When people find out that my ex and I are still friends and we do things together as a family (that we’re exes without exing family relationships), I get a lot of:
Wow! That’s wonderful. I really admire you. How do you do that?
I typically shrug (it’s an honest shrug) and respond:
Why would we not do this?
I sometimes go on to explain how we found ourselves here. It goes something like this.
Rounding the Bend Begins with Forgiveness
I was sitting across the teak patio table from my mom when she started the rant again. A list of all the anger and disappointment points, all of the things for which she faulted (eternally it seemed) my now ex-husband.
I have long practiced tolerance for the difference in points of view (primarily political and religious) between my parents and myself. I respect their choices and typically skirt any embroiled discussion because that’s not what matters about my relationship to them, and, importantly, because their choices are authentic and deeply rooted in a belief system I have no intention of undoing.
This was different. Beyond a difference in belief and perspective, a future was at stake. The future of family relations.
Mom? Why are you still so angry? I’m not.
That was the first line of a new chapter in our family.
My mom and I had a long conversation that afternoon about anger, responsibility (I, after all, was not exempt from the problems in the marriage that ended), and forgiveness.
Father’s Days and Holidays
A few months later was Father’s Day weekend. Before the divorce, we had celebrated together at my parents’ place with the two fathers: mine and my children’s. For the two years since the divorce, our children had had to split special occasions and holidays between me and their dad. Mom asked about our plans for the upcoming Father’s Day.
I’ll be here with you and dad but the kids will spend it with their Baba.
Later that week, my oldest asked about the plans too.
You and your brother and sister will spend the weekend with Baba. I’m going to the farm to spend the weekend with my dad.
Why can’t we all spend the day together?!
Indeed, I thought. Why not?
I made the phone call and suggestion to my mom. The affirmative answer came with restrictions, but it was a step. A step towards healing anger and mending relations.
I think we were all a little nervous, but we had a great, if sometimes awkward, reunited Father’s Day.
The next family holiday was Thanksgiving. This time my eldest was the first to bring up the plans. She asked: Please, let’s spend the day together. We did. Since then, our family, the broken nuclear family and the rebonded extended family, has come together for holidays, special events, and vacations.
High Roads and Easy Roads
I’ve been trying to write this post for over a year now. Not because it’s hard to write. The story of it spills out. The difficulty is that it might sound too proud or that others whose post divorce relationships were more challenging might feel judged. I don’t feel proud. I’m simply happy and blessed. The path we took as a family was the natural path for us. And I certainly don’t judge. Just as every marriage and family is unique, every divorce comes with its own hurdles and heartache.
I should emphasize too that I didn’t take the high road. Those I admire you’s often suggest that I did. Maybe we’re on the high road, but this was the easier road, the right relationship road. The beginnings of it were a little narrow and scary, but this road has proffered our family better holidays and special occasions, richer relationships, and a deeper understanding of where love and forgiveness lead.
Every time we have a family gathering, we hold hands in a circle before the meal and take turns saying what we’re grateful for. My mom’s gratitude, without exception, has always been or at least included:
I’m grateful for this family and for Ziad and Pennie, for how they keep this family together.
Me too, mom. I’m especially grateful this was the easy road.
©Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved, 2017.