our children were small. We had just started out in elementary school when we finally decided to end our marriage. Our kids are now slowly entering adulthood as we send 1 to college this year, another next year and finish the high school years with our last. Most of their childhood has been with divorced parents.
As I am sending these kids off, I think about those memories and whether or not I provided what I set out to provide. My kids and I look at old pictures, school projects, and cards written to each other over the years and I can see how our relationship as Mother/Daughters grew in part because of the divorce. I made a lot of mistakes and there are definitely some memories I didn't want to provide, but here are the positives we see as we look back:
- We were/are a team. Right after their Dad and I divorced, that was the message my kids got. We had to live with my Mom for 2 weeks until we were in an apartment that wasn't ready for us right away. They saw 3 moves within weeks of hearing their parents were separating. I said it then and I continue to say it. We're a team. We are in this together. It isn't always going to be easy, but we will always have each other's backs.
- We laughed and cried and both are OK. Bumps, bruises, mean girls, lost items, lost games, hard tests and friend drama were all intermingled with many other activities, some of which are now traditions: family movie night, family game night (we play to win!), family dinners, family book club, and can't miss TV shows we watch together (SYTYCD anyone?!).
- We said the hard things. They say if you don't get the "I hate you's" you're not doing it right. I disagree with that on many levels, but I have certainly had door slams, tears and have been given 'the look' more times than I can count. Here's what's positive about that: if we didn't have a solid relationship, my kids would not have felt they could have told me what was going on in all those situations. Sometimes I was the reason for their hurt, sometimes I wasn't; every time I was there to listen, respond, and love on them.
- We got through, and still get through, the hard stuff. Divorce is hard on everyone. No matter what schedule you have, kids are still going back and forth - that's hard. No matter how well you and your co-parent get along, kids go to sleep every night without one of their parents. Sometimes you just want a hug from Mom or a hug from Dad and it's just not possible in that moment. We got through this stuff, together.
- We formed our own relationships post-divorce. This is the biggest one to me. At the end of the day, how I feel about my co-parent is my business. How my kids feel about their Dad is something I hope they've developed on their own. Sometimes Dad's house has better rules. Sometimes it's Mom's. That's not what I mean here. What I mean is that now, as an adult, your relationship with your Mom and your Dad is based, in part, on what you had growing up. I hope my kid's relationships with me is based on what I've done to build that relationship and I hope their relationship with their Dad is based on their Dad - not anything I've said or done. I know I'm not done raising my kids, but I don't have to ask them to get their shoes on 14 times before leaving the house anymore. That clears up a lot of time and conversation to get to know them as individuals and enjoy their company as people. Our relationships continue to grow and all I have control of (and all I want to have control of) is my house.
How do you want your kids to remember their adolescence? What memories from their childhood are you providing? Every time I want to make a snide comment, I run it through that exact filter: is this a memory I want my kids having?
If your kids are grown and out of the house, or if you're an adult child of divorce - please comment and share the memories you loved and some you didn't love so we can learn from you!
Emotions are high after a divorce. It's hard for you to be everything you want to be for your children until you give yourself some time. One of my favorite ways to do that is to journal. I've created a year's worth of journal prompts for you to get started on your journey towards a new life after divorce. Get yourself a notebook and some fun pens and enjoy digging deep into where you are, who you want to be, and how you're getting there.