I feel incredibly fortunate to have kids who will let both myself and their mom know what they’re feeling. Many amazing insights come from this truth. Sure there are things they keep to themselves, and it pains me to know that from time to time they likely sit in their silence living through the pain of the divorce thrust upon them. But on more than one occasion they’ve offered insights as to what our divorce means to them and how it affects them.
One such insight is how easily they can feel completely caught in the middle. Wanting so badly to please both their mom and I but being forced to choose. They often feel that to make one of us happy they’re going to have to let the other one down. To come to that realization is hard. It’s also a wake up call as to how easily they can feel torn between the two people they love the most in this world.
Neither their mom nor I consciously try to put them in that position. Life simply reminds them from time to time that their parents have separate lives. That we don’t live together. That more often than not, we aren’t going to all be together at the same time. And that to spend time with one of us, usually means leaving the other behind. And for a kid, that’s the definition of hell.
With three kids, we often shake things up, especially on weekends, to provide the kids one on one time with both of us. It can be tough though as it often means breaking the schedule. To innocently ask a child of divorce, who has great relationships with both parents; “Do you want to stay here or go with mommy / daddy?,” can at times unintentionally be the same as placing ten 1000K barbells on their heart. For some, especially the sensitive ones, it is an immense weight beyond anything they can bare.
When we talked about it later, I was told quite plainly, “I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If I didn’t go I
knew I’d probably regret it, but if I did go I was afraid I’d cry myself to sleep knowing I left mommy behind on her day.” Now, both our child’s mom and I knew that there had been plenty of days where it was the other way around. And despite the reassurances and attempts to just make the decision for them and move forward, the very idea that they had to let one go to be with the other simply broke their heart. It was as simple as that. They were caught in the moment; frozen as there was no clear correct answer for them.
Eventually we guided them through the “now.” And in the end, all was fine as we knew it would be. To have that time with just the two of us was pure gold. No other kids to compete with, no work, no TV, no facebook. Just the two of us building legos together and sharing a cup of tea before bedtime. Breakfast was epic as was the calm, quiet ride to school.
I share this with you for no other reason than to remind you to once again be aware. No matter how crazy the timing, no matter how hurried you are, stop and consider what your child may be going through before you act. Not always easy when you’re rushing or transitioning. But these are defining moments. When they occur, simply be as reassuring as possible that it’s not a big deal. Guide as much as you can as opposed to “pushing.” It may very well mean putting your ego aside and saying something reassuring that may not come from the heart. But know that once you get over the hurdle that is that moment of angst; they usually do just fine once they realize their worlds are both very much in tact and everyone is more than OK.