Happily Divorced – Splitting Thanksgiving

Enjoying the holidays has probably been the biggest challenge for me.  As moms (and maybe dads feel this way too), we feel it is our duty to create family traditions.  Yet that is very difficult to do when you’ve agreed to alternate holidays.  At best, your tradition is either only executed in alternating years or you carry it out on a different day from year to year.  While this may work fine for you and your child or children, it is hard to pull off when considering the broader family.  Grandma and Pappa may always host Thanksgiving at their house.  A particular holiday event may only take place on Christmas Eve each year.

Even more complicating is when there are multiple divorces, remarriages, step-children, and even pets that have to be worked into the equation.  So my best advice is to not get too caught up in your own feelings.  This will just drive you crazy and honestly… it isn’t just about YOU!  Hell this is the case even if you’re not divorced.

Of course, Bob and I were divorced.  Bob’s parents were divorced – and both remarried.  Bob eventually got remarried, and his wife’s mom got remarried.  Bob’s sister was married but her husband’s family was from another town 2 hours from here.  My parents were still married but lived in Texas.  In fact, none of my relatives lived in town.  This actually ended up being a Godsend of sorts.  Sure it was tough not having them close by and I hated that we couldn’t share more of our lives with them.  But had they too been local, it would have just been one more difficult choice to have to make when it came to dividing up our time.

When Ian was between 6 and 14 years old, I mostly conceded Thanksgiving to Bob and his family.  It was just too sad for me to make dinner for just Ian and I and it didn’t seem right to keep him from enjoying a big family gathering that Bob could provide.  So I would do something else.  I’d have probably been better off in these years before Brian, had I went to volunteer at a homeless shelter or elderly home.  I don’t know why I didn’t do that other than to say I think I just got caught up wallowing in my own despair.  Instead, I usually met up at a bar on Thanksgiving evening with friends trying to escape the family scene.

I remember once Ian called me and asked what I think may have been the saddest question a child could ever ask a parent… “How can a son not see his mom on Thanksgiving?”  It was just awful.  Yep, there was that half Bob said I’d miss.  It’s in my eardrum right now thrashing at my heart.  Seriously, what a waste all that self-pity was!  If you end up alone on the holidays, don’t do what I did. Do something that involves you giving your time and energy to someone else’s needs.  I think you’ll feel a whole lot better.

When I finally started seeing Brian seriously, we began alternating Thanksgiving.  Of course, this introduced more complications – Brian’s kids, their mom’s wishes, her new husband, and her parents’ schedule.  Ian is now 24 and we still haven’t really conquered Thanksgiving successfully.  Given that I consider Thanksgiving the quintessential family holiday, it just comes preloaded with anxiety year after year. Still, alternating seems like the kindest choice for all involved.

One other thing I would caution against in the case of holidays is giving the kids TOO MUCH control in deciding how their holiday time is spent.  It isn’t all about them either!  Certainly strive to make it fair and not too frantic to enjoy.  But seriously, burdening a child with the decision of who to spend time with and how much and who to pick between is more unfair.  Make it your burden to figure out.  Not theirs.  Be the adults.  Be fair to yourself too.  Being a martyr doesn’t serve your or your children’s interest.  After all, they want to spend time with you… unless of course you’re an abusive asshole, in which case, you should lose all rights to ever see your kids until you decide to be a decent human being.

Co-parenting at Halloween Can Be Tricky

Happily Divorced Halloween
Ian was Robin two years in a row. This was also pre-divorce. But can you blame me for including it here?

Holidays are supposed to be a time for joy, fun, and celebration.  But when you are divorced with kids, it is a minefield of anxiety.  How do you get it right?  How do you build traditions when you constantly have to consider the forces outside your home?  How do you balance what your child wants with what you want to experience as a parent?  I can only speak for myself.  But I didn’t work on getting pregnant for 2 years only to miss all the significant memories in my son’s life.  My dreams of building that vast photo album of costumes and pictures with Santa didn’t end with my divorce.  I know there are people who let these things go.  But honestly, I just don’t relate to this type of parenting existence.  I couldn’t let Bob’s prophecy of “You’re going to miss half of his life” come to fruition.

So not unlike the tangled web we had to maneuver to pull off family vacations, we once again had to exhibit selflessness, flexibility, and compassion to provide the best holiday experiences to our boy while still getting to enjoy being his parents.

Don’t be Haunted by Halloween Missteps

Co-parenting at Halloween can be tricky
Ian was only 2 years old here. Bob and I were still together. But the photo is just too damned cute to leave it out.

The first key to a Happy Halloween whether you are divorced or still married is to let your child pick their own costume.  It’s one of the few things they can control.  So let them have it.  Pick one costume that they will want to wear to both parent’s house.  That way there is one experience – not only for them but for the two parents and everyone else around them as well!  Remember, your parents are building a photo album as well.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Well of course you let the kid pick their costume.  What crazy control freak would deny a child such a rite of passage?”  But I can tell you first hand with another couple that I know that this is not the case.  In the ongoing obsession to control every aspect of every experience her children have, one parent I know always picks what the kids will wear.  The outcome of course is that IF the kids are allowed out of her sight for a millisecond, they strip down the costume to the point that you can’t even tell what they are dressed as.  Take that you control freak mother!  Happy now?

Divorced with kids at HalloweenBeyond the costume, I’d say the more tricky part (pardon the pun) for us was how to deal with the logistics of trick or treat.  And in our case, we lived very close making it a little easier.  Still, will they go to both neighborhoods?  Will they just do one?  Is there time for both?  Will they have anyone to go with in both neighborhoods at different times?  What do they want to do?  What if I don’t get to see my child in his costume this year?  Oh hell!  This part sucks.  Looking back, I guess we did “ok” with this one but I think we could have done better.

Ian did pick his costumes OF COURSE and also which neighborhood to start in.  But the other parent always wanted to be part of it and so Ian would have to stop halfway through the first neighborhood to switch houses.  Of course, he didn’t get to go with the other kids in the second neighborhood because they had started way earlier and were either done or on an entirely different part of the neighborhood.  I think in some Halloween Co-parenting Coach Tressel Costumeyears he picked one or the other neighborhood but still had to make time to share his costume with each parent.  As parents and the “adults”, we should have made all this inconvenience more our affair and let him just enjoy the experience in one location or the other.  Of course, being the true Libra sun sign that he is, Ian probably felt obligated to give each parent and friend-group equal time anyway.  So I’m not sure that he would have chosen any differently.  But looking back, I feel we should have done more to relieve him of this burden.

So as you finalize your plans for this year’s trick-or-treating, do everything you can to remember this is a memory for your child first and you second.  Be flexible and considerate.  And expect to do more than your friends who are married have to just to create the same level of kid-parent experience.

Please Judge My Book by Its Cover

It is time to prepare my book proposal for Happily Divorced.  All along as I’ve been writing and self-editing my book, I’ve tried to apply one of the many valuable lessons I took from my time as a “student” of Wayne Dyer.  That is the notion that we must act as if.  We must visualize what it is we want to manifest in our lives.  Then we must live as if we already have it.  And in doing so, we will see it when we believe it.

In keeping with that thinking, one of the first things I did earlier this year as I started on the path of building an audience and preparing my writing to be submitted as a book proposal, was to print out the entire manuscript and place it in one of those 3-clip folders.  You know… the ones that cost about fifty cents and allow for the pages to be awkwardly turned?  The idea of this exercise being that it resembled a finished book.  It became real to me in the most literal sense at that moment.  No longer was writing a book just a theory.  It was a real thing sitting on the table right there in front of me.  I was no longer just thinking about writing a book or becoming an author.  I was one.  I am one.  And even if the book never gets published or if I have to publish it myself, no one can ever tell me I did not write a book because I have the physical proof that says otherwise.

Of course, no book is complete without a cover.  So about six months ago I did a very rudimentary sketch of what I envisioned for my cover.  Now, I may be a creative sort.  I write of course.  And I had my moment as a local musician fronting an incredibly talented group of musicians in a cover band. I even dabbled with some song writing back in the day.  But an artist in the sense of one who draws, paints, or sculpts, I am not!  Having said that, the image that came to me that day really felt authentic and perfect in its imperfection.  Given the fact I grew up in my mom’s bridal shop, it quite frankly seemed to fit like a glove – or should I say dress?  And with my rough sketch as complete as I was ever going to make it, I placed it at the front of my three-tab folder to give my book a cover.

Now that I am nearing the deadline by which I must submit my proposal to Hay House as part of an online writers’ workshop, I’d like to get your reaction to my book cover image to see what you think.  Of course, I’ll hire a professional book cover artist to fine tune this image for the final product and make sure it hits the mark in terms of not looking weird or out of place within my chosen genre.

So, will you indulge me and share your reaction to my third-grade-level sketch as a possible book cover for Happily Divorced? I’d be very grateful for your feedback whether it is good or bad.  Just don’t critique my technique because I absolutely don’t have any.  🙂

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Teresa

Happily Divorced: Single Life

Some of the frankly weirdest conversations Bob and I have had as a divorced couple revolved around our adventures as single people.  It’s probably hard for a lot of you to understand how we could discuss our evolving single-ness including sharing of some rather intimate escapades.  It’s probably making you a little squirmy right now in fact.  Like where the hell is this going?  No worries. It’s really not creepy.  At least not to me.

Perhaps it will make more sense to you if you consider that neither Bob nor I had spent any real time as adult singles before the point at which we divorced from each other.  We were both mid-30s and single for the first times in our adult lives.

Bob had begun dating a woman right out of high school who he eventually married and then divorced within a year.  I had pretty much paralleled this pattern.  I met a guy two weeks before my high school senior prom and proceeded to date him for three and half years.  I eventually married him when I was 21 and promptly separated from him six months later.  About 8 months after that, I met Bob and the rest is history so to speak.

So I guess for us, our union developed rather prematurely, before we were done experiencing single life.  Once the shock and sadness of our failed marriage had run a reasonable course and we had committed ourselves to remain friends, it was sort of natural for us to share about our single-life escapades.  I think this was mostly helpful since it allowed our friendship to continue to evolve to a natural state of post-marital bliss and remove all the awkward overtones of sexual jealousy and disappointment that I think other couples harbor against one another long after the possibility of ever having sex again with each other has evaporated.  It also helped us to truly learn from our experience together.  Basically, if you are sharing as friends do about relationships with others of the opposite sex, it becomes natural to offer opinions on what might work or not work.  It also offers a weirdly safe audience since no one knows your dating habits and style better than one who actually experienced it.

Of course, these conversations weren’t possible in the early days of our separation or divorce.  But Bob and I both accepted the fact we were happier not cohabiting pretty quickly, probably by the time a year had passed, and began to cheer for the happily-ever-after ending that we each felt the other truly deserved in spite of our failure with one another.

Of course, I didn’t approve of all of Bob’s dating choices and he downright opposed at least my first choice – someone who I met the weekend before I announced my intention to separate from him.  I have to say, given this circumstance, Bob put forth an amazing effort to be cordial to this man for the proceeding three years during which I continued to date him. Thinking back on it, I really don’t know if I could have done the same.  But I truly do thank Bob for doing this in spite of the pain he must have felt every time he had to look at the man he considered the “other guy”.  By the time I had moved on from this first new someone, Bob had remarried and seemed to want me to find someone too.  We even got to a point where Brandi, his new wife, and I talked about my dating situations.  Not in vivid detail mind you.  But rather on a more general “found anyone special?” level.

To clarify, sharing your dating experiences with your ex isn’t advisable for everyone.  And you certainly should not do it if it is even a remote possibility that it may inflict pain on the former spouse.  That will only do harm to your efforts as a happily divorced couple.  In my case, I didn’t consider sharing these types of things with my ex until he did it first.  Now of course, this assumes that I was in a position to handle it.  And I really couldn’t tell you if Bob considered that or not.  Either way, I was.  So it worked out.

If you are on the receiving end of this scenario – your ex is sharing his or her dating experiences with you – try not to assume it’s an attempt to hurt you but rather may be an effort to normalize your relationship as friends and remove the awkwardness.  Look, the fact is you’re not likely going back there.  Some people do this.  But I guess what I’m saying is if it is over for the two of you, why not move on to a place of comfortable non-awkward friendship which includes sharing our successes and failures in dating.  And if you’re lucky enough to have an ex-spouse who is as funny as Bob when telling a story, you might even derive a bit of entertainment out of it.

Happily Divorced – Helping Each Other

So I guess I could have started with this topic because really this is at the core of it all.  Bob and I have consistently and willingly helped each other through big life events and the little things.  At first, I think Bob would have probably rather not helped me.  He was very angry with me, which is to be expected.  But he was the bigger person, putting his feelings aside to make sure his son had a comfortable home to live in with his mom.  He gave me a basic set of tools so that I could pound in a nail or screw together a piece of furniture.  He bought and installed a high-end bathroom shower door from his business in Ian’s bathroom.  And he was consistently there to pick Ian up, drop him off, and spend time with him on a regular schedule without fail or complaining.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked Bob to borrow a tool or small appliance, costume, or really anything else I might need but didn’t have.  If I needed a referral for anything – and I mean anything – Bob would always know a guy.  In fact I’m pretty sure Bob is the consummate “I know a guy” guy.  Whether it is a painter, plumber, mechanic, or limo driver, Bob knows a guy.  And he always invited me to use his name.  “Tell them I sent you and you’ll get a good deal,” he would say.  There was never any hesitation or trepidation.  Every request was readily accommodated without ever making me feel like I owed him something or that he had something over me. Probably a good thing since I seem to have fewer things he needs or maybe it’s just because he has everything and knows everyone.  But if there was something, I too gladly shared my stuff and my referrals – need a musician or a psychic? I know some of those – and felt good doing it.

Of course, besides being there with the “things” and the referrals, we were there to help each other through life’s ups and downs.  I’ll admit I didn’t help him move.  But I did help move a lot of sound gear and music instruments between our homes.  I babysat his daughter when he and Brandi had somewhere to go.  I’ve went to every viewing of every relative of Bob’s who I knew that has passed since we split – even one that I didn’t know very well.  I’ve offered help to his parents emotionally and would gladly do so physically if called upon.

And when Bob got in a very bad motorcycle accident in the spring of 2016, I got up as soon as I received the text and never went back to bed.  I went to the hospital to see him twice.  I consoled his worried mom and sister and ate with them (or actually watched them eat) in the hospital cafeteria.  I talked to his stepdad the day after and let him talk me through a play-by-play of the accident which obviously he wanted to tell someone.  It only took about 45 minutes. I went to Bob’s house to visit him after he got home just to let him know I cared and was there for him.  I told Brandi I’d cover whatever she needed – let out the dogs, bring them dinner, take Gracie, or whatever. That’s how you treat friends.  You don’t judge them.  Ok, you might.  But you put that shit aside to take care of them and realize it could just as easily have been you in the situation.  You are there for them and their family and offer your support.

Finally and probably most germane to the topic of this book, we helped each other to be better parents.  We talked about the issues parents deal with. The difficulties our son might be going through and how best to deal with them and help him.  How to cover the Christmas list?  How to pay for an expensive gift?  How to help him get along better with neighbor kids?  What sports should Ian try?  How do we best support our aspiring musician? Who will go to curriculum night?  Who’s going to talk to the coach?  And of course, we could gush all day long to each other about how wonderful our son is without annoying the other person.  You really can’t do that with a non-parent.  Not even a step-parent past a certain point.

If you’re reading this blog because you are recently divorced or because you are not having a “happily divorced” experience, you may find all of this to be a lot to take on in your particular situation.  All I can offer is to remember the golden rule.  You know the one our parents taught us.  Treat others as you want to be treated.  I promise you even if it feels uncomfortable, the dividends of a positive relationship and moreover positive parenting experience for you and happy childhood for your offspring is SO worth a bit of discomfort now and then.  After all, it will certainly be less uncomfortable than when you lived in the same house.

Conflicting Dreams – Motorcycles and Boats

If I had to pick a pivotal topic within our marriage that changed the course of our future, I would pin it to decisions that evolved around  motorcycles and boats.  Maybe this sounds lame to some people – that our marriage hinged on what happened relevant to two inanimate objects.  Well first, I must inform you that there is nothing inanimate about boating or for that matter, motorcycling.  Both in fact add animation to life.  Or at least I’d say they add “living” to life.

Bob and I are passionate people with strong opinions and a commitment to living life to the fullest.  Some people may be okay just cruising through life on autopilot.  Not us.  We want to experience life.  It is fleeting after all.  Our strong passions for life could have been a great asset to our marriage and I’d say early on it was as we shared many common interests.  But as time marched on, the strength of our desires evolved with different emphasis.

Bob loves motorcycles and I like them ok.  I love boating and Bob likes boating well enough.  But both of these things were catalysts for each of us to make decisions that were self-centered at the time.  Although, looking back over the past 18 years, I can conclude that it was inevitable.  You see, Bob had to become a Harley rider.  And I had to become a boat owner.  We just had to.  But each got in the way of the other and this is when the trouble started.

When Ian was about 2 years old, I got a substantial raise at my job.  I wanted to buy a boat that we could all enjoy together as Ian got older. Bob thought it was a good time to buy his first Harley.  We could have finally afforded either, albeit a modest selection of whichever one we chose.  But we certainly couldn’t afford both.  I don’t really know what the market is for Harley’s now but back then, there was a waiting list for the most basic Harley you could get.  And the type of boats we both liked was Mastercraft brand.  They are what our friends had and what I felt most comfortable in.  Bottom line, neither of these items is cheap!

So a few months into my new job and income, Bob didn’t so much ask me as much as he announced to me that he had put himself on the wait list for a bike.  What?  I was pissed.  How were we going to enjoy this investment with a two year old?  Three people do not fit on a motorcycle!  Bob’s response was that we would get his mom to watch Ian when we went on the bike.  I just saw this as a completely selfish move and one that took money we could use for so many things (eh hem… a boat!) and divert it to this extravagance that only Bob could truly enjoy.  Still “we” proceeded with the purchase of Bob’s first Harley.

Conversely, a few years before Ian was born, we had developed a circuit of friends who owned and/or enjoyed boating and waterskiing. I fell in love with the sport and everything about being on the water.  Waterskiing was really the first sport I felt reasonably good at.  It was freeing and boating itself was simultaneously energizing and relaxing.  Bob was actually a much better skier than me back in the day.  So it motivated me to get better, to keep up.  But I wanted more rope time.  So we went with friends as often as we could.  We started going on houseboat trips to Lake Cumberland where one could get in several opportunities to ski each day.  I looked forward all year every year to these houseboat trips and being back on the lake.  As soon as we got in our cars to leave the lake each year, I looked fondly upon my return.  Then in the fall of ‘97, our friends who we’ll call Bill and Crystal and who also happened to be both boaters and Harley riders, bought a house on the Scioto River in Columbus.  … in the ski zone!  It was awesome because we enjoyed each other’s company and they were very gracious in sharing their amenities with us.

Happily Divorced Houseboating Norris Lake
Houseboating on Norris Lake in Tennesse

As spring ’98 approached, it was time to plan the houseboat trip which usually took place in June.  Instead, Bob announced to me that he and Bill had been talking and that they wanted for the four of us to forego the houseboat trip this one year and instead go to Milwaukee for the Harley Davidson 95th Anniversary celebration.  Well it wasn’t a houseboat trip but it was only one year we’d miss it and this would be a different type of memorable experience.  So I agreed.  Just this one year.

The next spring, again it was time to plan the houseboat trip and I had heard no talk of it. So I asked Bob and he announced to me that this year, he and Bill were instead going to go to Sturgis for another Harley thing.  I suggested I may not be interested in doing that and Bob informed me that it was going to be an all guys trip anyway.  No women allowed.  Really?  When confronted with my displeasure of this situation, Bob said, “What’s the big deal?  We can ski on the river anytime we want with Bill and Crystal.” What?  That is NOT THE SAME!  That’s not the lake NOR a houseboat trip!!!

So faced with missing a second year in a row at my beloved lake, I asked Bob if he minded if I tried to find another houseboat trip to go on.  He said he didn’t care, a decision he would live to regret for quite a while.  I knew of at least one other friend who was going on a trip and promptly made a call to ask her if there was room for me.  Of course there was.  So both out of spite and desire, I packed my bags and was on a houseboat on Lake Cumberland in about three weeks.

I was so giddy the morning of the trip I couldn’t contain myself.  It was like I was overwhelmed with a sense of freedom.  I was deciding how to live my life rather than someone else dictating it to me.  I ended up riding down with a friend of the friend who planned the trip along with a few others.  None of which I knew all that well.  All the way there I felt a connection developing to this person – not as a love interest.  Not at all at that point. He was just someone who shared my passion for boating, philosophy about life, and who was excessively easy to talk to.  He got me!  Bob used to get me but somewhere along the way, he stopped getting me and just became critical of me.  Why wasn’t I more this or less that?

This new friend and I proceeded to spend endless hours talking about everything from family to our academic backgrounds, our professional backgrounds, to our mutual dream of living on a body of ski-able water.  Oh and did I mention he had a Mastercraft ski boat?!?!  We also ventured into the turbulent waters, quite literally, of discussing my current marital strife. As we talked, I felt this urgency building inside of me that if I didn’t choose to start living my life my way now, I was going to be one of those people lying on their death bed suffocated by regret.  It weighed on me like a ton of bricks.  And I was so pissed that Bob, so caught up in his own desires, couldn’t see I was missing out on my life.  So, while I gave a lot of thought during that trip as to what my life could be as someone choosing my own path, I gave little thought to what it wouldn’t be… what it could no longer be.

I returned from the houseboat trip to announce to Bob three days later that I wanted a divorce.  And that was that.  Bob and I split up over motorcycles and boats.

Of course, this isn’t true.  We didn’t split up over things.  We split up because we both stopped treating each other as we wanted to be treated.  We stopped honoring each other’s desires and wanting each other to be happy.  We had both become consumed with our individual dreams and forgot to listen to each other.  We forgot about our little dream family we had created.  Bob wanted his boyish freedom to roam the country with his buddies.  I wanted the freedom of skiing behind a boat any time I chose.  Although I also wanted to introduce my son to the boating experience as I’m sure Bob wanted to indoctrinate Ian on the ways of the Harley rider.  In the end though, it was really about each of us wanting the right to live the life we wanted to live, not one that was thrust upon us.

Teresa's first boat - a Mastercraft TriStar
Teresa’s first boat – a Mastercraft TriStar 190

After our divorce, Bob got his Harley and free time with the guys.  I got my boat, more rope time, and a whole new group of friends.  Friends that liked me for me, not because I was Bob’s wife.  Friends that shared my love of boating and the lake.  I don’t think either of us regrets having these things in our lives now.  They are the fabric of who we each have become.  But it’s unfortunate we couldn’t figure out how to make room for both of these things in our family.

dscf2559-e1498926985513.jpgIan liked, but I wouldn’t say loved, boating when he was very young.  He tolerated it and liked the swimming but didn’t really get into watersports until middle school at which point, he started wakeboarding and grew to like that a lot.  As soon as Ian was old enough to hang on to his dad securely, he road with him on the back of his bike.  I’m sure he enjoyed that just as I did as a child with my dad riding on his Honda with him.  I’m glad Ian has gotten to experience both of our passions just as we’ve shared in his passion for music.  And maybe our divorce was the only way that was ever all going to happen.

If you are struggling in your relationship with conflicting dreams, I think it is key to understand your partner’s passions and support them.  Nothing will kill a relationship more quickly than denying someone their dream.  If you don’t know what they are, you had better ask.  If you think you know her dreams, you better make sure you’re right and are paying attention.  If those dreams conflict with yours, you must work through it.  Don’t leave it to chance and don’t make assumptions.  We know what that does.

Happily Divorced Teresa Skiing
Yep… I’m having fun!

This doesn’t mean you should allow your partner’s dreams to keep you from living yours.  If someone loves you and wants to be with you enough, make sure they know what your dreams are.  You can’t be pissed that they killed your dreams if they don’t know what they are.  And for God’s sake, make sure they’re listening.  If your partner doesn’t work with you to help you achieve your dreams or worse, stands in your way of them, you’re probably headed for trouble or already in it.  Likewise, if you can’t come to terms with the dreams your partner holds and find room for compromise, you’re going to struggle.  Best to move on from the relationship because one or both of you will always be haunted by your unlived dreams.

norris-lake-boating

Michigan dock

Happily Divorced – Celebrating Graduation

Ah, graduation.  Parents of many children probably celebrate this quite differently in their minds and hearts than those of us who have only one child.  And married parents too look to this as an opportunity to transition their relationship back to what it was pre-child.  For me, it represented the end of so many things I love about being a mom and co-parent never to be revisited again.

First there was high school graduation.  I started dreading that about halfway through Ian’s junior year when he started visiting colleges and taking college entrance exams.  He was going to leave home.  I wouldn’t be able to be there for him when he finished his day.  I wouldn’t be able to make a healthy dinner for him.  There would be no more high school football games or parades to see him perform at (not that there wouldn’t be more performances in his case of course).  The high school experience which I once loathed for myself but now looked back on fondly was coming to an end for him.  As for my relationship with Bob, there would be far fewer reasons for us to talk.  Would this mean our friendship would fade?  Would I never have the pleasure of hearing his funny tales or get to spend time with Bob’s family.  Quite frankly, I was overwhelmed with sadness for about 18 months.  I felt my worth and usefulness as a mom was fast diminishing.  My identity was coming to an end.  This may all sound overly dramatic but it really is what I felt.

ian-grad-entranceThankfully, Ian chose to attend college close to home.  So by the time his second semester of his senior year of high school rolled around, I no longer had to consider what I might do if he chose to head off to Southern California or Florida.  He would be able to drive 20 minutes or so from campus to home and I could do the same.  What a relief!

The first senior event Bob and I jointly participated in was senior night during football season.  Senior football players, cheerleaders, and band members were all honored by being given an opportunity to walk across the field with their parents, have their pictures taken at the other side, and be introduced over the PA to the audience.  Bob and I never considered doing it any other way.  In fact, I might even go as far as to say that other parents of Ian’s friends who had divorced later than us chose to follow our lead and do the same having been subjected to our example for Ian’s entire academic career.  I like to think we inspired others anyway.  So we proudly took the field together and have another snapshot of the three of us to take forward through our lifetime of memories.

OOHS Ian Harlow Snare DrummerNext on the list was to create a memorable graduation experience for Ian – one that both of our families could join in together.  I wanted Ian to have a graduation party.  I had not had one and honestly at the time didn’t miss it.  But realized not only did I miss out on marking this occasion in a special way, but I also missed out on gathering some much needed funding for what comes next in life through presents offered by those in attendance.

In our case, the last thing I wanted was to make Ian split time between families during his celebration.  And since we were all on such good terms and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, why shouldn’t we hold one big joint celebration?  Bob suggested we hold the party at his house since the backyard was better positioned to set up the tents and tables for guests.  Since we were only a quarter mile apart as the crow flies, it would be easy enough for everyone to find it that may not know where Ian’s “other home” was.  We split the costs of food and decorations.  And I was free to invite my friends and family to Bob’s house, which I did without concern.  Bob’s wife Brandi helped with a lot of the details and making sure we got our guest list together and invitations made out in time.  I created an invitation using several pictures arranged into a collage and we jointly addressed and mailed them.  I created a couple of picture posters with snapshots throughout Ian’s life.  I was extra-careful to make sure that family members and friends from both sides were represented so that everyone would feel like they were included in this great celebration and were recognized for their significance in Ian’s life.  I would have not dreamed of doing it any other way.

Contrast this with the experience of my divorced friend when his daughter graduated.  Her mom created a board that had not one picture of the father represented.  This is unfortunately the path too many take when they divorce… simply forgetting to consider the feelings of not only the other person but of the child to whom that other parent is definitely important.

When the big day arrived, we sat together at the graduation ceremony and took pictures together afterward.  Then we set out to create our everlasting memories of the graduation party.  Bob’s large local family contingent was there.  And while my parents and other family members weren’t there, I did invite Brian’s family and several close friends and neighbors.  So there was a reasonable balance representing both sides.

During the party, I and Bob were both careful to make sure we intermingled the groups introducing those who didn’t know each other and encouraging cross-over conversations, if you will.  It was nice to see Ian so relaxed being able to enjoy himself and not worrying about having to leave to go to the other parent’s celebration.  He could do what all the other kids did and leave his own party to attend the party of friends while the parent celebration continued. Ha!