Last Sunday was my daughter’s 6th birthday party. She just started a new school this year in the new neighborhood we just moved to. To support her social acclimatization, we invited her whole class. We also invited a group of friends from her previous daycare and our old neighborhood in order to keep those connections alive, as well as other family and friends.
Who was there? Ten classmates, five daycare friends, one family friend, and…my first husband’s son from his new marriage and our two grown sons.
Who organized the party? My daughter’s father, his wife and myself.
Many people have asked me, “How is it possible to truly have peace during and after divorce? And, for the whole family?”
The first answer is; in both my separations we dealt with our relationship breakdowns separate from our bigger commitment for our children’s success and well-being. Through many conversations (not always easy ones) we reached a conclusion that just because our relationship was not going to stay intact in a marital context, that didn’t mean that we couldn’t still have a ‘family context’ in which to raise our children.
With both of our intentions and attentions aligned on that bigger picture of “Family” we were able to design a family life that looks different than how we had originally imagined it when we first got married and that we were inspired by.
And, the second answer is – keep true to that bigger picture through maintaining our values, no matter what issues arise. What does that mean? Well, you have values, right? For me, some of my values are family, open communication and our children being nurtured and fulfilled. When things get difficult, as life often does, it is easy for emotions to interfere and get in the way. And then we don’t behave in a way that we are so proud of. It is in those moments that our values are the most critical.
For example, I remember shortly after my first separation when my sons came home after a weekend with their dad. As they shared about their weekend a particular woman’s name was mentioned several times. So I asked, “Who is that?” “Oh, that is Dad’s friend,” they responded. I took a quick and very deep breath, and on the exhale let go of my annoyance and frustration with their Dad. (!!!) And, without changing my tone of voice or body language I completed the chat with my sons.
I later phoned my ex-husband and calmly shared about the situation, just as it happened without any judgment, and asked, “Can you and I talk first about new people we are bringing into our lives before introducing them to the children?” Now, if it was my “annoyance and frustration” speaking I don’t think that conversation would have gone very well. But with my VALUES speaking the conversation was much more pleasant! I simply told him what happened and ask for what I thought was in our children’s best interest. Nobody was made guilty or to blame. Rather I communicated with the purpose of realizing the bigger picture we said we want. And, we did come to an agreement to talk first before introducing the kids to new “friends.”
All of this takes practice. Yes, like anything important, we need to practice and sometimes not be successful but keep on practicing.
This past Sunday my daughter’s party was a result of years of this kind of practice. Having my first husband, his wife, our two sons and their son, plus my daughter’s father and stepmother, all in one room together, laughing, talking and enjoying the party, makes the practice SO worth it…for everyone.