My beautiful boys were 6 and 4 years old when we sat down and told them that daddy was not going to be living with us anymore; my baby girl was little more than newborn. I was as angry that day for them, as I was for my own betrayal; my grief was as much for the hopes and expectations for my children’s childhoods, as it was for our relationship.
But in the last four years I have witnessed that children have their own life paths to lead too, and this was part of their life journey. I couldn’t shield them from the event, but I was committed to ensuring they were allowed full emotional expression, and that their needs were at the forefront of any decisions made; they had been let down badly enough already.
There were details about the end of the marriage that were not necessary for young ears to hear. It hurt me deeply to tell my children that it was both mummy and daddy’s decision to split up because it wasn’t true. I wanted them to know how hard I fought for them to make him stay, and make it all alright. But blame and finger-pointing wasn’t going to help anybody; it would have hurt them more. However, growth, confidence, self acceptance and an ability to take responsibility for my own motives eventually led me to a place where I could be more honest with myself and the children.
More recently when my eldest child (now almost 11) asks about why daddy left and why can’t we still be together as a family, I am able to share with him that I too was very sad when he went, and that it wasn’t my choice. I can say to him, with no mud-slinging, that daddy wasn’t happy and left because he wanted to be happier. I can reassure him that although mummy was in pain at the time, I am happy now. I teach him that it’s ok to be sad about losing someone, but that pain doesn’t have to be forever; we can learn to be happy again. And I can talk to him about the things we have all gained from the break-up. What I’ve strived to build for the children is an understanding that just because things aren’t what we originally planned them to be, it doesn’t mean that life can’t still be wonderful.
Coming from a childhood family where there were always secrets, and where openness and asking questions was discouraged, I have never wanted this for my own children. Divorce is devastatingly unfair on the kids. I feel that appropriate honesty, given supportively and lovingly with their best interests at heart, is the least we can offer them for the unconditional love they give us in return.
Divorce expects a lot of children. They didn’t choose to have a dad they could only stay with on alternate weekends. But they have learned to value the time they spend, and I make sure they know that it’s ok to express missing him in between visits.
They didn’t choose to be given another half-sibling by their dad, while still grieving the loss of him from their own everyday life. But they adapted, accepted and loved her unconditionally in a way that only children know how.
They didn’t choose for their mum to meet and love someone new, effectively ending their deeply held dream that mummy and daddy would one day get back together. But they embrace the relationship with an eagerness and affection for my partner that warms my heart.
Divorce was not fair on them, and quite understandably they express this sometimes. But on the whole they are accepting, accommodating and willing to go along with what life has dealt them. I am immensely proud of my three beautiful children.