Let Me Be Honest

My post yesterday on divorce started many interesting conversations on the blog and on my personal Facebook page. Can I say that it’s these types of conversations that make me happy to be an adult? That people can talk about scary things and feel OK? I don’t know if that makes sense, but to me it feels so right.

I wanted to be more honest about my relationship with my husband. While I wrote that my husband and I talk frequently about our relationship, I am also the one who, when things are difficult, jump to the conclusion that we will get divorced. That thought no longer makes me panic, but it was part of a larger shift in becoming an adult.

I got married at 25, which now, upon reflection, seems like I was a zygote. For years my parents had told me not to get married until I was 30, and I didn’t understand that until I was 28, when one day, while eating breakfast, I turned to my beloved cat, Linus, who was sitting on a kitchen chair while I ate, and said out loud, “I don’t want to be anyone else but myself.” I don’t know where that thought came from – it literally came from the ether – and I understood. I understood that it takes years for a person to become a person. It also now made sense of the fact that my husband and I had a lot of bumps in our early years. That is not unique; I know that the early years of marriage are difficult, but I think a lot of it came from me not knowing who I really was, to my core.

To be honest, I thought about divorce a lot in the early years of our marriage, in that “it’s not too late to get out!” kind of way. Looking back, I can see that it was fear. Fear that gripped me from taking time, investing, and calming down. Thinking back, those years were painful, and I feel light-years away from those thoughts, but I did have them. And divorce still is my “default” option in my brain when things are rough. Again, I have no plans on getting divorced. I love my husband, value him, think he’s incredibly cute, and cherish the family and life we have created. We both feel bound to one another by a sense of deep, deep affection and actively work to make life nice for each other – offering compliments, being thoughtful, and most important, making one another laugh.  But I am not naive enough to know that even that can sometimes not be enough.

So let me sprinkle a little bit of hope and faith into the mix. You?

– MD


As a Child Of

It’s no secret that I read a lot of blogs. Not as many mommy blogs as you’d think; I like looking at pretty pictures, so I follow a ton of design blogs. But two women that I (and tens of thousands/millions of others) have followed for years are dooce, written by Heather Armstrong and Penelope Trunk’s blog, which is allegedly a blog documenting work and life, but has veered into the land of her personal life. I admit, I sometimes feel like I have to look away when reading their work, but it keeps me coming back.

For those following either blogs, you’ll notice that both women have experienced or contemplating divorce. Both women have children. Both women make a living from their blogs.

It was Penelope’s post from yesterday, Divorce is immature and selfish. Don’t do it. that had me almost spitting mad. I mean, read it, and you might feel the same way.

But allow me to back up, because I do agree with her on some points. I agree that some people get divorced without researching and investigating themselves or all of their options, and that it can be bad for children, but let’s face it, a lot of people aren’t willing to look in the mirror and see what needs to be done. A lot of people would rather move on, with our without their spouse, with or without their children. While Penelope lays out numerous reasons for parents to stick together, what baffled me was the intense about of judgment that went into the post. And I, of course, in turn, am judging her. I see that.

As many of the comments in her post start with, I, too, Am a Child of Divorce. Let’s not mince words or feelings: it sucked. My parents managed a calm exchange in my presence and never bad-mouthed one another. They made great efforts to make sure that I was OK. Would my life have been better had my parents not divorced? I don’t know, but they might have been miserable.

Before I got married I was wracked with anxiety. I was petrified of getting divorced “one day,” and of “failing” an unknown future child. I remember with great clarity two things my mom told me: “If getting divorced one day is the worst thing that ever happens to you, consider yourself lucky,” and, “The only reason people don’t get divorced is that they don’t get divorced.” Oh, she also said, “Don’t marry someone you can’t imagine being divorced from.” People, take my mother’s advice.

Photo by Ellen Carlson.

I am not getting divorced. I have no plans on getting divorced, yet I ask my husband often how he feels about our relationship. We talk a lot about our marriage, our life, our dreams and our fears. Like, a lot. I’m not naive to think that it would never happen to us, but I feel grounded in our commitment to one another and our family.

What about you? Are you also A Child of Divorce? How did it shape your feelings about relationships or marriage or the whole family thing?

– MD

Go With the Flow

Like many children of divorced parents, I had to be flexible growing up. Sure, things were mostly static, but there were rotating holidays, spending weekends in a different home, moving, things that were different and the same and the same at being different. I’d like to think that those experiences have made me a relatively go-with-the-flow kinda gal, but really, I’m just organized and can turn difficult situations into ok ones by comparing them to really bad scenarios. I’m not winning any Buddhist medals with that strategy, but hey, Buddhism doesn’t have any medals, right?

The result of my experiences is that Lil’ Miss Red has a pretty normal life. Sure, we change things up from time to time, but we mostly adhere to the “schedules are good” rule. That, combined with her current temperament of being somewhat stranger-shy, has led us to not really leave her in the company of others – family included – while she is awake. We go on dates when she has already fallen asleep, and when we need to go out earlier, call upon my sister or her Grandma to watch her. Still, she literally will turn a cold shoulder to her tia (aunt) and go on silent protest by not eating while we’re gone.

Despite this, my husband and I planned a trip to NYC. We had gone on separate trips before and twice together, but to say that it went well is kind of, well, um, putting it nicely. My parents and said tia gratefully watched Lil’ Miss on two vacations, but she spent them crying, lethargic, not eating, and just not having fun. For this vacation we asked Grandma to watch her and she agreed.

The preparations for a toddler staying at a separate residence are mind-boggling. I made check-lists and documents about her “general” daytime, including information about food, daycare, sleeping preferences and what she calls each milk cup. This was in addition to the updated emergency paperwork. I packed her clothes days before and labeled Ziploc baggies with the day she could wear them, including socks. I sorted, prepped and organized. It took hours. My husband took Lil’ Miss to Grandma’s to “get her room ready” – taking over items and having her see where she’d sleep. Grandma prepared extensive plans and was ready.

Then, the morning we were supposed to leave, our trip was canceled.

It’s a long story, but the flight was canceled and the options were horrendous, so we took the refund and changed the our plans.

I threw away the flight information and toddler documentation. We thought about what to do. We decided to drive to see family since we had the days off and needed to make the trip. We made it work. We went with the flow.

Midwest is best, yo.

Of course, Lil’ Miss had no idea of the change. After weeks of talking about sleeping at Grandma’s house, after countless conversations with Grandma about what to do even after the trip was canceled, after dozens of emails exchanged, she was unaware of the big change. We took the well-packed items, loaded them in the car and set off for Michigan.

As I sat in the back seat with Lil’ Miss, I thought of my countless trips between my parents’ homes – via car, plane, the Milwaukee-Madison “Divorce Bus,” and realized that going with the flow is something I’m still working on. Sure, we made it work, but not without enormous amounts of emotional energy on my end. What I realized was that I might have been a little more like Lil’ Miss in nature but circumstances necessitated that I go with the flow. What sometimes felt forced can now feel like an opening in my adulthood. It’s having options, choices, different roads to travel and a home to call my own.

– MD

Which Way Home

So, uh, yeah, it was my turn to post yesterday and I didn’t make it. We’ll chalk it up to I-caught-my-toddler’s-cold-for-two-weeks-and-have-had-to-work-some-long-days. But in my stead, I offer you a great post from a fantastic site, Dadwagon. Have you subscribed? I love it. Honest, witty and insightful, the daddios at Dadwagon know how it goes.

I asked for permission to post the following post about divorce, since this is a topic many of us can relate to in one way or another. It happened to us, but maybe we promise it will never happen to our children. Let’ see what Theodore Ross says. You can find his original post here and below.- MD

JP was young enough when my ex moved out that he doesn’t remember his parents ever having lived together. I consider this a good thing, given the amount of arguing he witnessed in the latter stages of our marriage.

As a result, however, his residential life has always included a great deal of shuttling back and forth. There’s some good in this as well–two beds, separate sets of toys, and the like. The downside, perhaps, is a slightly weakened sense of stability and place.

One by-product of this arrangement has been intermittent feelings of  defensiveness on my part about his concept of home. I’m always alert to the possibility that JP doesn’t really feel like he lives with me. So when he refers to his mother’s apartment as “home” and my place as, well, my place, I correct him. We live together, I say. This is your home, too. He doesn’t really get it at this age, but I suspect eventually he will.

One interesting development on this front occurred recently when my ex moved. She decided to tell JP that they were leaving their old apartment for a special new home. Thus JP now talks about “our home”–that is, his home with me–and his “special home,” by which he means his new place with his mother.

No tragedy here, mind you. It’s just interesting to see the three-year-old mind at work, furiously processing. Makes you wonder what else he notices.

– TR

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