24 May Divorced? Stay close. Be involved.
Today it’s rare to find someone that has not been personally affected by divorce. Media is full of information on the “how to” of divorce – how to get one and how to survive one. Recently, one article in particular caught my attention.
The father told the simple facts of his decision to divorce: the dividing of china, furniture, art, and “our young son.” During the first couple of years “my ex and I drove back-and forth between homes across town.” When the mother chose to move across state, the commute was more complicated. He admitted that their son had turned into a statistic: one of the thousands of American children with two homes, two beds, two toothbrushes, and two sets of clothes and toys.
The son, at age 16, shared his own experience. Twelve years after the divorce he still travels back and forth, but he gets to choose when and if he travels to see his mom. Friends are an important part of his life and his decision to choose friends is at the expense of visits with his mom. Even those visits are described by his stepfather as a cameo role. The young man described it as “painful.” In a nutshell, “I’m always missing somebody: my mom and step dad, friends, or my dad, step mom and younger brothers and sister. After all these back-and-forth flights, I’ve learned not to get too emotionally attached. I have to protect myself.”
The writer advocates that no child should have to live like this. Having identified the innocent victims of divorce he strongly suggests that the marriage vows should be changed to include, “Do you promise that if you ever have children and wind up divorced, you will stay in the same geographical area as your kids?” Or some good common sense dictates that if you move away from your children, YOU have to do the traveling to see THEM.
Some years ago my divorced nephew bragged to family members of his devotion to his son who lived in a far-away city. “I call every night and read a story to him.”
Having small children of my own at the time, and having experienced the mental, physical and emotional fatigue that accompanies that responsibility, I was shocked to realize that he was completely serious in his self-aggrandizement. What sacrifice??!!!
I should have asked, “Are you up-to-date on your child support? Are you calling your son’s mother regularly to offer emotional support? (If your relationship with your ex would not permit such a phone call, call a truce for your child’s sake.) Are you encouraging him in his education and going over homework assignments with him? Are you flying in to coach his t-ball team or at least to cheer or console their victory or loss?
Are you there to encourage strength of character, honesty, kindness, hard work, thrift, respect and a dozen other attributes that he will need to succeed in life? If you are not, perhaps you should make a course change and move to be nearer your son. He needs you, and you will soon realize that reading a story can be done by just about anyone. It takes an involved, caring, devoted and present person to be a dad. That special person needs to be YOU.