I was confident I would not cry. My sister mildly bragged the week prior that she didn’t shed a tear with her oldest starting kindergarten and her youngest starting preschool. As the older sister, I knew I could match that. Then this happened. I snapped this picture of my daughters on the school steps and seeing my youngest in her new middle school uniform started that familiar form of a lump settling into my throat. This day marked the 10th first day of school for which I have braced myself. From preschool now to 8th grade for my eldest daughter, each year I find myself holding my breath and fighting back tears as I say goodbye during drop off.
First days are fraught with anxiety, excitement, and nerves. Regardless of the number of times my daughters have had a first day of school, the nervous chatter in the car is always the same. “I wonder if there will be any new kids.” “I hope the teachers are nice this year.” “How will I make the changes in classes?” Anticipation for the unknown inevitably leads to worry.
Just like worry, anxiety, and nerves show up in the bellies of our children on the first day of school, so too will they show up for you during the many first days you will have as a divorced parent. There will be the first holiday without your children, the first weekend on your own, the first time they say they want to live with their other parent, and the first day they are not with you when they experience a major milestone like a lost tooth or getting a driver’s license.
Divorce means you are learning an entirely new way of being with your former spouse. You will need to learn new boundaries, new communication methods, and new decision-making patterns. You will look at how to set different expectations for your children and for your parenting. The newness and the unknown may be overwhelming during this time of transition.
When finding yourself facing a “first day that ______,” consider these ABC’s to support you through the moment.
Assess – What is the perspective from which you are viewing your circumstances? Can you call a friend, counselor, your lawyer to help you shed light on a different perspective? One that will make your suffering lighter?
Breathe – When anxiety creeps in, take a deep breath. What is worrying you? What is upsetting you? What small thing can you do to ease some of the angst? Can you take a walk to get some fresh air and a renewed perspective?
Contemplate – What are your present intentions? Despite your heartache, how do you want to show up on this day, in this moment? Do you want to be gentle with yourself? Spacious? Do you want to focus on your intention to be a loving parent and determine how that looks in these newly scheduled days?
These small actions have supported me in times of tough transition. I hope they are helpful to you as you face the first days that will slowly but surely turn into a new normal.