So here’s the thing about divorce, if you have children together: Your marriage may be over but your interactions will never end. There will be birthday parties and graduations. Weddings and grandchildren.
As parents, you are bonded together. Forever and ever.
So you better do your damnedest to behave like civilized people over the years post-divorce. Like adults, even. I know this can be hard in so many cases. Especially if the one that you are divorcing does not do the same.
But if you can do it, if you can be mature and bite your tongue so many times that it has a permanent indentation on it, you will be so much better off in the long run. And your kids will be too.
My son graduated from high school a few weeks ago. In attendance for the ceremony were me and his father, his sister, my four parents and my former mother-in-law. All seated in a row. Everyone smiling with pride and tearing up over the fact that Will, so tall and so accomplished, was getting his diploma.
We were too many people to go out to dinner after the graduation so I had invited the two extended families over to my house for a celebration with food prepared by my (current) husband and champagne and cake. Adding to the mix were two of my ex’s sisters, his father and 103 year-old grandmother. My ex’s girlfriend and her two kids. Plus my daughter’s bestie.
(In an unfortunate twist of fate, my husband was two hours away attending my stepdaughter’s graduation festivities.)
And I’ll admit, it did feel a little weird planning for the party. Having all of my ex’s family over to the house. My house. The one that I bought my ex out of over twelve years ago. Where I live with my husband of nine years and our blended family of three teens.
I spent a little time and money buying some new plants for the front and back porches. I spruced up the downstairs bathroom with new towels, a new shower curtain and rug and some coordinating decorative balls. I wanted everything to look perfect.
And here’s what happened after the graduation: Family piled in. There were many hugs and kisses. People eating crab cakes and smoked chicken quesadillas. Toasting the graduate with wine, champagne, scotch and bourbon.
Then dinner: a tenderloin, two kinds of pasta, fresh bread and a big salad. (Did I mention my husband owns a restaurant?) My dining room table only seats ten. So at the table were the six grandparents, the great-grandmother and the aunts. The “younger” generation, including myself, my ex and his girlfriend, sat in the family room where we happily ate and drank and talked. When singing started coming from the dining room, we all gathered around that table. And then we cut the cake.
We all had a part in raising Will to this point. Every grandparent. His great-grandmother. Every aunt and uncle, even those that weren’t there. His stepfather. With each compliment that was given to me for how Will has turned out, I deflected with, “We all had a part in this. It takes a village.” Even after the divorce, the village stayed intact. Because it always was, and will continue to be, all about the children. A united mother and father, and an extended family that held no grudges. That didn’t (often) engage in “He said, she said.”
That night, my ex and I had many moments of pride and joy over our kids. We patted each other on the back for being able to all be together with so much happiness. I felt lucky. And happy that over the years, we were both civil. More than civil. Because it got us to that graduation night. To a place were both families could be together simply to celebrate one of our own.
Now, with one kid out of the house, we have to re-negotiate the child support. We already disagree. It’s not going to be fun. It will surely dredge up old feelings of fairness and contradictory beliefs. But we’ll do it as grown-ups.
And I’ll keep the happy feeling from graduation night in the forefront of my mind to help keep me on track with what’s really important here: Our kids.
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