There's nothing like the pride you feel when your child reaches a milestone in their life. Whether it's celebrating the first birthday, a Sweet 16 or quinceañera, a college graduation, or, the mother of all celebrations, a wedding. These can be joyous occasions. Or, if you're divorced like me, they can be absolute nightmares. Definitely something to dread.
For the most part, my ex and I managed the birthdays in a semi-reasonable fashion. We did this by hosting "dueling" parties, with my children's friends split down the middle, much like how we split our possessions during the divorce. Half were invited to his party; the other half, to mine. Of course, we did fight over who got to invite the best friend. He won. Horseback-riding parties trumped birthday parties squeezed-in-condo patio every time.
But the first major dilemma came when my oldest turned 13. The Bar Mitzvah. The rite of passage. My ex is Jewish and, though I converted when we married, I figured I'd be doing the right thing by giving him the opportunity to host the event. After all, a Bar Mitzvah is too important an occasion to split down the middle. Add to that, there can only be one Bar Mitzvah ceremony, and since my ex was earning far more than me, I couldn't imagine making an announcement following the ceremony that went something like this:
"Will the guests holding an A ticket board the chartered bus and head to the fancy hotel for a formal, catered affair? And those of you with B tickets, see you at my house for potluck."
I would have been mortified to see the crestfallen faces when the ones with the B ticket realized they'd drawn the short end of the stick.
At first, my ex seemed to be enjoying making all the plans, scheduling the venue and creating the invitations. Naively, I assumed, he'd run everything by me, as that's what we had agreed on. But the arrangement was only verbal -- who knew I'd need a contract?
The trouble started with the unforeseen -- in this case, the other woman, who was living with my ex. Little did I imagine, that this same woman, who helped to split up our marriage, would want a piece of the Bar Mitzvah pie. My bad, which I discovered when I received the Bar Mitzvah invite in the mail--already printed. Making any changes to it clearly was out of the question. The invitation had his name and hers listed at the top, my son's in the middle, and mine somewhere along the bottom, as an afterthought. It went something like this:
"Ex and his girlfriend cordially invite you to Son's Bar Mitzvah....The mother will be there, too."
Whereupon, I called my ex and, as civilly as possible, while trying to hold back the smoldering rage inside me, I asked him why I hadn't seen them before they went to print. Sheepishly, he replied that he knew there'd be no way I'd approve, so he didn't see the point in bothering.
The planning continued and RSVP's poured in. Then, a week before the Bar Mitzvah, the rabbi scheduled a family meeting, for the child and parents, causing the first shoe to drop. The girlfriend honed in on said meeting. The rabbi, already aware of the problems, was startled to see her there. He, like me, wasn't quite sure how to deal with her, so we followed our instincts and ignored her during the entire meeting. When it was over, we parted ways. The next day, the other shoe dropped.
My ex called to advise me that because the girlfriend felt slighted at the meeting, the Bar Mitzvah was now officially cancelled. Indeed, he'd already phoned and called off the venue, the caterer, the entertainment, and even the guests.
So, the girlfriend was miffed, yet who was this going to hurt most? My son. With less than a week to go, he watched what should have been his glorious achievement fall miserably apart, and if it takes a village to raise a child, it took a congregation to plan a new celebration seemingly overnight. And plan it we did, by hook and by crook. The rabbi found a klezmer band that became suddenly available. A caterer, too. The party was held at the synagogue and all the congregants were invited. The only guests who didn't show were my ex and his girlfriend, who peevishly left town for the weekend.
My kids and I still have scars from that day. And you can believe that when it was my daughter's turn, I did the planning. Divorce is a series of lessons learned. My kids are in their twenties now and I'm hoping, when it's time to get married, they elope.