When you are divorced, family events, like a graduation, can be a stressful time for everyone involved. Will my parents get along or will they make a scene? Will they sit together or on opposite sides of the auditorium? Who will be in the ‘family’ photo? Will we all be able to go out for dinner afterward? Will it be awkward?
Like many families this month, our family attended my youngest daughter’s college graduation in Rhode Island. Our ‘family’ consisted of myself and my fiancé, my ex-husband and his wife, my oldest daughter, her boyfriend and my youngest daughter’s boyfriend. It was a beautiful day and all that mattered was that our youngest was graduating and we were all there to celebrate her accomplishments of the past four years. She was graduating cum laude, had a great job lined up and we were all so proud of her. This was her amazing day and everything else would be put aside.
My fiancé and I were tasked with saving seats for everyone – including my ex and his wife. We all sat together and I’m happy to say that there was no awkwardness at all. We even exchanged the obligatory kisses and hugs! Boy, had we come a long way. The day went smoothly, we got a lot of nice photos, even posted the ‘family’ photo on Facebook. We had a very nice late lunch in Providence and now, all the kids were proud of us!
But it wasn’t always like this. I remember feeling very anxious leading up to our first family event, our oldest daughter’s high school graduation in 2009. It was less than a year after our divorce was final. My daughter was very concerned about how we would handle it and quite frankly, so was I.
We got through it though, but I remember it being very awkward and forced for everyone. The conversations were limited, my heart raced and I was very uncomfortable. I was just waiting for it to end so I could get the hell out of there.
Put Aside Your Differences
This is not how I wanted things to be. When I got married 28 years ago, I never imagined I would be sharing my kids with an ex-spouse and dealing with situations like this. But if you have kids, you will be connected with your ex-spouse for the rest of your life. At some point, you have to let go of the past and move on. I’m not saying to forget what happened or to even forgive, but life is too short to hold onto the pain and anger forever. Before you know it, your kids will be having kids of their own. Your actions and your relationship with your ex will directly impact them, the grandkids and the rest of the extended family. You don’t want everyone worrying and stressing out every time there is something like a birthday, wedding, birth or even a death in the family. It’s up to you whether you want it to be a positive impact or a negative one.
It takes a lot to put aside your differences and take the high road, but I promise you, that it is in the best interest of your children, if you do just that. Would my youngest have done so well in college had my ex and I continued to be at odds? Who knows, but I do believe that because things have improved between their father and I, our kids are happier and adjusting well to this ‘new’ life.
My wish for the future, is that my ex and I are able to enjoy our children and their families together, as one big happy family. I even mentioned to my daughter that maybe some day, we could all go to Disney with the grandkids. She said, “Mom, we’re not even married yet!” I said, “I know”… but I have to start psyching myself up for that one.