“I’ve got it!”  I thought smugly to myself.  The perfect birthday gift for my soon-to-be eleven year old had finally lit the light bulb in my brain.  I would make her a How To Be A Tween box.  It would be filled with practical items, some fun things, and best of all – a year-in-review photo book from her 10th year.  Brilliant, I thought, mentally hugging myself.

My Sophia very much enjoys the spotlight and a photo book highlighting her would be a welcome and appreciated gift.  I excitedly started downloading pictures to Shutterfly starting with last September.  I designed fun pages from her birthday party last year.  Then I moved on to our pumpkin patch trip.  Then Halloween I took her trick or treating – her first year going with a friend.

As I continued the chronological chain, I downloaded pictures of our family Thanksgiving.  The next click on in my digital photo file showed my two daughters with their paternal grandparents at Thanksgiving in Texas.  It was a picture that had been downloaded to my computer from my eldest daughter’s phone.  Huh.  I forgot they went to Texas for the actual Thanksgiving Day last year.

I rammed right into the wall of what-ifs.  What if I don’t include this picture?  What if I do?  What if this book only represents half of her tenth year?  What if this book ends up making her sad because it doesn’t include time she spent with her dad?  What if this is a terrible idea?

Familiar frustration welled up inside of me.  The “I-hate-being-a-divorced-parent” frustration.  It is a twin frustration to the times when I cannot buy cute welcome signs for my house that read “The Dunnes” because my last name is not the same as my daughters.  The frustration is irrational.  It is emotional.  But it is powerful.  I wanted to delete the stupid photo book project and just order her a Harry Potter sweatshirt I knew she would like.

I was suddenly stuck in my sadness.  I didn’t know what to do.  Do I delete it?  Do I ask her dad for pictures and make the project a lot bigger than I knew I had time for?  Do I include a couple of pictures she sent me from various activities and trips she had with her dad?

I had to snap myself out of this and decide what to do.  I asked a trusted friend for input.  In letting the dozen questions bulldoze out of my mouth in a matter of seconds, I spotted it immediately.  I was overthinking this.  “I am overthinking this aren’t I?”  My friend tried to hide her smile.

Another set of what-if’s settled in.  What if this book was actually about my daughter?  What if she wasn’t really going to care about the circumstances surrounding the book and photos and was going to be more interested in looking at what color her braces bands were on her teeth at various points during the year.   What if she was going to be completely fine with it being a photo book of half her year because it will be a book at her mom’s and she is used to that?  What if I knew she was going to love it and I just let it be?

As a divorced parent I am prone to overthinking my daughter’s status as a “child of divorce.”  I make it more about me than I should.  I worry more than I need to.  I too often look past all of the signs that she is thriving and happy and growing up with ease in her mom’s and in her dad’s households.  I get too focused on making sure I am picking up any pieces and miss out on the larger perspective.

I know my daughter is going to love this photo book that is all about her.  I know it because it is a book filled with her happy days and memories. I now see the big picture and I know my big girl will too.

Angela Dunne

CategoryDoing Divorce