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.

Revisiting My Mission

I haven’t written in a while since the last post I put out there was met with a bit of a backlash from some.  So I needed to take a timeout to revisit the reasons why I decided to do this in the first place and to also get clear on what I am not trying to accomplish with this journey I’ve found myself traveling.

First, what I don’t expect these writings to accomplish…

I DO NOT expect my accounts to be met with full agreement from others who were part of these experiences.  I said at the beginning that I am presenting my perspective and that I fully expect my ex, my son, or others to remember these events and how they felt about them differently.  Of course they will.  They are not me and while we all know each other well, we all own our personal reaction to the events in our lives.   So I am NOT shocked to get a response of “That’s not how it went at all” from anyone at any time.  What I did not expect was to provoke genuinely new anger or sadness toward me from anyone for events that took place 17 years ago.  Why do that?  I certainly can’t change any decisions I made back then now even if I wanted to.  So I guess when Ian and a few of my friends referred to me as brave for doing this blog, now I kind of get what they were talking about.

As for the desire to relive painful events from the past, it’s not that I want to do that but it is not something I can worry about either.  I have a mission to accomplish.  I’ve cried enough tears for shit that happened a long time ago and it hasn’t changed any of it.  So how about let’s just take account of the lessons we learned, recognize that some of what we chose worked out pretty well, share our experience with the world, and move on with it.

I am not writing this blog to suggest that this way of doing things is the right way or even a good way of handling anything.  It was just our way and as a result, I have a well-adjusted son that feels he had a happy childhood in which both parents were involved and loved him.  I also have an ex-spouse, ex-in-laws, and even his new wife and many of his friends to call my friends too.  So even if some of us saw things differently, we stuck with it and ended up on the good side of the equation overall.

As I write about certain topics, I seek to evoke in my reader the emotion that I felt at that time.  But to get there, I do more than call upon one experience in my life.  When I write about the emotions that surround a particular event, I’m not necessarily drawing up how I felt in any one moment with any single person but rather I draw upon my collective experience with that emotion – all the times I’ve felt love, happiness, pain, or sorrow.  In fact, I might even draw upon imagery of love stories from movies I’ve watched to describe to you the reader the emotional depth that I hope you will feel as you read a certain passage.  So not everything I write is a purely literal account of what happened or what I felt in any given moment.  Hopefully this serves to allay any discomfort some feel as they read events to which they were close in those days.

So again, why am I doing this?  I’m sharing our story, or at least my version of our story, because this is important.  Raising a child is a big responsibility.  And we as parents will leave our mark on this world through our kids – good or bad.  If you hope to contribute to the greater good, raise a responsible, kind, and caring human being. Just because a marriage ends doesn’t let you off the hook.  If your child treats people with disrespect or anger, no one is going to give them a pass because their parents got divorced.  If your kid doesn’t have a childhood on which they can look back and reflect fondly, you don’t get a do-over because you handled a divorce situations badly.  But if you handle it well, you may still end up with a child who has happy memories to reflect on. If your kid has a failed marriage in which children are involved and doesn’t manage to maintain a good relationship with his ex-spouse or children, that may not be your fault.  But you will know you did what you could and didn’t leave him or her to guess what that would look like.

Parenting is tough.  Divorced-parenting may be tougher.  I’m not really sure.  And being a single parent or remarried parent certainly complicates the already difficult task of raising a child.  So I feel that the more we can learn from each other, the better.  What works for one may or may not work for another. But sometimes just the act of thinking about something from a different perspective brings about new ideas one might have never thought of otherwise.

Am I brave?  I don’t really know. But one thing is for sure.  In the face of some pretty hurtful criticism, I’m going to forge ahead to share this story.  It is just too needed in this world to go untold.