A note of thanks to my divorced parents

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My parents are divorced.

Usually when I tell people this, they break eye contact and sigh before uttering, “oh” as if this newly shared information is entirely negative and somehow reflects my past experiences, current relationships and future decisions.

This common reaction used to cause me to simply ignore the topic altogether. Now that I am an adult, married and with two children of my own, I have a new perspective and am thankful for my parents and their endless love; but more for their ability to make a decision that has changed my life for the better.

When my parents got divorced, I was a freshman in high school and it wasn’t always fun or exciting. There was confusion, misunderstandings and sadness caused from the new changes. But, there is something that has never changed since that day – their commitment to our family and their four children.

Since the divorce, there have been weddings, break ups, grandchildren, deaths and celebrations; and both of my parents have both been a major part of all of them. They don’t sit at opposite ends of a room; talk negatively about one another; or require their children and grandchildren to make entirely separate plans during birthdays and holidays to appease them. Instead, they respect each other, their role in our lives and are supportive and encouraging.

Last year, my family scheduled a unique spring weekend getaway which might be unheard of in other families. We spent a weekend – my mother, father and their significant others included – all spending two nights in one remote cabin. Together, we played games, cooked meals and enjoyed each other’s company. Unique, yes. But also admirable.

My parents were both raised with parents who were not divorced. They were not thinking about divorce on their wedding day or five years into their marriage.  But sometimes, things change. And, as difficult as their decision might have been, their choice to modify rather than terminate their relationship has and continues to make me a better mother, spouse and person.

And for this, I am thankful.

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Two things children have that adults have lost

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As the mother of a three-year-old, I am keenly aware of the challenges that come with helping a toddler navigate a world which looks much different in her eyes than from my perspective. Tantrums, check. Stubborn comments, check. Odd requests to sleep with a flashlight or measuring tape? Double check. She asks a lot of questions and comes to many conclusions which, at the time, usually don’t seem to make much sense.

She’s curious and asks seemingly random questions with no real concrete answer or for no particular reason.

While recently helping her a public restroom, she suddenly looked at me with her bright blue eyes and stopped.

“Mommy, who painted your eyes green?”

I answered, but was intrigued by her question and began paying more attention to her inquisitiveness.

“Why are the cars stopping?”

“What is that lady’s name?”

“How does he do that?”

I usually have an answer, but her questions always catch me off guard.

Why?

Our daughter has a green headband she’s had for more than a year. The hair piece is in rough shape, but still sports two silver antenna-like springs on top with a sparkling four-leaf clover attached on each side. The headband is infamous in our household for making its way into restaurants, soaking in the bathtub and resting on my daughter’s head during naptime. She proudly wears the green headband wherever she deems appropriate, with its latest appearance at our church waving in the air as my daughter performed her own interpretive dance from within the congregation.

Children her age don’t seem to worry about public embarrassment or have a fear of judgment from others. They are innocent and authentic. They are genuine, finding ways to move forward in their own way without hesitation.

Why?

I recently took my daughters – ages 3 and 10 months – with me on an airplane trip. I hate flying, but am finding I prefer to fly with our three-year-old. She has no concerns about the plane crashing or how long the flight will take. She thinks of the ride as an adventure and parallels turbulence with experiences she’s had in a bouncy house. We passed the time playing hide-and-seek with flight attendants; they didn’t know we were playing, but she didn’t care.

While parenting her can be challenging, I am inspired by our three-year-old’s unique view of the world. She uses two things regularly that, unfortunately, I find, we as adults, too often ignore: innocence and curiosity. We fear exhibiting innocence is the equivalent of being naïve. And, we think being curious means we are behind.

Somehow, as we age, we start becoming less innocent and more jaded; less curious and more stuck in our ways. It’s as if we are born with a spiral of confidence, goodwill and authenticity, but throughout the years and experiences, slowly unravel.

We accept things as they are and stop believing in change. We continue comparing ourselves to others and rely on faulty excuses to keep us going.

But, why?