The Occasional Hidden Treasure
As a divorced Dad, I often feel really bad about things my kids endure, or don’t have, because of the divorce. That list of things is too long to write here. Know that it is a long list.
There are also lots of up sides. In the many years since my divorce, I’ve worked all sorts of odds and ends jobs that pay the bills, but are not leading down any given career path. Because I am not investing in a marriage or career, I have a lot more of myself to invest in my children in both time and presence. Because of that investment, we are a very close family. Something we would never have been if we were all still living unhappily under one roof. While I still truly believe that the ‘traditional’ nuclear family is the best way to raise kids, in our case, it simply wasn’t so. This is best for us.
My children (who are now 10 and 13) have never seen me in a loving relationship with a woman. Let me say that again… in 13 years, my son has never seen a woman love me… a decade for my daughter. Not once. The closest thing I can think of? One time when they were probably about 4 and 7 years old, the kids saw their Mom kiss me at the door as we were leaving her house. I can’t recall the details of why she did so. It was out of character for her, for sure. They were so excited. As we left the driveway, they went on and on about it. I had to crush that excitement with the cold hard reality that it didn’t mean anything. Their Mom had never loved me, and one kiss wasn’t going to change that. I felt ashamed in a lot of ways. Primarily because they were so excited and I had to be realistic with them. Almost as importantly, my marriage was so devoid of love that one kiss sent them into the clouds.
Lesson learned: I’m not setting a good example for my kids in a matter that I myself feel is of monumental importance. How to maintain a healthy, loving relationship.
I’ve given that a lot of thought over the years. A lot of thought. The first time I married, I married because I was in love. Because I have not fallen in love again since the divorce, I have not remarried. I feel like these are great examples to set for my children… if you’re not in love, don’t get married. Don’t get married for reasons that don’t involve love. Just my opinion… They are also examples that lead us right back to square one above: I’m not setting a good example for my kids regarding how to maintain a healthy, loving relationship. The one example I need to set if I hope to help them have healthy families of their own one day…
Yet debate aside, so it goes. Day in and day out, that hasn’t changed for us in many years. I feel good about feeling bad about it most of the time, though. I see so many people adding insult to their children’s injuries post-divorce. Date and date and date and expose their kids to lots of bad examples of relationships. Remarry for the wrong reasons. Force a new spouse onto children who weren’t ok with losing the first marriage to begin with. While I wish I could set the good example I want to set for my kids in this regard, I’m also glad I’m not building resentment in them by prioritizing the wrong ladies above them for the wrong reasons. If I ever remarry, it will be a family decision. If the family is not in agreement, it won’t happen. I know a lot of people disagree with me on that issue. Now that I’m all grown up, I get to do it however I want to. Just like everyone else gets to do it the way they want to. Variety is the spice of life, and all that.
Feeling good about feeling bad about it still leaves us without it, right? I certainly thought so. Until recently.
My 10 year old little lady had a bad day recently just like we all do. Again I forget the particulars… but she needed some love and smooth talk and hugs. Cowboy up! I’ve got all that covered. As I applied the huggy portion of the show, I found myself looking over her shoulder to see her brother watching intently from the other room. When he realized I saw him watching, he gave me a big smile, a thumbs-up, and a hand gesture that indicated, “You’re pretty smoooooth…” At the time, I thought it was cool that my son was proud of me.
Then a few evenings later, one of the songs we often enjoy singing came on the radio, and there’s one line that I always sing intentionally incorrectly:
“You make me want to treat a lady right like Daddy always did…”
“You make me want to treat a lady right like Pappy always did…”
Because, as my kids know, my Daddy certainly did not treat a lady right, yet my Grandpa (Pappy) did set that good example for me.
As that line came up, my little lady sang loudly over me with a big smile, “You make me want to treat a lady right like Daddy always does!” And she’s right… her Daddy does treat her right.
After mulling that all over for a few days, I decided that perhaps it doesn’t exactly matter whether it’s a loving relationship with an adult or with our kids or with our friends… it’s setting an example that they can follow. My son certainly knows how to treat a lady, and if he one day treats his wife as good as I treat my daughter, he’ll have the basis of a great marriage. My little lady knows how she should expect to be treated. In all relationships, we demand respect and trust, so I don’t foresee either of my offspring remaining long in any relationship where they’re doing all the ‘treating right’ without reciprocation. My son sees my daughter reciprocate the rewards of being treated right, and therefore he’ll one day know that he should expect that from his own relationships. While it’s different for Father/Son and Daddy/Daughter, the same principles apply… Here’s hoping.
In any case, that’s what I’m telling myself today… don’t sweat it, they’re seeing what they need to see even though it’s not wrapped in the white picket fence I always wanted to give it to them in. My old friend Karma likes to surprise me now and then with a hidden treasure I almost walked right by. I’m going to stop sweating this one. I think we’re good…
Cheers from The www.ThreeFiveZero.com Treasures