She Said/She Said, Part 3

Welcome to Week 3 of the She Said/She Said Project! Last week’s topic generated some heated discussion and I’d like to thank everyone who participated. It’s clear that we’re all drawing on our own experience (ie: pain and lessons learned) and we can learn a lot from each other. Let’s also not forget that we’re each in different stages of our journeys and every voyage through divorce is a little different.

This week, Meredith and I are discussing holidays and special occasions. You’ll find her post below and you can read mine at Now Is Good. I’m looking forward to hear how others have handled these scenarios.

Anyone who read my blog a couple of months ago knows that the issue of celebrating holidays (or more specifically, celebrating Christmas) was recently a central issue in my own little divorce/co-parenting/significant other world. Five days before Christmas, my ex unilaterally decided to alter the way we had agreed to spend Christmas with the kids. He was within his legal rights to do so, but he took very little notice of the effect the last-minute change had on the kids (or on me). The result was a fairly nasty few days spent during a time of year when the pain was felt more acutely than normal. The underlying message my kids heard from their dad’s decision (and subsequent refusal to change his mind despite their protestations) was: This is how I want to spend the holiday and this is how I want the kids to do it, so this is how it will be done. When it comes to most holidays, however, I think that the kids should get the loudest vote.

Since our divorce, my ex and I have worked extremely hard to put aside our personal feelings toward each other and co-parent our children. For us, “co-parenting” has truly meant joint parenting. Not parallel parenting, not separate-but-equal parenting, not independent parenting. We do things together. We both attend school functions and classroom parties and informational meetings. We’re both at swim meets and ball games and award ceremonies. The kids have one birthday party; we both attend and we share the cost. The kids have one Christmas morning celebration—and we’re both present (and sometimes give joint gifts that the kids may take back and forth between our houses). When we’ve gone out to dinner to celebrate an accomplishment or good grades or the end of a school year, we’ve gone together. We’ve tried hard to make the kids feel like we are still a family unit even though we are divorced and live in separate houses. Some of that interaction (family dinners, celebratory outings) has lessened over time and the kids have adjusted to living in dual households and become more comfortable with “celebrating with Daddy” and then “celebrating with Mommy,” but the big milestones (birthdays and Christmases, in our world) have remained joint. I feel pretty strongly that celebrating these events together allow the kids to have a few rare times when all the most important pieces of their world come together. Our children have never expressed any fantasies or beliefs that their dad and I will reunite—it is extremely clear that what is done is done. But they are very happy and very much at peace when they are able to have us both by their sides during the big moments of their lives.

That “family” structure gets challenged when one person unilaterally decides to add a member. Despite the very passionate comments by folks insisting that anyone and everyone who volunteers to care about my children should get warmly invited to the party (so to speak), I still think it’s selfish and overreaching to expect that an ex-spouse and all the children should just grin and bear it when one of the grown-ups decides that because they want to add someone new to their idea of family, everyone else must just fall in line. Sometimes (particularly, I would think, after the passage of time has allowed a relationship to grow between the child and the significant other) the child may want the “family” stretched to include a new person; sometimes. In that case, I think the significant other should be included (and yes, it chokes me a bit to say it). This isn’t a situation, like an emergency decision or a parent-teacher conference, when decisions are being made by the adults about the child’s health and well-being and welfare … decisions I believe remain within the purview of the biological parents. This is a situation about the child’s happiness. Birthdays and holidays should be about the kids—more than anything else, they are the kids’ celebrations and it is the kids’ lifelong memories that are being made. If the child wants the significant other at the birthday party, the invitation should be extended. If the child wants all the grown-ups in his or her life present at a particular rite of passage, the adults’ personal feelings should be set aside and everyone should be included.

However, in a perfect world, in order to minimize conflict, there should be frank discussions with the kids about their desires. The children should be encouraged to be truthful about what (and whom) they want present for their celebrations. If they want the SO to attend, he/she should be invited. If they don’t want the SO to attend, then mom or dad needs to leave the boyfriend or girlfriend at home. But for goodness’ sake, if the SO will attend, PLEASE give the ex-spouse a bit of a heads up. A great amount of conflict can be minimized by preparing everyone involved and by providing ample time ahead of time to prepare for the interaction. And remember that there’s no fire: there’s a lot that can be said for slowly integrating a new person into a family unit and for doing it with respect and understanding.

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47 comments on “She Said/She Said, Part 3

  1. ChopperPapa says:

    I feel that this may be less about co-parenting and more about the feelings around having a new ‘member’ added to the family. Where is the line drawn, would marriage of the ex spouse be sufficient enough to warrant inclusion of the new member in family affairs? What about dating relationships, would there be a time frame before the partner receives inclusion?

    I am challenged by the notion that children should be the one to call the shots on special occasions and who and how it is handled. I find this to be a slippery slope where we suddenly find the children pulling rank in any situation that they find distasteful. From the countless birthday parties that I have attended I have never noticed a child who gives two flips what adults attended as long as their friends were there. I would guess this phenomenon is universal.

    The ex spouse arbitrarily making holiday plan changes is understandably frustrating and quite selfish on his part. It quite possibly has to do with his new significant other (how long have they been together?) This is one of the unforeseen downsides of divorce, that at some point the ex spouse is going to find someone new and we don’t always realize how our emotions are going to be affected especially when it comes to the children. But for the betterment of both in the co-parenting relationship, I have discovered that finding relational happiness again is a good thing.

    • You bring up a good point about giving the kids too much power. It’s not unusual for children to end up calling the shots in a post-divorce scenario. The slope does indeed get slippery when Mom and Dad become too focused on making their children happy. (hey, I think this relates to your Princess Post!)

      • Out of curiosity, who *should* call those shots? The adults who have already botched the family dynamic? Anything and everything can be a slippery slope, but particularly in the early stages post-divorce, I think giving a little of that power (certainly to the extent of who gets to attend celebrations that honor the child) back to the kids is a way of acknowledging that they never asked for the crappy messed up family, they never asked for the selfish parent, they never asked to be different from their friends.

        • I agree.

          I think it gets particularly slippery when there’s an alienation factor. And the real problem there is when a child wants to cut pre-divorce family from the guest list… Allowing a child to un-invite Dad and Grandma (because he/she wants to make Mom happy) isn’t healthy. …but that’s really a completely different spectrum from the descibed scenario.

      • Yes, I can see that. I was assuming that both biological parents would be doing their best to make sure that the children’s relationship with mom and dad remained intact and that both biological parents remained 100% invested in the kids’ lives.

      • ChopperPapa says:

        No question that the parents still are the *parents*. Whether they are able to keep their relationship together should have little bearing on how they parent the children.

        ” they never asked for the crappy messed up family, they never asked for the selfish parent, they never asked to be different from their friends.” — this ends up as parenting out of ‘guilt’ and believe me when I say that this is never a good idea. This parenting style leads to kids who will leverage that guilt to get anything and everything they want. I have dated and seen my fair share parents who have gone this path and the end result is never good.

        No parent wants to put their children in this situation, ever. But parenting in a way to ‘make up’ for their new life is certainly not beneficial to the parent or the child.

        I have a post later this week about that very topic “The sorrow of co-parenting’. That feeling never goes away but unfortunately ‘it is what it is”.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Deesha Philyaw, coparenting show and Deesha P, Divorce Encouragist. Divorce Encouragist said: She Said/She Said, Week 3… How do you “do” holidays in your modern family? http://bit.ly/gddLyt #divorce […]

  3. Julie says:

    I think I’m coming down on the side of including the SO in these events. I think it’s just less stressful for the kids to see their parents coming together for the big events, and to see them being friendly to the SOs. As a child whose own biological parents were not able to do this (a stepmother who did not like us very much and despised our mother) it was a lot of pressure to play both sides of the equation and try to keep everyone happy and feeling good. To ask the kids what they want is also putting them in the position of having to disappoint one or the other of their parents. Not fair. I remember wanting to please my stepmother and father desperately, and trying to deny that effort while with my mother. I probably would have told my dad and stepmother that of course I wanted them both to be there! And then worried endlessly about how it might hurt my mom, or upset her, or create conflict because I knew that there WAS conflict between them. In a perfect world, it would have been nice if my parents and SOs could have come together for a birthday party or other family event and just been adults about it. In my own co-parenting relationship we will be having these issues come up. I expect my ex to bring his SO to birthday parties where my ex is of course invited (because I agree with Meredith that for these types of events the kids should be able to have both of their parents together). They live together. They will be getting married. She is joining our family – for better or worse – and so I’m finding myself mentally preparing to be nice and welcoming when there are events that would and should include her as my ex’s wife. I’m hopeful that I won’t come up against a brick wall. Because of course, I don’t know whether she will be able or willing to reciprocate. We shall see, I guess.

  4. Lori says:

    I do completely agree that the other parent should not be blindsided by the appearance of a bf/gf at a kid centered event (be it a recital or a birthday party). It’s just a rude gesture to not provide that information up front. We’re all better able to maintain an even, centered being when we’re not blindsided.

    • Julie says:

      Lori, my attorney gave me the best phrase to use when someone does NOT give you notice, or acts as if you don’t need such notice: In order for me to form an appropriate response for my children, it is helpful to know in advance when the SO will be in attendance. I unfortunately was not able to form an appropriate response when I found out – in front of my child – that he had been introduced to a SO that I had not known even existed. And again when I found out – in front of my child – that he had slept at the SO’s house the night before and not at his dad’s house, where I was led to believe he would be sleeping. This kind of information is important to know – not so that I can argue with it, but simply so I can have the appropriate response in front of my child. Because that is what is best for my child.

    • Jack Adams says:

      In what way was she blindsided? She was given 5 days notice. How much notice is enough?

      • Lori says:

        I didn’t say she was blindsided at Christmas – I was referring to the final paragraph where she asks in general for this consideration.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with ChopperPapa that this is less about co-parenting and more about adding new partners to the mix. When my fiance and I first became serious, his former wife (who already was dating someone) told him that she hoped one day all four of us could sit togther and get along. That seems like SO LONG ago now. 

    In the intervening four and a half years, she has insisted I not attend any portion of my SD’s Bat Mitzvah, refused to agree to a parenting plan (literally for the first three years she emailed my fiancé a monthly schedule and assigned herself all the holidays) even though they have 50/50 custody, hijacked my SD’s birthday on the year it fell on a day with dad by promising SD a “family dinner” at her favorite restaurant with mom and dad and brother and without me and then telling my fiance when he declined the invitation that he was destroying the family, and made sure that at life events like graduations that we sit in two camps (mom and dad) and that the kids sit with her before and after so that she “gets” to take family photos and we don’t.

    Holiday planning (which for us is slightly complicated by the fact that Jewish holidays don’t always fall within school and national holiday times) were hideous until last year when she agreed to sign a parenting plan that separates the holidays into two even lists and gives her list A in even years and list B in odd years. It literally took almost a year of negotiations to settle on the two lists (she insisted on Passover three years in a row etc) and for her to sign it. Since then, we never deviate from the list and things are SO much better. The only difficulty has been (predictably) in the only areas of ambiguity. We split winter break (first week in list A and second week in list B). But winter break has three weekends: before week one, between week one and week two, and after week two. We have fought over the extra weekend both years. Also, this year she gets spring break and the first night of Passover and we get the second night of Passover. This year, Passover falls in the middle of spring break. We assume if the kids are away with her somewhere we will skip our night with them, but that if they are in town, we will see them for second night. No word yet on how she will react to this. 

    I very much envy those stepmoms whose co-wives are reasonable.     

    • Wow. Those parenting agreements are horrible to construct… but they sure do help in providing a “map” to reference. Is your SD comfortable with the schedule? Did she have any input in constructing it?

      • Anonymous says:

        PS: I believe it was malpractice for the attorney who mediated their divorce and drafted their settlement to simply write “the parents will work out a schedule” instead of working it out with them and including it in the agreement, which so many of our friends have. She could have saved everyone years of crying and confusion.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We asked my SD if she would prefer a week on/week off (Monday before and after school) or a 2-2-5-5 schedule. We preferred weekly because it is fewer transitions per week for SD. SD said she preferred 2-2-5-5 because “it’s what we’ve been doing” and “it is too hard for me to not see Mom for more than five days.” These are exactly the reasons her mom used, and we think they came from Mom. SD was ten when Mom moved out and was 13 when this was happening. In the intervening three years, she had begun to parrot a lot of what Mom says. Last week Dad offered her week on/week off again, and she declined. Thankfully, we all live very close and know the same parents and other families etc.

  7. Jack Adams says:

    There is really not enough information to make an informed judgment on this one. Without knowing how long you have been divorced and how long and what type of relationship the children have with the father’s SO, it’s impossible to make a generalized statement of how you or their father should be behaving.

    But… with that said, I can say a few things about the future. It’s going to change. What is normal now, will not be normal later. The idea that you can somehow cling to your definition of a “Family” unit when none exists any longer is foolhardy at best.

    It’s unclear how old your children are right now, but speaking from experience, and I agree with the first commenter, children do not care who is at their birthday parties. As long as their friends are there and there are gifts and a cake, they are good to go. Anything else is all about the parents. The decorations, the venue, the music, the activities, the take home gift bags… all parents. Kids under 13 won’t remember a thing about it in a month. Partuclarly boys.

    I would agree that arbitrarily deciding to bring an uninvited guest to a celebration is a breach of etiquette under any circumstances without forewarning. But how much is enough? Five days seems like ample time to find another chair. In what way is it really disruptive? Did you not plan enough turkey for one extra person? There are always left-overs at my house. Or is it similar to every other situation you have written about? You just don’t want another woman involved in your children’s lives in any way. Especially if she is involved with their father.

    Asking the children to decide who should or should not be at their celebrations is too much pressure for them, especially at an early age. Children just want to please their parents. If you were to ask them if they wanted their father’s SO to be present, knowing how you feel about it, they are sure to say no. And I think, to some degree, that is exactly what you are banking on. “Let the kids decide. They’ll tell you they don’t want her here.” “Bobby, Cindy, you don’t want daddy’s girlfriend to come to Christmas. Do you?” Of course they are going to say no. They want to protect your feelings.

    One of your key points is this: “an ex-spouse… should just grin and bear it when one of the grown-ups decides that because they want to add someone new to ‘their’ idea of family, everyone else must just fall in line.”

    From your perspective, this is the unequivocable piece of evidence that proves your point about how your children’s father should behave. And yet… your children’s father could say the exact same sentence about you.

    You have a definition of “Family”. It clearly does not include anyone new. Your children’s father has a definition of “Family” and it does include someone new. The real problem here is that your definitions of “Family” do not coincide with one another.

    So… you can continue to try to force him to live by your definition of “Family” and be upset, frustrated, angry and disapointed on a regular basis and at all of the most meaningful events of your children’s lives. Or… you can try to accept this new definition of “Family”, be more accepting of other people in your children’s lives, look for the good that it can bring and try to find your own happiness.

    Again… Misery is optional.

    I truly hope that you will hear this advice and try to just let go. Open your heart and your mind and stop trying to control the things that you can’t.

    Best of luck.
    Jack

    • Jack, it’s interesting that you begin your comment by saying, “There is really not enough information to make an informed judgment on this one” but then you proceed to make numerous (quite uninformed) judgments about me, my children, my ex, and our definitions of “family.” Regardless of the inaccuracies of the many assumptions you make, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I’m sure your advice was well-intended.

      • theBoyfriend says:

        wow. somebody struck a nerve again!
        damn you Jack… damn you and sexy bedroom!
        Honey badger don’t give a shit!

      • theBoyfriend says:

        ok – all jesting aside.

        My children have acted weird when my SO was present at certain events.
        For example:
        A few years back, my daughter came up to me and my SO in a public theater, in our box seats, during an event in which one of my other children was acting, and yelled “You make everyone miserable – you fucking asshole.” It was horrible. It hurt so bad. At the time, she was 9. She went back over to where her mother was and her mother put her around her.

        If the SO hadn’t been there – I don’t think it would have happened. I would have preferred that it had not happened – HOWEVER – I love my SO and wanted her to be there – so did my son that was acting in the play.

        My kids are not in charge. Their preference is taken into consideration – I call the shots though. I have paid the price for that sometimes… yet I hold no regrets.

      • Jack Adams says:

        Geeze… What the H man? Why am I being singled out? All the commenters have basically said the same thing. Move on. Try to play nice with the new SO. You are only bringing negativity to the situation and your kid will pick up on it eventually.
        Seriously just trying to help. I absolutely meant zero offense to you.
        I wish well. I really do.

        @Theboyfriend… love your stuff man. You kill me.
        Best of luck
        Jack

  8. phatkeke says:

    LOVE Julie and ChopperPapa’s responses, mainly because no matter how painful it is to deal with new partners, acrimonious exes, and remarriage these elements represent the reality of divorce and/or separation from a once loving relationship that produced children. Yes it sucks to be confronted with an ex’s new partner, with notice or by surprise, but it may happen and everyone has to be mature and adult enough to handle it. I disagree that children should be asked to decide who is in attendance, especially if they are young. Do not ask a 7 year old how to handle an adult situation. It is unfair and hurtful. They should be blissfully unaware of any tension brewing between and among their parents. After all, for birthdays, graduation, and holidays the point is to CELEBRATE THE CHILDREN. To make the day special for them. Not for us as parents to bicker or engage in power struggles. Also, as a parent if I make a unilateral decision about anything I should expect frustration and hostility from my ex. We created the children together so let’s make decisions together, even if that means I have to be present in an uncomfortable situation. I’m the adult so I need to do what is best for my children and my co-parenting relationship. Most importantly, everyone (ex and new SO included) should do everything possible not to cause a public scene, start a fight with the ex or the SO, or otherwise demonstrate a lack of restraint in front of the children or guests at a special event. That is the real tragedy because the kids are once again thrust into a toxic, hurtful scenario that they do not understand. Work it out in private. Scream and yell at your ex or the SO in private. I feel strongly that, as an adult and a parent, it is my responsibility to keep that madness and mayhem away from my children. At the end of the day my feelings may not echo the kids’ feelings. One parent’s disdain for the SO or vice versa may not be how the children feel so we should do our best to keep our individual attitudes out of the mix. Do not taint the relationship for our children. Not cool. After all, I may despise my ex’s SO but the question is – is he/she good to my children? Will my child be genuinely happy to see him/her there? Will I further exacerbate the tension between me and my ex by asking him/her to leave the SO at home, especially if I know the relationship exists and is a serious one? Julie is spot-on in her assertion that “I expect my ex to bring his SO to birthday parties where my ex is of course invited (because I agree with Meredith that for these types of events the kids should be able to have both of their parents together). They live together. They will be getting married. She is joining our family – for better or worse – and so I’m finding myself mentally preparing to be nice and welcoming when there are events that would and should include her as my ex’s wife.” That is a tough reality. I applaud and admire your willingness to step outside of yourself and do the right thing for your family.

  9. lovnlivnlifedc says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. I recently had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing this firsthand. In planning my child’s birthday party, I felt it was imperative to invite his father. I planned the entire event, and bore all responsibility for the party including financially. I extended an invitation to my Ex and his immediate family, yet I explicitly advised him that his SO was not invited and not welcome to attend. To say the least, we do not get along, and having the SO present would create unnecessary tension and further disrespect. Her presence nor her absence, mattered to my son at all.

    My son desperately wanted his father to attend. After receiving my notice, my Ex told our son that he wouldn’t be in attendance because he loves the SO, and it wasn’t fair to her. Who cares about her?? Birthday parties are not designed to be fair for the SO. It is about the child. My son was heartbroken, and didn’t understand why his father would shun him and miss yet another birthday party.

    The day before the birthday party, my son returned from another visit with my Ex. He was directed to talk to me about “working something out” so the SO and her son could attend the party. This is exactly what NOT to do. Children should not be caught in the middle, ever.

    To make a long story short, the SO and her son attended the party along with my EX. Creating the exact scene I had hoped to avoid. I asked her to leave repeatedly and she refused. My guests asked her to leave repeatedly and she refused. It was no longer a joyous event. Guests began to leave immediately, expressing their discomfort and disgust with my Ex and the SO. My Ex is ranting and raving, “I bet she regrets her decision now”, “I bet she regrets leaving me now”, “Look at her, she thought she was going to get more money”, as I am searching to find someone to escort this women out, and bring an end to the unwarranted disturbance. It all could have been avoided if she had just stayed at home.

    My Ex has chosen to include a new member in his life. I have chosen not to include her in my life. What he does in his personal life no longer impacts me. I did not have children with the SO, I was not married to the SO, and I don’t have to interact with his SO. I do not expect my Ex to interact or include my SO either. I am very careful with what I choose to share with my SO, out of respect for him and our relationship. I would never expect him to endure such an event, knowing he was not welcome.

    Furthermore, I don’t expect that my Ex will just “show up” with his SO. Am I welcome to just show up at an event my Ex is hosting uninvited? Absolutely not. When you are not invited, and not welcome, you are NOT to attend. In no other circumstances is an uninvited guest welcome to attend, SO or otherwise.

    When the mother and/or father of a child has set explicit boundaries, the SO is expected to respect them.

    • That sounds like a horrible party. It must’ve been terrible for your son, especially considering how he was placed in the middle. That’s awful.

      I think your story demonstrates the “flaunting” I mentioned in my post on Meredith’s blog. Ideally, it would be nice if everyone could get along. Sometimes, though, it’s better to consider the bigger picture (which, of course, can be interpreted many many ways!) and do what’s necessary to keep the peace. I’m sure it would have meant more to your son if your ex’s SO simply gave him a very thoughtful gift at another time.

      • lovnlivnlifedc says:

        We were able to get through majority of the party prior to their arrival. Everyone enjoyed the games, pizza, and birthday cake. I was fortunate that my son didn’t see the incident. Following the party he never even mentioned the SO was there. To avoid any further confrontations, I left the party with the remaining guests, leaving my children with my Ex and the SO. A simple gift, or my Ex making a “special appearance”, would have been much more appropriate. Hopefully they have learned their lesson.

      • Deesha says:

        You took the words right out of my…keyboard, Tara. My heart goes out to her son being asked to talk to her about “working something out.”

        Mom is being asked to “deal”, SO’s are being asked not to “flaunt.” But when grown-ups come to an impasse and no one’s willing to yield, is it better to subject kids to conflict…or to hold separate celebrations. Sometimes the fundamental question isn’t who should be invited/who should attend, but rather…Are separate celebrations warranted instead? Sometimes, they are.

        I read a post this week by a mom who recently came to embrace this reality with her ex, not just for celebrations but for everything aspect of their kids’ lives. I believe that while having parents be cooperative and interactive certainly benefits children after a break up, when that’s not possible, minimizing conflict becomes the goal. For some parents and children, a more parent-centered parallel parenting approach is a means to minimizing conflict by minimizing parental (and by extension, SO) contact. Here’s the post: http://www.blogher.com/parallel-parentingthe-phrase-saved-me

        Who decides what constitutes “flaunting”? Who decides how much time dating (or grieving) is “enough” to warrant the inclusion of a SO at special occasions? Some children *do* have preferences about an adult being present or not; some do care about more than just gifts and their friends. There are so many dynamics at work, and I believe co-parents have to look at their individual situations and do what they believe is in the best interest of their kids. And as reasonable parents may well disagree on this point, sometimes separate celebrations become the default solution. And kids know when parents (and/or SOs) aren’t fond of each other, so it’s never necessary–much less appropriate–to blame the other parent when explaining the situation. “Your dad and I believe that it’s best that we have two parties.” If we can ask folks to keep the conflict out of earshot of kids at a party, certainly we can agree to feign a united front on this point.

        Similarly, and generally speaking, our kids will never agree that our decision to divorce was “best”, and we have to allow them to feel how they feel about our decisions, while at the same time recognizing that as adults, we have a right and a responsibility to make hard decisions, even when our kids don’t like or understand them.

        We would love to have given our kids intact families, but we couldn’t make that work. So we would love to give them 2nd best which is to spare them conflict and to see us cooperating on their behalf. But due to willful refusal, persistent antagonism, or mental illness, sometimes even that 2nd best isn’t possible. At that point, it becomes a matter of minimizing the drama.

        At our site, a co-parenting dad wrote in once and asked if he should attend his son’s birthday party, even though he wasn’t invited. Dad or not, we didn’t think it was appropriate for him to “crash” a party to which he wasn’t invited. He wouldn’t appreciate his ex showing up at his house unannounced. Further, we asked him to consider how his son might feel if his presence resulted in tension or outright conflict. Sure, we can say that mom should have invited dad, or that if dad crashed, mom should deal with it out of earshot of the child. But what if she doesn’t? Dad can’t control what mom does, but he can guarantee zero conflict on his son’s special day by staying at home and planning a separate celebration later.

        If nothing else, co-parenting (and hearing other co-parents’ stories) has taught me a lot about flexibility and creativity and letting go. I’m thrilled that my husband and I can celebrate my daughters’ birthdays with their dad and his wife. But if my ex and I didn’t get along, and they decided to have a party without me…*shrug*. I’d have a party for my kids. Birthday falls during dad’s parenting time? We’ll celebrate next week, or celebrate a 1/2 birthday with a big splash because it’s during my parenting time.

        I know I would not be welcome at my stepdaughters’ parties hosted by their mother. I wouldn’t want to go knowing that I wasn’t welcome, even if it was in a public place. My stepdaughters are well aware of how their mother feels about me, and while they may want me to celebrate with them, what purpose would my presence serve but to make them feel the same awkwardness they sometimes feel when I attend public events where their mother is present? And it’s simply not necessary. Each year since I’ve known them, we’ve had our own celebrations, including a slumber party I once hosted. Their mother? She pretended to be confused as to whether the invitation we sent her was a real invitation, lol, and didn’t attend. Her choice.

        • Thanks, Deesha! I think you’ve summed it all up quite appropriately.

          One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this project is that perhaps we’re asking the wrong questions: We should examine “How can celebrations be handled to provide the maximum experience (and lack of drama) for the kids?” instead of, “Who should participate in the celebrations?”

  10. babs says:

    I have enjoyed reading both posts on the different sides of the issues presented by Tara and Meredith so much.  It’s been really interesting to hear both “sides of the coin,” as it were.  I was a child of a divorced home, and now I’m a wife and mother, and I see merit in a lot of what each of these intelligent and articulate ladies are saying.  Not that I agree with everything, but that’s okay.  As for enjoying the comments…overall, not so much.  I have, until now, been more of a silent observer, but I have to say when I was checking in last night before bed the comments were so upsetting to me I found it hard to let it go.  I thought of drafting a comment then, but thought sleeping on it to be the best option.  I find some commenters to be fairly diplomatic in their responses, sharing their feelings about the post even if they disagree.  After all, one thing that has been said over and over is that every situation is different…different people, different circumstances, different emotions.  The variables that go into the “equation” of marriage and divorce are too numerous to allow for any two situations to be completely similar.  Unfortunately, the commenters who are not diplomatic, and who essentially dictate the one true path to fulfillment and declare not that it worked for them (for what it’s worth, take it or leave it and all that), but that Meredith better get on it immediately or she will end up a miserable person and will ruin her children and her family (yes, I’m paraphrasing) are really so disturbing.  After all, it’s a journey, people.  Life is about learning and if you think you have the answers, learn to be a teacher, not a preacher.  Jack, only because you asked about why you are being singled out, I will tell you this is why.  Yes, what you consider to be the correct way to handle the situation described in the post may line up with other commenters, but take your own advice, open your mind, and read the comments of other dissenters with a critical eye for differences from yours.  Start with Julie’s post.  I’m not even saying that I disagree with everything you said.  How can anybody disagree with the conceptof having an open mind, of letting go of anger, of moving on?  But telling someone to do it by wielding these concepts as a blunt instrument and then cloaking it in “I wish you the best” just doesn’t seem to be effective to me.  Since I’ve never been divorced, I can only analogize it to any other pain or loss I have had in my life.  It takes time, and maybe some GENTLE encouragement or examples of how these concepts worked in the advice-giver’s life, but being given an imperative to “get over the anger” is not really the way to help someone who so obviously is in pain.  I have tried to refrain from commentary that Meredith is a guest poster, so it seems to me she should be treated with a little more respect, as I know that many people feel if one “puts it out there,” one should not only be willing, but EXPECT to be bludgeoned.  I respectfully disagree with that.  We are human beings writing about difficult, messy, painful and personal stuff, and we should be kinder to each other.

    • Thanks for commenting, Babs. I think we can all agree that the reception of the message is often determined more by the delivery than the message itself.

    • Lori says:

      Word. I also feel a bit like I’m being hit on the head with a stick and yelled at “HEAL! HEAL!”

      Working on it, dude. Working on it.

    • TheBoyfriend says:

      ITS NOT LIKE ANYBODY WROTE ANYTHING IN ALL CAPS SAYING PERSON X MUST TAKE ACTION Y.

      That was for the purpose of example only. I don’t like yelling or screaming. I don’t like anger or the entitlement of anger. We all experience it to some degree – anger = stupidity.

      Some of the confusion I attribute to writing style. Email, message boards, social networking, etc – all electronic communications – have BIG inflection issues. Tone is super hard to get across in asynchronous text. This is especially true in the discussion of emotionally charged issues.

      People assume that what is written is fully directed at them.

      Even if it is – one of the great things about advice is that you don’t have to take it.

      One of the great things about this forum is the ability to be blunt.

      Some of the most helpful messages came to me in the most blunt form.

      BTW – line breaks long posts easier to read.

  11. babs says:

    Believe me, TB, being blunt is my specialty, being a New Yorker and all. But different circumstances require different levels of tact, and to be frank, neither poster is posting as a way of soiciting advice for themselves, but more as a way to engage in discussion of differeing viewpoints, which most commenters seem to be able to do effectively and without making it personal. And I disagree that anger equals stupidity. Many highly intellient people not only get angry, but use that anger to fuel positive changes in their lives and the lives of others. In fact, appropriately expressing anger in relationsips is very important, and a great life skill. Bottling up doesn’t make you more intelligent or a better person.

    And thanks for the stylistic tip regarding the post – I’m writing from a bberry so I can’t tell when paragraph breaks are necessary.

    • theBoyfriend says:

      I’m not saying because you get angry you are stupid.

      I’m saying when you angry you are stupider than normal.

      When people get angry there is a release of noradrenaline – it actually sort of temporarily rewires how the brain works.

      If you are also afraid, there is a release of adrenaline – which gives you that fight or flight thing.

      So really, when that anger kicks in – you are having a physical reaction and your body takes over. Sure its a spectrum and you might describe yourself as being angry but you have not crossed the threshold – there is a point though where that chemical release reduces reasoning. I would suspect that we are prepackaged with specific reactions to a certain degree.

      Anger is a very primitive state. I don’t even consider it a real emotion. It is more superficial and typically has something that underlies it – like frustration, hurt, fear, loneliness, or rejection – that causes it.

      In primitive people, anger was very useful for survival. Now, I think it is more destructive than beneficial.

      Don’t listen to me though. Listen to someone else…

      “Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If a person shows anger to you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. In contrast, if you control your anger and show its opposite–love, compassion, tolerance, and patience–then not only will you remain in peace, but the anger of others also will gradually diminish. No one can argue with the fact that in the presence of anger, peace is impossible. Only through kindness and love can peace of mind be achieved.”

  12. Julie says:

    Just to be clear – my comments above were about what I think is best in *my* situation with my ex and his SO, and what I’m comfortable doing based on *my* divorce. I do not think (and have also been very clear in previous comments on prior posts) that Meredith should have the same attitude toward her ex and his girlfriend. Her situation is very different from mine, on MANY different levels. I agree with Babs that it is not helpful to tell someone to get over it and deal with it (nor is that a very zen or buddhist way to counsel anyone). Everyone is on their own path, on their own journey, and everyone will reach “enlightenment” in their own time. Meredith will too, but in her time and when she’s ready. I also think that “accept it” advice is not a healthy way to model working through difficult situations for your kids. I think Meredith has done this beautifully with her children, considering the mess her ex and girlfriend have created in their lives. Meredith spends much of her time being the bigger person in front of her children, of putting on a “make the best of a shitty situation” face, and also truly and genuinely appreciating the turn her life has taken. Her children were a witness to this as well, so for Meredith to pretend that all is fine and well and she is okay with everything is to teach them (her daughters especially) that all of the feelings they are having about what their dad did are wrong and that ultimately leads to them not trusting their instincts when they get older. Which is a very dangerous thing to happen for a young girl.

    While reading about Tara’s perspective is enlightening and interesting, it’s not comparable to Meredith’s situation at all. Her heart was broken. She was deceived in the most horrible way by the person she trusted the most. If she had been in a catastrophic accident, I doubt people would be telling her to just ignore the pain and get over it. She needs to go through the healing process like any other person. It’s been upsetting to me as well to read people’s comments who have continued to preach that she needs to accept her lot in this life and swallow it with a smile so that she can live a life free of negativity. This is Meredith’s life, and Meredith’s process, and I respect the work she’s been able to do toward this, and the growth she’s made so far.

    I think she is modeling the most important of messages for her children: When someone does something to hurt you, you speak up about it. You don’t accept it and make your peace with it until you have been able to work through the process. Meredith is working through the process. Her children are seeing her do this. I think it’s going to be incredibly beneficial to them in the long run to have witnessed it.

  13. babs says:

    Wow, Julie. Great post.

  14. Speaking of birthday parties…. Did any of you see “Modern Family” tonight?

  15. […] light of the insight provided by the comment section for Tuesday’s post, I’d like to change my […]

  16. […] She Said/She Said, Part 3 (thedivorceencouragist.wordpress.com) […]

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