The greatest gift my parents gave me, aside from actually creating me, was the gift of a friendly divorce. I am not a proponent of people staying married just because they have children. I do not think that always makes for a happier childhood for them. I am also not a proponent of getting divorced because marriage is hard. But if you have fought like hell to keep your marriage in tact, and you still can’t, two happy homes is better than one miserable one every day.
My parents got divorced when I was very young. In fact, I don’t remember anything other than two separate homes. I am thankful for that. I don’t remember fighting or yelling or my mom crying or my dad being unhappy. They realized early enough in my life what would be best for all of us and I don’t have those scars.
This is what I do remember:
I remember that during sporting events, or music performances, or academic competitions, my parents could sit next to each other… or not, but it didn’t matter. We didn’t need to have an entire gymnasium, or the Grand Canyon, to separate them so they didn’t try to kill each other.
I remember watching my dad help my mom and stepdad borrow tools for a home renovation. I remember watching my mom and stepdad give my dad a spreader, that they didn’t use anymore and he needed to work on his land.
I remember that, as a child, I never heard anything bad about one parent being said by the other. Never. My dad never talked bad about my mom and my mom did the same. In fact, in a moment of teenage rebellion, I said something not-so-nice about my mom to my dad and got in serious trouble. He demanded my respect of her, despite the fact that he wasn’t the one married to her.
I remember that at my wedding, and at my brother’s, they sat next to each other. They maybe even reminisced a little. They smiled and laughed. They cried. They let the focus be on us.
I remember at the birth of my son. They took turns staying with me. They worked it out together, I was never a part of that conversation. Neither of them wanted me to be alone, so they made it happen. And it did.
I remember at my nephew’s, and my child’s, birthday parties. They talked to each other, each other’s families, and everyone else. They laughed. They joked. There was never an ounce of animosity or stress.
I remember that my stepdad came into this friendly situation and became a part of it. He was part of the laughing and talking and joking, every time. I’ve seen him shake the hand of my father countless times. I’ve seen both of them lay down any petty dislike they could have had towards each other and love my brother and I enough to shake hands anyway.
I remember that my parents had an amazing enough relationship that my younger sister and brother, who were not my dad’s children, were welcome in his home any time. And they were welcome in the home of all of his family as well. They traveled with me, on several occasions, to visit my dad’s side of my family and were welcome with open arms. My parents loved all of us enough to not put limitations on the friendship I have with my siblings.
I remember that when I was expecting my son, and I knew that marrying his father would be the wrong decision for us, I was determined that we would give him the same gift. I know that I didn’t appreciate how difficult that gift was to give until I had lived it. But, his dad is equally determined that he has the best childhood possible, so we work very hard to give him that.
I know that co-parenting is hard. It’s hard within a marriage and it’s hard without one. It’s hard. But my parents, all three of them, gave me the most amazing example of how that should be done. They showed me that loving your children enough to let them love both of their parents is a gift without a price.
So, to my parents, thank you. Thank you for showing us how it should be done. Thank you for being an example to all of us. Thank you for not competing, or undermining. Thank you for teaching us respect and family. Thank you for letting us love the other. Thank you for letting us love you. And I do.