I wanted to follow up to yesterday’s post share. I’m not telling you how to parent, but I’ve found that the key to good parenting as a divorced Mom with primary custody of her sons is universal to all parenting and relationships.
Being present isn’t easy, especially when the kid is telling you something that triggers you. There are tons of triggers in a divorced parent’s head that revolve around our kids and the ex. What I’ve found is that we have to carefully walk through that minefield and stay observant to what is being said through the lens of an observer and not the emotional parent. Does that make sense?
In other words, listen from your heart to what your kid is saying. Give them your full attention and be present in that moment because that means so much to them! Heck, that means so much to all of us. We all yearn to be heard in a safe environment, one that’s free from judgment, ridicule and/or someone else’s emotional debris.
Concentrate on what your kid is telling you and not your story. This isn’t about you and the ex. It’s about your kid and how s/he is feeling. Keep it clean and don’t let your emotions about the ex interfere because when your kid is talking with you, it’s about them and not you. Your relationship with the ex can’t interfere when the kid’s guard is down and s/he’s sharing. You must seize that moment when they’re willing to open up because if you don’t, they might not try again for they’ll decide you’re not listening either and you don’t want that.
Make yourself a safe environment in which they can share how they’re feeling. I know it’s tough when the kid says something that makes you uncomfortable. I have had many of those conversations recently and was shocked, appalled and ashamed when my kid blurted that he felt abandoned when the ex and I divorced.
“Abandoned?” my mind screamed, but I stayed present and calmed myself immediately which was not an easy task. “How?” I asked him instead of acting defensive while my heart was hanging on by a thread.
“Because you two were dealing with your own feelings and I was hurting.”
I immediately put my arms around him and hugged him close. “I’m so sorry,” I told him as I kissed his cheek and hugged him again. He began to cry as the pain of the past few years released inside of him.
My mind was racing, digging in the archives of how he could have felt ‘abandoned’ when I distinctly remember trying to talk with him often about how he felt, what he was thinking etc. His brother was able to speak about his own emotional journey, but this kid was not. No matter how hard I tried. So I stopped trying to coax him out of it and just let him be. But it was awful to hear that he felt ‘abandoned’ and I felt ashamed that my kid would feel that way. It was so heart wrenching honestly and I don’t know why I’m sharing this story except to maybe help someone else.
After he calmed down, we talked. I knew in my heart that this was not the time to defend myself or to get angry or act hurt. This wasn’t about me. This was about my sensitive son who finally shared something that drove my own knife deep into my soul because we divorced and I clearly remember just trying to keep my own head above water because his dad had left and I was distraught myself.
“Neither one of us, your Dad nor me, meant to have you feel abandoned at that time and I am so sorry that you felt that way. I am grateful that you can tell me how you were feeling and I pray you aren’t feeling that way now. That was a difficult time in all of our lives and I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you more. I hope you’ll forgive me for I would have never wanted you to feel that way.”
“I didn’t tell you how I was feeling at the time because I couldn’t. So you probably didn’t even know.”
“I didn’t know, but I wish I had.”
“I wish you had too, but I understand. Because he left you even though he told us that you both decided to divorce.”
I smiled weakly at my son and nodded, remembering how the ex had said it was a mutual decision even though at the time it was absolutely all him because I didn’t.
“And how are you feeling now?” I looked into my son’s eyes and silently prayed in my head that I could handle whatever he was going to say.
“Better with you. Not so good with him as you know.”
“I know. I am glad you told me even though I’m sad that you felt that way, that we were the cause of you feeling abandoned.”
He nodded and moved to get another hug from me. As I held him, unseen tears rolled down my face.
Being a parent is not always easy.