Nine months ago today, my husband told me he was having an affair and wanted a divorce. Just long enough to have a baby. Ironically, our divorce was finalized last Monday, the day after our son’s birthday.
People keep asking how our son is doing. Fine. Good. He’s happy.
Are there residual or continuing effects? Of course. Even though he sees his dad every day, Cavanaugh asks almost every morning, “Am I going to see Daddy today?” And if they have to miss a day, Cavanaugh says, “I don’t want him to tell me a [bedtime] story because I didn’t see him today.”
Cavanaugh is testing. What if I don’t talk to him? Will he be mad? Will he tell me a story? What if I say I don’t want him to put me to bed? Will he keep showing up? Will he call before bedtime? And his dad passes every test. He shows up. He calls. He plays. He loves. Cavanaugh gets the message over and over that he was not left, that his daddy will always be his daddy and will always come back.
A couple of weeks ago, Cavanaugh looked out our front door and said, “Our house is totally different.” I thought he was making a commentary because we had a happy ghost in the front yard for Halloween and had placed solar lights to make a path. Then he said, “Daddy doesn’t live here anymore.”
So he’s noticing. It’s not like this divorce made no impact. Still, this kid is happy and whole. I feel confident that a large reason that is true is because his dad and I have figured out what our son needed and put our parenting relationship before anything else–the hurt, the distrust, the awkwardness of not knowing who or how to be something other than married. But we’ve continued exploring that for our son.
When we decided not to go with the Standard Possession Order for visitation, we sat down and thought about what would be best for Cavanaugh–how many nights he could be away, if going to his dad on weekends made sense considering his dad works weekend nights.
Whether it has been for official decisions or the divorce decree or just day-to-day living, with visitation or the way we interact, Cavanaugh is not seeing parents who hate each other. I think it goes a long way. Don’t get me wrong: we haven’t been perfect. We’ve raised our voices and given nasty looks. We were getting divorced, after all, and the feelings involved are big. But we talk about those feelings with Cavanaugh and he feels safe asking whatever questions he has. I am so grateful.
He doesn’t seem, in any part of himself, to be wondering if it was his fault–as so many kids of divorce do. Partly, it’s that he’s only four. Partly it’s that we’ve managed to have as amicable divorce as possible, for Cavanaugh but for Mike and I too.
I’ve heard so many stories about nasty divorces, fights over the kids or money. Somehow, as people are dissolving their marriages, they seem to forget the whole life they had together before that. It’s as if they’ve got to burn the whole thing down, make it absolutely ugly or make sure nothing is left.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Every Monday and Wednesday when we go to the gym, Cavanaugh comes into my class with me to set up my yoga mat, then I take him to the daycare to get him set up. I noticed him today, waving his arms like a speedwalker, watching himself in the wall of mirrors, so full of his ability. The instructor waves to him. His feet echo on the wood floor. He feels important.
Today, the teacher said she missed me last week and asked where I’d been. “I was getting divorced. I thought maybe I’d be sad, but I was just so tired.”
She said all the right things. Then she asked how my son was. She’d watched him sashay across the classroom today as she has for so many weeks. “He seems like he’s doing okay.”
Without hesitation, I could answer, “He’s doing great.”
The last nine months have been nothing like my pregnancy, but the divorce process has managed to birth a lot of things for our family. You never could have told me this would be true, but we are all happier–really, every one of us.
Image by ahermin