According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were more than one million divorces in the U.S. in 2010, excluding California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, and Minnesota, for which statistics are not available for some unexplained reason. That almost certainly makes the total number of divorces that year over one million.
I was one of those “statistics”. I was angry at first. But keep reading because my story has a remarkably, wonderful happy ending. And the same can happen for you!
After 13 years of marriage, my wife told me to leave the house primarily because I had serious medical issues requiring multiple painful spinal surgeries and she apparently got tired of having to deal with them. I was taking pain killers and started drinking and was unemployed and she said either I had to leave our home, or she would take our 8-year-old son and she would move. She had also found a new “boyfriend”.
I was in no medical or financial condition to contest the separation and the divorce that followed. All she asked for was child support. She was not after my pension or my retirement savings. And a visitation schedule was built into the final decree. I was thankful for that.
The reason I am writing this is to share some very real life lessons I learned or was taught about how to act when a couple decides to call it quits.
- Rule number one. When my son comes over to visit, I never speak ill of his mother. I guarantee it would have turned out very badly when he grows older. He will think less of me and cling to his mother even more for moral support. His young mind just didn’t understand what was happening at the time. I tried to explain to him that sometimes people stop loving one another and they grow apart.
- Rule number two. Lay down some ground rules for your child. Over the past six years, I have taught him to make his bed when he sleeps over and to change his clothes every day, just as he would at his house. After six long years he now thinks of my house as his second home and makes his own meals and cleans up after himself and does not trash the place. He even asked me what he can do to repay me for the things I have purchased for him.
- Rule number three. Spoil him a bit. I created a second bedroom for him with a new bed with orange bed linens – his favorite color. I gave him a smart TV and video games and a way to keep in touch with his friends, and he is a happy camper especially when I had to lie down because of my healing back. I let him sleep in on mornings he is over. And I am always prompt when picking him up or dropping him back to his house.
- Rule number four. He asked me specifically that he and I do things together. So we play chess, go to a local park, take in a movie, play basketball. It’s all about healing wounds and bonding all over again. It makes be so happy that I agreed to allow him and some friends to have sleep overs at my house. It’s called rebuilding trust and love and being a real parent to him again. And trusting him.
- Rule number five. Even though I don’t see him every day, I go to all his concerts, sports activities, books sales at the library. I went to the motor vehicle one day and got him his own identification card. He carries it with his every day. I make sure he know I am still part of his life, even though we are apart much of the time.
- Rule number six. Tell him you love him every day and tell him to obey his mother and do what she tells him to do. He respects me more for saying that.
Now the wonderfully happy part that I spent six long years working on. My son and I text each other every day to say “Good Morning” or “Good night”. We have started making future plans. He kept telling me he wished we lived closer so that he could ride his bike to see me every day. I mentioned that I was thinking of talking to a Realtor. Now every time he sees he asks me when am I going to talk to a Realtor? Today for instance, he texted me the address for an open house he wanted me to take him to see that was a couple of minutes from his house. He even rode his bike to see the outside of the house.
He now pesters his mother he wants to see me more than our separation agreement calls for. He’s 14-years old now and about to enter high school. He’s an honor student, speaks Spanish and English. Plays several musical instruments. And he knows what he wants to do after high school.
I may have missed out on six years of watching him grow from a little 8-year old, to the little man he is today, but now I have prepared him mentally and physically to make up for lost time by making a vow to myself that I will always be there for him for the next four years.
The moral of this story? The twists and turns in a young child’s life are very much influenced by how you treat him and respect his own life in his own home. I am very proud of him and I will never regret – nor will he ever forget – the emotional obstacles that you must over come in a House Divided.