I had this conversation with my boyfriend the other day… we were discussing why it mattered the things that we did in our previous marriages because obviously they were all for naught. The baby pictures, the holidays together, the memories. It was happy and good while in the moment, while it lasted, but were they ever really genuine? They were genuine for us, but it didn’t seem like they were genuine for our ex-spouses. Maybe they were, but eventually that vision they had of life was not the same as our vision. Their idea of family wasn’t the same as ours; it wasn’t taking kids to swimming lessons or karate, spending Thanksgiving dinners with the family, obtaining that “perfect” family picture, or creating a special memory book.
I mean, one way you can look at it and question about your previous marriage was if it was real or if the other person was not completely being themselves. Or maybe they grew out of that happy family life and marriage and their ideal family and marriage was something else. Or maybe it was you, or them. There are so many different unknowns to the situation. You can never know.
This conversation was sparked because I was just coming off the frustrations of that day’s interactions with my ex. He was ready to blame me for not being able to send our daughter to daycare that day because they were closed for teacher training. I remembered seeing the signs posted around the building for weeks, and generally out of courtesy- and because I remember that he is terrible at remembering things- I would remind him of such details, but I had a busy weekend and it just slipped my mind during Sunday’s kid exchange. Honestly. Not that I’m obligated to inform him of daycare closures, he’s there just as much as I am. But he had the audacity to call me up and try blaming me for not telling him they were closed, and then when he couldn’t get the answer from me to tell him what he was supposed to do (I don’t know, I’m not your bookkeeper when the kids are with you) he hangs up and texts threats to pull her out of the daycare. My ex tends to blow up when things don’t go his way. It’s his narcissistic tendencies, but that’s a post for another day.
Going back to the conversation about how life isn’t what we envisioned it would be, this REALLY isn’t want I thought it would be. I wasn’t expecting to have ridiculous altercations over daycare closures. I had expected my husband to be present in my life and in our children’s lives and instead what I got was someone who was only represented in three photos during my daughter’s first year of life. Three. He wasn’t there. She was our second child and without making any numerous assumptions, I think he really didn’t like being around me and so my children had to suffer for it. They rarely saw their dad while we were married.
I think that’s what made divorcing their dad somewhat easier. Divorce with children is ALWAYS hard, but I think knowing that he was only going to be in my life the same amount of time (or less) than what he was before made the process more bearable for me. At least with the mostly equal parenting time we have of the kids, they get to see their dad more often… I hope. I believe the kids need their dad, so I graciously offered that up to him. Whether he delivers is another story. (At this time, I fully believe that the kids are being cared for by his girlfriend more than by him.) Regardless of what he does, I intend to continue my little ideal image of what family is with my son and my daughter, hoping that they will see that a family can and will thrive no matter how it started and no matter how many people are in it. My ideal family started out as a happy family of four. Now it somewhere around the happy number of 3-8 people, depending on who were are with that day (the grandparents and my boyfriend and his boys are grouped into this bunch).
So why do the early things in my failed marriage matter? Because in those moments they mattered. A baby boy playing blocks with his daddy, a father cradling his newborn daughter. As they grow up, my kids will formulate their own opinions of their parents and I don’t want their opinion of me to be that of a sheltering mother who hid them from their father. I don’t want that at all. Regardless of how our lives end up, I want my kids to look back and see what it was before their parents struggled to get along. The best things about my childhood aren’t the things I remember, but the things that I remember looking at through pictures. My image of a family isn’t broken, just changed. As long as it can remain adaptive, that’s what matters to me.