Those Damn Parenting Holidays

When I was first divorced, Mother’s Day was agonizing for me. My son was just 16 months old, so for him the holiday was just another day (and trust me, I wasn’t expecting a card from him or anything). But for me, I spent the day thinking about how Mother’s Day is actually a holiday from the FATHER to the MOTHER. And I didn’t live with Zack’s father anymore. And I was still feeling like that was some kind of huge failure.

Fortunately for me, my amazing friend Kim (read more about her amazingness here) invited Zack and me to join her and her daughter and husband in their Mother’s Day brunch. I was so relieved not to be alone.

For the first Father’s Day, I handed off Zack to his father in our normal share-the-weekend routine, and I did manage to wish him a happy father’s day. And I meant it. Even though it was hurtful to see the way he was blooming as a parent without me—I’d had such a hard time to get him involved when we were still married—I was immensely grateful for what that meant and would come to mean to Zack. As I wrote in my book, if Chris had to pick one of us, he chose the right one.

This year, Zack and his dad are going to a baseball game in Brooklyn, to see the Cyclones play against the Yankees (!) on Coney Island. Zack will be wearing his baseball uniform, and attending with some of his baseball teammates and their fathers. I have to admit my heart swells a bit at this charmingly old-school father-son event. I feel like I should capture it in a sepia photo or something.

But for some people who’ve divorced, these holidays still awaken old hurts. Sometimes it takes years to get to the place where you can even consider celebrating the other partner. And since I don’t think everyone in the world had the kind of divorce I did, I want to send you on over to read a great, honest post by Moxie, about the tangle of Father’s Day for her, at the totally awesome blog she writes with her ex, Laid-Off Dad, When the Flames Go Up, about the perils of co-parenting with an ex-spouse you don’t particularly like.

Vive la difference! I really admire them both for the way they work through their could-be-ugly stuff with such dignity.

What I Didn’t Have To Give Up

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My magic MIL, Barb, with my son, Zack. (Why oh why won’t they smile at that age?)

I just got back from a trip to the Midwest (Batavia, Illinois, for those of you who want to know) with my son, Zack, and my boyfriend. We headed out there on my son’s spring break to go visit Zack’s grandma—my mother-in-law.

I don’t call her my ex-mother-in-law, because she’s not my ex- anything. She’s been a constant force in my life since the day I met her when her only son and I were just 22 years old. I can’t imagine life without her, and lucky for me, she didn’t want to give me up, either. To be sure, negotiating our relationship has had its delicate moments—like when my boyfriend moved in with my son and me last year, and she asked point-blank, “Well, are you talking about getting married?” A reminder that even though we may be living a modern family life, she still prefers the traditional side of things.

When both my parents became suddenly, gravely ill last year, she was a strong, quiet force helping me through the tremendous grief and panic. And for all intents and purposes, she is now the only parent I have left. (Both my parents passed away within weeks of each other last year.) It is with that logic that I convinced my boyfriend—anxious about visiting my ex-husband’s mother, overstepping his boundaries, about the sheer “weirdness” of it all—that he had to meet and get to know this amazing woman, this anchor in my life, this magical grandmother and dear friend all wrapped up in one.

It was a lovely visit, and he enjoyed her as a person, not as my ex-husband’s mother. And of course, as those magical mother-in-laws always do, she gave me and my boyfriend time to sneak away and go on our own adventures.

It’s so important to remember we don’t have to throw everything away when we divorce. Not the memories, not the photos, not the people we met and loved and cared for along the way. This mother’s day I’ll be missing my mom, and celebrating Barb, grateful that one of the hardest things I experienced in my life has also showed me life’s very best, as well.