A common fear is that divorce breaks up the family and yes, in some cases it definitely does. In other cases however it’s more like a rearranging. That rearranging doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and the key is understanding that you are still a family.
My present guest, Lois Tarter has been divorced now for over fifteen years. With her two adult children and her now husband, her family definitely isn’t smaller after divorce and it is more complex. Here’s Lois:
My son lives in L.A. He travels between New York and L.A., depending on what’s going on with him. So, when we’re in L.A. we will have the holidays with my kids there. When we’re here in NY, if my son is here, he’ll come. If he’s not here, he won’t. It’s probably less stressful.
My husband has three kids. We’ll celebrate with them unless we do something at our place. And then, we’ll invite friends and family. I think it’s easier when we don’t have the two-family thing. However, putting that aside, my ex and I share his grandson and they have grandparent day at the school and that kind of stuff and we’ve been together on many occasions for that.
I guess enough time has passed that the animosity is gone. Plus, he married this perfectly lovely woman who I like very much and we’ve become friends, which is a little weird. I really like her. She’s just lovely and she has two daughters who I truly adore. One of them lived in New York and when she didn’t go home for the holidays, she would come to our place for the holidays. And people would say, “Are you kidding?” No, I like her. I really like her. She’s just lovely.
I don’t know that I could’ve done that right after I got divorced. But at this point, it’s like, “Who cares?” She’s really nice. All of them are wonderful to my grandson, wonderful to my kids. When people are really good to people you love, it’s hard not to like them. Plus, she happens to be perfectly delightful. She’s fun to be with.
My ex lives in Tennessee. We don’t fly in to see each other or anything like that. There’s no need to. There was a period of time when I really didn’t want to be around him or have anything to do with him. But at this point, it’s like, “Who cares? You’re happy. I’m happy. The kids are happy. What’s the deal?” We had two wonderful kids. We have a wonderful grandson together. Let’s just celebrate the good stuff and forget about the stuff that was not.
When we were both in L.A. the last time, my son-in-law said that he really appreciated the fact that I would still come over and we were all together and that it wasn’t any kind of an issue. He respected and appreciated the fact that there wasn’t any drama associated with it.
We’ve passed it. We’ve been apart a really long time and if you still have issues, then you’ve got issues. It’s not necessarily with that person. You just have issues in general.
Being able to celebrate the Holidays and milestone events together with your ex is held up like a gold standard of co-parenting and I do think it’s something to strive for. Your children will probably appreciate it but it takes time. Fortunately there are gradations to celebrating together and you can build up to it slowly.
Be realistic about where you and your ex are in your relationship and if you are going to be at the same celebration, know your boundaries. How can you participate and still enjoy the event? For example, if you just can’t stand the idea of being in the same car as your ex, then take two cars. Another reason to make sure you have separate transportation is that you won’t be limited to their time schedule or preferences. You’ll be free to come and go as you wish.
Birthday celebrations don’t have to mean your ex staying for the party, the cake, the gifts and dinner afterwards. Decide what you can tolerate and balance this against your children’s wishes and your ex’s wishes.
I imagine the age of your children makes a difference too. My kids are now 20 and 18 and that already means my ex and I have less interaction on a regular basis and that means there’s less to argue over anyway. That makes it easier to be together at celebratory events. So far we’ve always had separate Thanksgivings and Christmases and that has meant two big meals and double festivities for the kids. Over the summer they shared that they’d really prefer not to do that and have felt that way for a couple of years but haven’t said anything. With hindsight I can see that some of the duplication was about me wanting to mark the occasion as much for myself as for them especially as I have no other family here. Guess we’ll be having some discussions soon about this year’s festivities …
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