For children, holiday from divorce
Jackie has decided to be an ice-cream cone. And why not? Who doesn’t love ice cream?
Carolyn is going to be a puppy. One of her favorite words so far is “woof,” so this makes sense, totally.
We have two superheroes this year. Superman is Milo; his cousin Spider-Man is Leo – in case you’ve been wondering about the super-super-secret identities of these champions for justice.
Clayton – at age 8, the eldest grandson – will terrorize younger children as the Grim Reaper. Or not. He is the gentlest of boys, and I suspect that the costume is a chance to try on the personality of someone he would never be.
Halloween is upon us, and I delight in watching our grandchildren love our cherished family tradition. It brings back memories of their parents at their age, particularly of that mad week before trick-or-treating. I’d demand they settle on their choice of homemade costumes and then close my bedroom door and plow facedown into the pillows to muffle my screams of panic.
The toughest Halloween costumes back then generate some of my proudest memories now. Please forgive me for bragging that I once fulfilled my son’s burning desire to be a U.S. mailbox. We’re talking a big one, the kind you find on street corners. For that briefest of shining moments, I looked at my son peering through his mail slot and allowed myself to believe I was an amazing mother. Then he fell over in front of the Filippells’ door, and the moment passed.
Years later, when his little sister was 8, I spent far more than I could afford to rent the perfect old-lady wig and wire-rim spectacles so that she could be Mrs. Doubtfire.
“Because she’s a dad who loves his children so much he will do anything to see them,” she said, explaining her choice of the Robin Williams character. We were three months into my new life as a single mother. More than 20 years later, those photos of her young elderly face can still make me cry.
This brings me to why I am interrupting your presidential election coverage and ignoring, for just a moment, the World Series. (Go, Tribe!) Welcome to my annual reminder about what children of divorce have a right to expect during the holiday season.
Let’s start by acknowledging that Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and all other cultural and religious celebrations can be fraught with stress and emotion for even the stablest of families. We humans have a way of complicating even the nicest things, which is why I so often envy our dog.
For too many children of divorce, this is the season for worry and heartbreak as people who are supposed to be parents surrender all claims to the honor. As divorce lawyers tell me, year after year, there’s nothing like a holiday season to inspire revenge parenting – which isn’t parenting at all.
Divorce makes many people feel angry and helpless. Often they feel terribly bitter, too, toward the person who no longer loves them – and proceed to demonstrate precisely why that might be.
The most common calls interrupting divorce lawyers’ dinners during this time of year come from clients who’ve just found out they will not be seeing their children at the previously agreed-upon times. If a weapon is meant to injure and one is determined to inflict harm during or after a divorce, then young children are the handiest arsenal. Too young to have a say, too often wishing they had never been born.
No matter what you think of that former spouse who hurt you, every child you brought into the family you used to be still wants to love everyone in it. In the absence of abuse, every child deserves to live the essential truth of the human heart: We can never love too many people.
Divorce usually brings with it a measure of regret. We start to heal when we begin to move forward into a future of our own making rather than dwell in a past we cannot change.
We can be better than our worst moments, and we show it every time we act brave and trust that the courage will come. Most divorced parents hate to relinquish time with their children to the person who hurt them most. The best parents let them go anyway because they love their children more than their injuries, and that is the only way to heal.