My dad is one of my personal heroes. I remember when I was a little girl, my mom would take me and my brother and sister to the flight line to watch my dad’s plane arrive from whatever faraway place he had been stationed. My dad was a pilot in the Air Force. He would get off the plane in his green flight suit and he was my hero.
My mom is shocked to this day that I do not have a recollection of how much my dad was away during my childhood. He was gone four weeks, home six, and gone again. I clearly remember the thrill of him coming home – along with the lobster or fancy dolls he would bring back from overseas. But I don’t remember feeling an absence. I just felt loved by my dad. Always.
The reality of knowing that I only ever felt loved by my dad despite him not being present in my life every single day as a child, helped me when facing a divorce. I knew that my daughters’ reality would soon be that half of their time, they would not be with me and half of the time they would not be with their dad. In the spirit of ensuring the easiest of the hardest situation for my daughters to experience their parents’ divorce, I made respecting my former spouse as a parent a top priority.
It was because I had an excellent dad that I chose similar traits in my former spouse. First and foremost I looked specifically for someone who would be to my children what my dad had been to me: considerate, caring, protective, playful and loving. My dad taught me how to be fiercely independent by teaching me how to change the oil in my car, by engaging in debates with me about my curfews, and by working through my monthly budgets while in college. I am confident my former spouse will make sure to tend to my daughters growing up as strong, independent women too.
Despite our marriage having failed, it would be unfair and harmful for me to suddenly minimize all of the fantastic traits he has as a father. And yet, it is almost a knee-jerk reaction when you are healing up from hurts. Regularly clients struggle with seeing the good in their former or soon-to-be former spouse. So it was critical to remember the good about my daughters’ dad.
In my post-divorce world, in order for my former spouse to be the amazing dad that he is, it took a lot of letting go. I let it go when my daughters would show up wearing mismatched socks. I let it go when he unknowingly took them to a movie that I wanted to see with them. I let it go when bath night was occasionally skipped. Instead I focused on the pride in my girls’ faces as they reported that their daddy hit a home run during a softball game. I focused on how excited they were to report that daddy had “pirate food night” at his house and they got to eat only with their hands and throw chicken bones around. I focused on the colorful pictures he drew for my daughters that they carried around with them.
I am mindful that even though my daughters would never have both of their parents in their lives every single day, that hope exists that when they are thirty something year old women reflecting on their childhood that they will only be able to look back and say about their parents divorce ~ “I just felt loved. Always.”