Have you ever been amazed when someone remembers a handful of words you once spoke in the distant past?
Trina and I recently found ourselves catching up on each other’s lives. My Benjamin and her Ricky were classmates, soccer teammates, and playmates. Our sons had kept their friendship into adulthood, but it had been years since I’d had a chance to really talk to Trina. After boasting about boys and catching up on careers, the conversation wandered toward my former husband.
“I remember when I first heard about your divorce,” Trina said. “I was shocked.” I unconsciously held my breath. Everyone knew my former husband as a friendly man who was very committed to being an active and engaged dad.
“You know the one thing I’ll never forget?” “What’s that?” I asked, taking a sip of my drink as my throat tightened. “I remember you two going around to all of the parents and telling them you were getting divorced. Your children didn’t have to.”
Trina went on to explain how we protected our eight year old from having to explain that one of his parents had moved out of the house that weekend, and our six year old from having to say “I don’t know which house I’ll be at on Saturday.”
I remember anxiously telling my closest girlfriends before the divorce was even filed. I remember the late afternoon summer sun shining on our little family huddled together in the living room as we told our children. I’m sure we told the children’s teachers and Marsha, their care provider. But I don’t remember telling other parents.
Whether my former husband did it or I did, it had to be uncomfortable. But in reality, it was probably just a minute of discomfort that sounded like this:
“I’m afraid I need to let you know some news in our family. We are going through a divorce and we’ve separated.”
Trina recounted a sentence or two spoken some 25 years ago. I hope she remembered it when she went through her own divorce many years after mine. Perhaps she was able to spare her own children from explaining the demise of their parents’ marriage at a time when grownups can be hard pressed to explain it themselves.
Divorce can be shrouded in secrecy. While our society has come a long way from the historic stigma of divorce, we still can suffer our own sense of shame that we have failed. We may fear the real or perceived judgment coming from others. We may think it’s nobody’s business.
Rather than focusing on our own worries about what to say or how to say it, a better place to put our attention is on what our children need. One way is to muster up our courage, set aside our discomfort, and say what needs to be said.
Our children may never know the words we spoke, but we can be assured we didn’t forget our duty to do what is ours to do. Divorce is tough enough for children, and we can say a few words to make it just a little easier.