Perhaps the hardest part of being a divorced parent is letting your child go.
Last month, the inevitable happened. It wasn’t unimaginable, I knew it was coming – my seven- year-old son told me he wanted to live with his dad. A little piece of my heart broke, but I knew it was for the best.
Two years ago, when my husband and I first decided to go our separate ways, we made the commitment to do so amicably and to keep the children’s best interests at heart. I can’t say it’s always been easy, but it has always been possible. With our marriage in its final stages for several years, there wasn’t any thing left to fight over or fight for.
Like most parents, we questioned ourselves about the children. After six months of living apart we attempted reconciliation for their sake, but it didn’t last. Rather than cause heartbreak again, we elected that it was he and I that would move about each week, leaving the kids stable in one home.
The disruption to the kid’s lives was minimal and I liked it. I liked that they never had to worry about where their stuff was, I liked that they never had to remember which bus to take home from school, and that their friends always knew where to visit them.
But the changing routine for their dad was difficult. There wasn’t much order and structure to our lives, and he needed that. The longevity of this arrangement was also in question. What about when we moved on to new partners? And so we agreed to settle on one house each and, like many children from separated families, the children would need to move between the two each week.
Right from infancy, Darcy responded best to men. He would light up for his Dad, his Poppy, uncles and his male cousin, in fact any male in the room. The women in his life were quite superfluous if there was a man around to help him instead.
He and his father have an unbreakable bond. A love of planes (and his Dad can fly one), making replicas of toys from paper and cardboard and watching the same movies over and over together makes for an ideal day.
As his mother, I watched him struggle every time it was my turn to have the children. His week with me got shorter and shorter and his attention was always drawn to what Dad was doing. He didn’t want to bring his toys to my house, and everything I bought for him ended up back at his Dad’s house.
As a Men’s Coach I have been privileged to listen to the stories of men and their relationships with their fathers. Most of them were less than ideal. The gut wrenching stories of abuse, neglect and assault are all too common. But perhaps the most heartbreaking of all, was the recent topic of the lack of father-to-son connection.
The sentiment from these men in my groups is that they have had to redefine what it means to be a father, that the prototype they were raised with was faulty and they had struggled to find ways to be the father that they wanted to be.
The father of my children is a wonderful, capable and caring man, and he is the right person at this point in time to be the primary care giver of our son.
My role as a mother is still firmly intact, and I remain a constant in my son’s life throughout each week. We have a loving nurturing relationship, and he stays with me a few nights each week and can visit me after school, or whenever he wants.
Does it hurt? Hell yes, there is a hole in my heart on the nights when I miss his relentless chatter and the fuss over what’s for dinner. But this is not about me, this is about raising an intelligent, articulate and beautiful boy to become a well-adjusted young man.
In deciding to share this story publicly, I recalled many conversations I have had with women going through separation; how they would never let their sons ‘go’ and how they would fight for custody of their children.
I also recalled the stories of countless men who were kept from their children lives out of bitterness and revenge or hatred.
Fight has no place in love.
Flexibility in parenting through separation and divorce is essential if we want the best for our children. There is no right or wrong scenario in the split care of children as long as it comes from a place of love. My hope is that our children will learn that healthy relationships can still exist, even in divorce.
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Photo: Flickr/Lisa Risager