The quiet rain was soothing. I rolled over, pulled the covers up to my chin, and felt entitled to indulge myself on this Mother’s Day morning. When my phone announced a message, I sat up in happy anticipation and reached for my glasses.
Hi Ben, just a gentle reminder that today is Mother’s Day. I hope you have a great day remembering and thinking about your mom…Love, Dad
My celebration of Mother’s Day this year was rich. Over the course of a few days it included flowers, sweet expressions of appreciation, a Mediterranean dinner, time with an elderly mother who has no children near, and consoling more than one friend grieving a recent loss of their mother.
But of all of the meaningful moments, this accidental text may have been the dearest. Children of divorce cope with a lot of loss. One loss that is not inevitable is that of permission to love both of their parents. When we can give our child not only approval but encouragement to love the other parent, we lessen their losses.
Many of us grew up with the commandment to “Honor thy father and mother.” But where is it written that we have to help our children do the same when we are no longer married to their other parent? It is written in the book of good parenting.
Whether or not you want to support your child’s relationship with the other parent, are you willing? After all, maybe your former spouse was rotten to you during the marriage. Maybe she neglected your children. Maybe he has waged a campaign to malign you after the separation.
Regardless of a parent’s behavior, love and attachment of a child can endure. Just ask anyone who has seen a small child wail at being separated from an abusive parent.
Children experience themselves as half of their parents. To deny a child to love their other parent is to deny them permission to love all of themselves.
Allowing or even encouraging your child to think loving thoughts about the other parent costs you nothing more than a moment of putting the longing of your child to be loving ahead of your judgments about the evils of the other parent.
It’s been many years since my children’s father and I parented under the same roof. Whether or not he has forgiven me for my part in the demise of the marriage or my failings as a mother, I can’t really say. But what I know for sure is that his generosity in permitting our children to love me is a blessing to our children and a precious Mother’s Day gift to me.