My children lost a lot due to my divorce. They lost dreams. They lost having one place to call home. They lost the luxury of not having to explain.
Despite a good co-parenting relationship between their dad and me, the tears and rage that can accompany divorce did not escape my children. The phone call with the tiny voice saying, “I just want to be with you.” The bedroom door kicked in by my twelve year old. Cuttingly cruel words coming out of your own child’s mouth because he knows your wounds well.
I wish I could have spared them.
My children took the hardships of the divorce experience and turned them into their teachers. The resulting bittersweetness included these gains along with the losses.
Independence. Both of my boys left home young. Now 30 and 31, neither of them have returned home to live. Being children of divorce did not impair their ability to see themselves as capable of making it in the world. Benjamin meditated in India and made friends in Nicaragua. Jack jumped out of airplanes and traveled solo to South America. They have a type of fearlessness formed from having been frightened and survived.
Adaptability. Divorce demands adaptation. To a new bedroom. To mom’s new boyfriend. To not seeing both of their parents at the dinner table each night. Jack’s adaptability meant being as successful living on a Navajo reservation as he was at Harvard Law School. Benjamin can be as comfortable in an ashram as he is among Manhattan millionaire entrepreneurs.
Resilience. Divorce demands resilience. It requires recovery from the disappointments of divorce. My boys suffered setbacks in education, career, and relationships. But just like they did when they were children who had no choice, they wake up the next morning and face the day.
Faith in Love. My children will never celebrate their parents silver wedding anniversary. But they did get to see me love again after divorce. They saw a healthier relationship than that their parents modeled. They saw the possibility of hope after heartbreak. They have had to bear the broken hearts that young lovers do, but they rebounded toward the faith that loving relationships can be found again.
The divorce experience, despite its price, never cost my children who they are. They never lost their love of learning, of a mountain hike, of dogs or of family vacations. They never lost their commitment to being good and doing good by working hard and making their contribution in the world.
Benjamin recently took a break from grad school at NYU and flew to San Francisco to spend a few days with Jack. Little could warm this mother’s heart more than such news. Of all of their divorce gains and losses, most of all I’m grateful they never lost each other.