Have you ever said to your ex, "think we can stick it out till the kids graduate high school?"
This weekend my son had a basketball game. My parents, daughter, ex and I sat together and my dad and ex chatted throughout the game. That night when Emily when to bed she said, "I liked seeing daddy sitting with grandma and grandpa. Have they ever talked before? It made me feel good. It felt nice and that he was bonding with them."
Have they ever talked before? My heart sinks landing with a big fat thud.
My parents come to most basketball games but my ex is usually coaching and thus on the other side of the court. It was probably the first time in years she saw her dad sit next to her grandfather and talk. The feelings Emily expressed led me to wonder, is there a "good age" for divorce? Is it better to be really young, an adult or in between?
Maybe really young kids don't know anything else and that's a good thing. It's likely tough for teens that are maturing and possibly entering their first relationships. But, are they so busy and self-absorbed that they barely notice anyway? I used to think maybe we can make it till the kids go to college. We couldn't. Plus, I bet it's tough to leave for college be on your own for the first time and have your home dissolve as well. Then, your whole world changes at once.
Do grown adults even care if their parents divorce after 30 years of marriage? Do they begin to question their entire lives growing up?
My gut tells me that it's unlikely kids emerge totally unscathed from their parents' divorce regardless of age.
My kids were three and six when my ex moved out and the divorce was final two years later. When we told them what was happening, my son cried. He understood the crux of what we told him. My daughter was sad that her brother was sad. But at three, she had no idea what it meant and as time went on, had no memory of what little time she had, living with her mom, dad and brother all together.
I've been (foolishly) grateful that Emily was so young and doesn't have the memories tugging at her heart like her brother does.
Four years later he not only remembers all of the details of the day we told him of our divorce, he has many memories of our old life. He remembers weekends in Fire Island and Bethany Beach. December meant a week in Florida and holidays spent with his extended family from both sides. He remembers Saturday mornings in bed, barbeques on our deck, dance parties, music, Sundays watching sports with his dad on the couch and his mom reading a book next to him or baking something in the kitchen. He remembers golfing with his dad and grandfather, together. He remembers having both parents kiss him goodnight and in the house at dinnertime. He remembers what it was like having access to his mom and dad at the same time, all the time. We weren't the screaming and yelling couple, tension and divisiveness was mostly kept behind the scenes. At six, he only saw the good.
Isn't it nice for Emily that she doesn't know what it was like when it was good? Isn't it lucky for her that she doesn't know what she's missing? Isn't it great she was able to adjust so young and now it's all she knows?
Is that seriously what I thought?
Of course she knows what she's missing. She goes to her friend's houses and sees intact families. She wants her two parents together. She doesn't think about the minutia of the details and she doesn't need to. What she doesn't have, the memory of her father and grandfather talking to each other, the memory of love between all of the different parts of her now very separate family, that is something I didn't consider. It might be a sliver lining that at times Emily doesn't have a specific experience that she longs for.
But, the flip side, that Emily didn't have it at all, I hadn't thought about that.
I don't think there's a good age for divorce. I think it all sucks for the kids. The only thing a divorced parent can do is do their best to have the best divorce possible.