During the weeks leading up to my son’s 9th birthday his older sister had been asking me, “Are we still going to read The Story for Ryan’s birthday, Mommy? Are we still going to read The Story even though we live in a new house and Daddy doesn’t live with us anymore? Can we still read it, Mommy?”
Our house had changed. Their Dad isn’t living with us anymore. My divorce will be final soon.
The questions presented an internal tug of war for me. Isn’t this one of traditions that can end with the divorce? Will the kids really mind if we don’t? How will it make me feel? Does it matter if we don’t keep the tradition?
I placated Taylor and half committed by agreeing but not setting a date.
The Story, as we call it, is a tradition Brian and I started when the kids were born. On each birthday, we all sit on the bed together and go through our wedding album. The Story starts with a princess named Sara, who meets her prince, Brian. The princess and prince get married at a royal ball, where their family and friends are introduced. It then expands to each special day of our children’s birth. The day we welcomed, Taylor and Ryan, into the world.
One night, as I was getting the kids ready for our bedtime meditation, I noticed that my wedding album had been placed on my nightstand. My eyes filled with tears. My daughter, my beautiful, strong, authentic, smart, young, “tween” was pushing me as far as she could, trying to find a solution to ensure we kept this tradition.
Our wedding album weighs about 15 pounds. Taylor had to have rearranged our sectional couch, searching for the wedding album underneath every section’s storage cubicle. She had found it, right where I had stored it, in the very last cubicle. She must have re-arranged the furniture so as not to show it had been disturbed and carried that album upstairs to my bedroom by herself.
My daughter, with her innocent, lovely request, and her brave prodding, was teaching me to heal. Her request pushed my boundaries. It made me uncomfortable. It made me want to ignore The Story. It made me want to let Ryan’s birthday slip by without acknowledging a tradition that meant so much to them. It made me want to sit in my own justification of why The Story isn’t necessary anymore. To sit in my own judgment of what I thought was fair enough.
My daughter presented me with an opportunity to put action to my promise to always, truly, put my children first. I could live up to my own standard. Or I could stay stuck.
During those weeks, I couldn’t push past ME. I knew that if I stayed selfish, I would stay stuck in my own shit. I couldn’t make the mind switch and I started resenting myself.
I prayed and asked God for an answer.
Every night during those weeks that humongous wedding album loomed at me out of the corner of my eye. (Yes — I do everything big) I knew what I had to do. I knew I was scared. I knew it was going to be uncomfortable and emotional. I also knew that we could handle it, all of us together, and it would make us better.
After Ryan’s LAST birthday party, we gave Ry his favorite gift (he later informed me), which turned out to be a gift for all of us.
Brian and I truly put our children first.
I sat criss cross at the head of my bed the night of my son’s last celebration of his 9th birthday. His head rested on my leg. My daughter leaned back into her father at the foot of the bed. I opened to the first page. “Once upon a time…”
I slowly flipped thru our wedding album, re-telling The Story for all of us. The story of when my ex husband and I had fallen in love and the story of when my son was welcomed into the world.
The Story is a tradition that we started as a family and it is a tradition we decided to keep as a family. . The softness to our features, the glaze of our eyes, the smiles on our faces were proof enough to me.
Proof that it was a good decision. Proof that everyone craves to be nurtured. Proof that we all yearn to be validated. To be told we were born from a place of love and that we matter. Our past matters. How we came into this world matters. Especially when there is trauma & change in the family. Divorce hurts. Everyone. Even though it can be necessary for a greater good. It changes a family, but does not take away the connection. It does not take away memories. It does not take away experiences.
Our family has certainly changed. It looks different,has different dynamics, different locations, but it is still one family unit. How we manage to work around those dynamics and decisions, as parents, is how we choose to raise our children. Those choices shape our childrens lives. It is our choice. It is our choice to put aside differences and remember that God’s gift is our children. Our children teach us to heal.
When I became a parent, my world changed. It will never be about just me again. I know that my ex-husband feels the same way. No matter how we feel about each other, we do put our children first. It isn’t easy. However, I know when I can do the work and put my children first they win, and if they win, I win. Children teach us so much. Mine choose this opportunity to open a door for me, teaching me to heal.
Thank you Ry and Tay.