Called to peace

It was with great sadness that we learned our boy and his wife are considering divorce.  I know there have been highs and lows and everything in-betweens, and that sometimes, sometimes relationships don’t work and the only solution is to step away.

As a woman and a mother who survived divorce, it is with the heaviest of hearts that I think about how things will move along.  I know about the stress, the uncertainty, and the loneliness.

There are children, two little ones, in the middle.  Yes, little guy is technically hers but still, it was our son who stepped in and fathered for the past four years.

He’s the one who taught him how to tie his shoes and build forts, to ride his bike without the training wheels and to not be afraid of thunder. And then there’s the wee one, baby MJ who came from this union. In her world, there has always been Mommy and Daddy and brother A.  I cannot tell you how much my heart breaks when I think about those two innocent bystanders watching wide-eyed as their world shifts.

These are the lessons I learned when I traversed the ugly world of divorce and these are the ones I hope to share with both him and her:

1. Kids always think that your divorce is their fault. If only they were tidier, went to bed on time, didn’t talk so much, you name it, kids will think they caused this.  What can you do?  Make sure they know how much they’re loved and that there’s nothing they could ever do to change how you feel about them.  You can’t do this by buying them stuff or just  showing up on occasion, you do this one way and one way only: spending T-I-M-E with them, listening, cuddling, laughing, playing, loving.

2. They will feel unsteady.  It’s important to keep their world small and constant – day care, friends, bed-time, snacks, routine, structure should stay the same as much as possible.  And they will need boundaries now more than ever. Why?  Because boundaries let them know someone cares enough to reel them in.

Hubbs was a child of divorce and one of the saddest stories he ever told me was the longing he felt as neighborhood kids were called in at suppertime .. because no one was home at his house, and no one called for him. The look on his face when he told that story, 30 some years later, haunts me.

Don’t fool yourself that you can just buy kids stuff they don’t need, cause they’ll see right through that:  they don’t want “quality time,” they want ALL of your time.

3. They will look to you for guidance.  Even when you’re scared, lonely or frustrated, (and you will be) you still must do what’s best for them.  Show them that you can get through this. When they see you getting through, they will, too. Let them know what to expect ahead of time and then do it: when you say you’re coming to get them at 6:00 be there early and not a minute later.   I missed one school party – one – as a single parent when my oldest boy was 5.   He doesn’t remember it but I’ve never forgotten it.

4.  Let them be kids.  They are not your counselors or your dates, they are kids and their shoulders are too little to carry your burdens. If you need support, and you will, join a support group and find other like-minded adults you can lean on.

5.  Never criticize or undermine the other parent.  Your children are half of you, but they are half of that other parent, too. Remember: when you attack the parent, you attack the child. Even though my ex gave me plenty to be frustrated over (no child support, frequently unemployed, never showed up for birthdays, holidays or most visitations), I had to bite my tongue and reassure my boy that he was loved and that we were going to have fun anyways.  When you call the other parent names, your children will take this to mean that part of them isn’t good, either.  What a terrible thing to do to a child!   As hard as someone makes it on you, you did love them enough once to create these little people: love the littlest ones enough to keep the snarkiness to yourself.

6. Two homes not a broken one.    Decide that your child is not coming from a broken home but instead, two homes.  Being sad and clingy when children leave for visitation does nothing but instill anxiety in them.  It is not their job to worry about you, it’s yours.  Grit your teeth, smile, hug them hard and let them go. And, on the flip side, make your new home as “homey” as you can. It doesn’t have to big, grand or luxurious. It just has to be home: familiar routine, toys and some space with you in it. Trust me on this.

7.  Both sides are right.  When I hear “You are wrong and I am right,” I know that somewhere in the middle lives the truth.

Maybe it’s better to separate; maybe then the bickering and the keeping-track will stop.

Maybe there will be peace.

“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” 1 Corinthians 7:15

Have you lived through a child’s divorce?  How did you cope with the heartache?

Categories: Faith, Family, Grief, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , | 45 Comments

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45 thoughts on “Called to peace

  1. Oh, MJ….my heart is breaking for you and your family as I read this. Marshall’s dad and I divorced when Marshall was 14. Although my life is wonderful now, some aspects of that time still haunt me….almost daily.
    Your advice here is “spot-on”. I’m sure it will help your son and his wife through this.
    Prayers for you, my friend.

    • Thank you, Dianna. Your kindness and understanding mean so much. I am praying for them and hoping for a different ending.

  2. What a heartfelt and beautiful column. What wisdom. Blessings to you and your family.

  3. Divorce is tough. It ripples beyond the immediate family, too. I am so sorry you must stand by and watch. Yet, I am filled with admiration of you in writing such a post with such wise words. Your voice is steady. We went through a hard time about a year ago with D#1. I must say, the blogging community unaware helped me through that time. And, the voice I had found in my blog posts helped me “keep my head on straight.” Yet, still, it’s so hard. Prayers and thoughts for peace for you, hubbs and your family.

  4. One day at a time and a measure of God’s grace.

  5. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this. I fully agree with Butch. Praying for God to give daily grace for your family. Thank you for sharing.

  6. This is a beautiful but heart-wrenching post. I know some parents who could really learn from your comments. Thankfully not mine, as I was lucky to grow up (and continue to have) in a close-knit and very loving family, but someone close to me was not so lucky. The parents constantly complained about the other parent to their children, talked about all their worries and put so much weight on the children. And the kids weren’t adults at the time… I wish for them that they could think a little more like you and realize how difficult they were making it for their own children.

    Thank you for sharing this post, when it must be a very difficult time for all of you. I wish all the best to you and your family, and especially to your son and his family during this tough time.

    • You’re right, Dounia, it is difficult and painful but somehow reaching out like this and “talking” about it helps me, too. My heart is heavy.

  7. Dang, MJ, I have been thinking about you guys off and on all morning since reading this. DM

  8. Best wishes to them and you MJ.

  9. Oh MJ. I’m so sad for your family. But I think your son is lucky to have such a wise mom, and I think the little ones will be better off for whatever guidance you provide their parents. You said they are “considering” divorce, so I will be wishing for them to work through their issues and remain a family intact.

    • Thank you, Jeannette. I am hoping this isn’t a “done deal” and I will do my best to support and help them both as they navigate this. And, of course, I will love on those grandbabies every chance I can.

  10. Number 5. Love number 5. I’m so sorry. As a grandmother, you are the treasure chest of love in their small lives. Thank God for you. Your son has a great listener there for him.

    • Thank you, Lissa. Oh how I could use a country ride in silence right now! (I know you get it). My heart just breaks for all of them but I am hoping that with God’s grace they will find another way to each other and, if not, they will carry themselves with grace and do right by those kids. MJ

  11. Jeez, MJ. All I can think of right now is, “I’m sorry”. That has to be very painful – for everyone.

  12. I’m sorry to hear this, MJ. These are wise words you’ve offered, and I pray they will be heeded.

  13. Very important words and insightful post, MJ. My younger brother recently went through a nasty divorce and they have three small children together. It’s been a few years now and he’s found a new way of life that works–he shares custody of them and they stay with him on the weekends. I can’t say he’s worked through his own guilt though. I can imagine how heart-wrenching it must be for the parents. I think it is extremely important to just be there for your kids as much as possible, like you mentioned. Give them all the love you can give. Best wishes to your family, MJ.

    • I am encouraged to know your brother found a way that works; that’s what I am hoping. If they truly can’t be together then I hope they will take the high road and put those little ones first. Everything else really doesn’t matter, does it?
      Thank you, Darla, MJ

  14. MJ, I am experiencing this scenario, except our son and his wife did not have children, the only consolation at the moment. We have been watching from afar for the past three years, and have seen this divorce coming for some time. Now that it is finally happening, I am hoping for peace for them too. But it is hard to watch, to feel the sadness and the pain and to have no way to fix it!

    I hope better days are ahead for both our sons, and I hope that whatever arrangement your son and wife come to, it will include opportunity for you to stay connected to the children. I know how much you care for them, how much you enjoy having them at your home to visit. Thank you for your words of wisdom on this subject…I hope others who are confronting divorce with children involved will listen to the counsel of someone who has been there. ~ Sheila

    • Oh Sheila, I didn’t know. I’m sorry to hear that .. and you’re right, it’s so very hard to watch, to feel the sadness and have no way to fix it.

      We aim to stay as connected as possible; we hope that includes BOTH kids. I hope others who are thinking about divorce read my words and if they take nothing else away they take this: when you attack the parent, you attack the child.

      Peace to you and Rob, your son and his wife, too.

  15. Oh, MJ, I’m sorry to hear this. I’ve never experienced divorce directly, but then again I’m not even allowed to marry. My parents never divorced or even considered it, much to my surprise when I look back on it. But my two sisters have, and I know it has hurt their kids, especially with one of my sisters who was not able to retain a friendly relationship with her ex. They even battled in court for the kids. He tried to take them from her. He won. He had money. She didn’t. It was sad. So sad! The kids were the real losers. Again, so sorry, MJ. I’m sad.

    • oh I am awfully sorry to hear that about your sister; divorce can be a real battleground. I went to court multiple times and my ex had a State appointed attorney (free) … they loved to wrack up the bills so that me – a single mother with no child support – could pay more. I do think there is a special place for those who capitalize on the system.

      Thank you for your kind words and the hug, I felt it.

  16. I am so sorry for your son and his family. You demonstrate incredible poise and grace with your ability to see the big picture and refrain from taking sides. For the sake of the little ones, I hope their parents can heed some if not all of your advice.

    • Thank you, Terri. I will not get into the mud and I will do my best to refrain from slinging it. It’s difficult, b/c I am already seeing FB posts …

      I think back to the 1 Bdr apartment I was able to afford for me & him. That entire apartment could fit in our current living room and kitchen. But we had peace and he was happy, cozy and loved. And sometimes peace is more vital more than staying together if it means living in a war zone. That I do understand.

      But … in the middle are 2 innocent little ones and I will walk through fire barefoot to protect and help them if necessary.


  17. I’m so sorry MJ. I know how important all of these people are to you and I’m glad – if it must be this way – that they have you to light the way for them. Not everyone has such wise counsel. I’ll be keeping a good thought for you all as you traverse this path.

    • Thank you so much, Renee. Your words are healing. I like the image of “lighting” the way … may I be able to live up to it!! 😉 MJ

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  19. Pardon my language, MJ… This sucks.
    My blog started during a rough patch in my life. I hired a lawyer, obtained divorce papers, and started looking for a place to live. I remember the day Rob and I sat at the dinner table, with the divorce papers between us. He refused to sign. The battle that night was not pretty, and the road ahead was long, bumpy, narrow, wide, …

    May your son and his wife find a way to turn it around and save the marriage. I pray for strength and courage for both of them, as well as peace for the children.

  20. I think the advice you give is profound and spot on! I am a child of divorce and I counsel kids going through it with their parents. The parents have a huge part to play, like it is literally ALL on them, yet so many of them f* it up! They make it about themselves, and don’t realize what they are doing to their kids. It makes me sad. I hope things are different for your grandbabies. I know that they are lucky to have you. It was a little easier for me because I was 15 and able to understand a lot of what was happening (a good and bad thing). Luckily, my mom insisted that I go to therapy during the whole mess, which was very helpful. I’m sorry that you are going through this. I’m sending love and light your way 😉

    • Thank you so much, Tobi. I didn’t know about your background or what you do for a living .. but it makes sense now. I can see the compassion in you in your posts. Thank you for your kind words and please know that your sweet words mean more than you can imagine to me.

  21. Wise advice and considerations, MJ. So sorry!

  22. My love and my heart and my blessings are with ALL of you xoxoxoxo

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