Choose Your Battles Wisely
One of the things I grieved the most as I was coming to terms with my divorce was not being able to repay my ex-husband’s kindness when my Dad passed away. It meant so much to me to have him by my side at my Dad’s deathbed, and to have him comfort me when I got the phone call that Dad was gone. We’d been to see my Dad earlier that day, and my Ex had promised Dad that he’d always take care of me and my Grandma, and he wanted my Dad to know he could go in peace. My Ex meant it when he said it, and I’ve never forgotten his kindness to my Dad. Through the years, he did his best to keep his promise—making regular trips with me up to see my Grandma and to help her with little projects around her house that needed to be done, making sure she got to visit with our kids regularly and finally, making sure I could make the four hour trip to be with her on her deathbed. Despite all the bad water under our bridge, I’m still grateful for his partnership during those two hard times in my life.
Yesterday, my Ex emailed me that his Dad passed away the night before. Our communication has broken down so badly that we only talk by email and by text in emergencies. I was out of town but was coming back home within hours. He said he was flying to Texas to be with his Mom, and I said I could pick up the boys as soon as I got back into town. What I didn’t know was that his wife was planning to leave that night to go to her parents’ house in Michigan to continue on with their Christmas plans and take my boys with her. He was going to meet them at her parents’ house in a few days. I thought he’d meant that he was going to leave the boys with her and they’d drive up to Michigan and meet him there in a few days. To my understanding, there was no sense in my boys staying with her if I was going to be back in town that night. The text conversation disintegrated then—he started cussing me out and misinterpreting everything I was saying. Granted, he was distraught I’m sure, but this is his normal way of talking to me, which is why we only communicate by email and text. Finally, he told me he’d take the boys with him to Texas, which I agreed he should do—this is the first grandparent they’ve lost whom they knew, and they need support in their grief.
As my plane was landing back home yesterday, I checked my text messages and saw one from him saying he hadn’t taken the boys with him and they were leaving with his wife for Michigan. I texted my boys and let them know I was home and could come get them and get them up to meet their Dad in a few days so they could have Christmas with him. Both boys have told me their Stepmother doesn’t really talk to them, and my youngest has told me repeatedly that his stepsister gets all the attention when they’re together. I was worried about them grieving their grandfather with no parent there to talk with them, cry with them and help them with their grief. Both boys texted back that they wanted to keep with the plan and make things easier. I love their sweet hearts and their obvious concern for their Dad. Despite everything my Ex has done to make my life and their lives difficult, I’ve managed not to let my negative opinions affect their relationship with their Dad. That’s important to me.
I didn’t respond to the text from my Ex. I had nothing nice to say, so it was better to say nothing at all. That in itself is a response, right? While I completely disagree with his decision to send our boys off to his wife’s parents right after losing their grandfather, I didn’t want to make the situation harder than it already was for him or for my kids. I hope his wife and her parents will be kind to my boys, and that my Ex will make an extra effort with them when he gets to Michigan in a few days. Not being able to comfort them myself is terrible, but I can text them and let them know to call me anytime they want to talk. Sometimes, the only way to help someone is by not making the situation worse. So that’s that—the day I grieved has come and passed. Time heals all wounds, eventually.
Update: It’s been a month since their grandfather passed away, and my kids are going to his funeral this weekend. They enjoyed their time in Michigan because they’d never seen so much snow, but they felt uncomfortable being up there without their Dad for the first few days. My older son told me he had it out with his Dad when he made it to Michigan—and I’m glad my son felt comfortable letting his Dad know how he’d felt being in an uncomfortable situation. I talked with my boys every day they were gone, and each of them had one long conversation with me about their grief over losing their grandfather during the week they were away. They felt supported, and they had an experience with winter snow in Michigan that they’ll remember their whole lives. They’ll look back and remember a Christmas spent with their Dad, and time with me and with my Mom visiting the week afterwards. Looking back, I’m glad they will remember me cooperating with them as they tried their best to help their Dad handle a tough situation.
This brings me to my point: kids see and understand a lot of the tension and conflict between their divorced parents. They pick up on it from conversations, from seeing their parent firing off an angry email, and from experiencing confusing situations regarding school events and extracurricular activities. Kids love both of their parents. Co-parenting lasts a lot longer than the divorce negotiations, and I think it’s important to remember that as you’re choosing which battles to fight during the settlement negotiations. Money spent on legal fees to fight over assets and liabilities is money NOT spent on creating a stable life for you and for your children. One of my favorite divorce attorneys agrees with me on this point, and actively advises her clients against long, drawn-out negotiations over minor increases to asset division. From my perspective, getting spousal support numbers right and custody arrangements fully spelled out are the most important factors for establishing stability for your family post-divorce. Children suffer if one parent is not financially stable post-divorce, and if one parent bears the burden of setting up a new home completely from scratch. When a child has two comfortable, stable homes with parents who aren’t stressed about money, they can heal and adjust to the new reality of their home life. I can help you determine the best way to be financially stable after your divorce—I can recommend which assets to keep for both your stability and for college planning for your children. I can help you determine the correct spousal support amount for your situation, and I can help you develop a debt management plan post-divorce. I don’t charge for consults, so schedule a time to talk with me here.