Milestone years have a way of creeping up and displacing you temporarily when you least expect it. These moments capture your complete attention and more often than not it prompts a ton of soul searching.
It is the essence of being human – to reflect on our life, judge our long-term decision process and question where we are headed. Turning thirty, forty and fifty are givens in terms of introspection. There are other milestones worth paying attention to as well.
For those of us who grew up in divorced homes, this can prompt memories that are broader on the emotional spectrum. Simply put, kids who were raised by two loving parents may not understand the experiential rollercoaster of watching your parents separate and divorce. There’s an upside to this story if your recent family history represents a stable/happy marriage and the children you’re raising are not going through this unfortunate rite of passage.
There’s a moment which I call the ‘pivot year’ when both experiences overlap for the father who’s working hard to avoid the transgressions of his parents’ divorce. It is the year when your child is the same that you were when your parents’ marriage ended. That’s worth a moment to reflect.
My parents separated when I was six-years-old. I can remember hugging my father and crying when he was walking out the front door of our home. His taxi was waiting by the street and it was the singular moment in my life when the break between my mother and father became real. The event itself probably took thirty seconds, but the emotional consequences have yet to end. The number of questions and concerns it raised for me (as a child) is impossible to calculate. Millions of people can relate to this experience if they were old enough to remember it.
If this touches on your experience, flash forward to 2019. How many years are you away, or have passed, since you endured this experience compared to your child? How’s your marriage holding up under the pressures of modern life, raising kids and managing a career? There’s no question that compared to the carefree days of being single, or the early years of marriage, life gets harder. When you and your spouse are responsible for the life of an infant, toddler or pre-teen, it often triggers higher levels of stress.
If the answer is… if you believe your kids are enjoying a better life compared to how you felt being raised in a divorced household, it is worthy of high praise. Give yourself some credit. Compared to the possible financial, legal and emotional chaos your parents suffered through, you’re going in the opposite direction. You’re providing greater stability and it stands to reason your kids are in a better place emotionally compared to what you went through.
When you come to that period in life when your child surpasses this ‘pivot year,’ and he/she is nuzzling and laughing in your arms at night, it doesn’t get any better. When you look forward to coming home and spending quality time with the love of your life (or even better, sharing a date night with your wife) that’s a marked improvement compared to your childhood. The mere fact that you don’t have to communicate with your ex-wife through a lawyer that charges $200 per hour represents a better quality-of-life experience.
When you think about the possible positive consequences your child could continue to have in five, ten or even forty years, that’s worth celebrating. So… do it! Perhaps the week after our child’s birthday, so as not to disrupt the festivities, plan something to celebrate the occasion. Splurge on a weekend at the beach or at the lake, share your experience with your family so you know how much this moment, this ‘pivot year,’ means to you and your family. It’s not just about you – more likely than not, you are giving a better chance for your children and future generations to enjoy a stable family experience.
Take pride in the fact you’re giving your kid(s) the best upgrade a dad can provide – the gift of a loving father and husband.