Divorce is a process, not an event. I get along well with my ex. And we are on the same page in terms of how we raise our kids and how everything we do must take the little rascals into consideration first and foremost. Just as our kids grow and our lives evolve, divorce is right there along the way, no matter what. Going through a divorce is not fun. Brussels sprouts taste like candy compared to divorce. But it gets better – after all, the divorce is to get your life on track. And time really does heal wounds. However, there are scars. Those scars are reminders.
Last summer, I stumbled across a vendor at a festival that was selling a cool idea they had with their own children. It’s called the I Like Book. Every day, you write something down you like about your kids. We made it a nightly ritual and the kids really enjoy it. I’d do our I Like Book once they were in bed. Sometimes I’d do an I Like that applied to both of them, but usually I’d figure something out that was individual so they could both have their own for the night. There are no rules. Examples have been:
• “I like how well you two played together today.”
• “I like watching you do art.”
• “I like how you wore that funny hat all day.”
• “I like snuggling with you while we watch movies.”
• “I like how you invented a new game today.”
The boys really enjoy it. They can be critical though. Sometimes they will rip me for being too predictable. Other times they will just say it was an okay one. Others they really like. Of course they lean to the little boy humor, which I happen to be an expert at.
• “I like how you sneezed a giant snotty right onto your leg.”
• “I like how I had to take a plunger to the bathroom after your smelly work.”
• “I like how you surprised me by jumping on my back while I was folding your laundry on the floor.”
• “I like how you burped six times during dinner.”
• “I like how you save me money on napkins by constantly using your shirt sleeve instead.”
Those are real crowd pleasers to put in eternal writing.
So the I Like Book has been a real hit with the boys and me. I thought with the ex too. But I recently found out that isn’t the case. Lately, she hadn’t been giving me the book on my nights and I noticed she wasn’t filling hers out every day. She’d have to go back and make a blanket entry for the weekend.
She finally emailed me and told me she was going to start up a new routine that was project oriented with the kids and that I should just do the I Like Book with the boys myself. She said she loves the idea but increasingly she was struggling with it. She said I’m the writer in the family and that sometimes she’d read my entries and just get sad. It was a daily reminder of a split family. One of her scars.
I admit I never thought of that. Sure, I guess we are a split family by dictionary terms. But I think we are a stronger family than we ever were before because we are no longer in a marriage that wasn’t working. And the kids seem to be doing great.
I get sad now and then. Like when I watch the Cubs play baseball. Or when there is no hot fudge for the ice cream. Or if Starbucks give me a coffee instead of a chai and I find out the hard way and end up spitting the drink out like a cartoon character. But with the kids I worry more than I feel sad. It’s not an outward constant worry. Just a tinge buried inside me that every parent has with their children; hoping they are continuously healthy, happy and living a wonderful life.
I do worry how the divorce affects them. But I also have confidence that my ex and I are great parents and that our awesome kids will continue to thrive. I hope my ex has a good way to cope with her sadness and worry. It seems to me that she is doing just fine.
Little things help me. As long as I have regular signs of happiness from my kids (and lack of signs of sadness), I’m good. And I don’t think they know it, but they have an amazing power to make me happy.
I admit lots of things make me happy. Like when the Cubs win or when my ice cream is slathered in hot fudge. Or when I’m enjoying a hot vanilla chai. But my happiest moments tend to be with my kids.
With Will, it occurs while we are walking somewhere and I put my arm around his shoulders. He will grab my arm and pull it down over his whole upper body and hold it tight to his chest. It’s like he is nestled under my giant wing. And we will walk that way while we continue to chat about whatever we are chatting about. He has no idea how much I love that.
With Drew, it occurs while we are chilling out on the couch. I will pretend like I’m not looking at him while my hand will slowly creep toward him, fingers doing the walking. He will giggle and then try to smash my hand like it’s a spider. This is fun, but not the part I love the most. The best part is that soon the creeping and smashing will end and Drew will grab my hand. He will intertwine my fingers within his and alternately squeeze and release my hand. Drew doesn’t seem conscious of his hand squeezing, and I can’t help but swoon every time he does it. Someday his hands will be larger than mine and I’m sure that will be long past the time he is comfortable holding hands with his daddy.
Clearly the commonality is the intimacy and contact. I love how natural it is. My boys are so innocent, sweet and caring. Makes me wonder how they are able to be assholes quite a bit too. The asshole stuff is just kids being kids though.
Happiness can be a lot of things. It can be a crazy hat and funny monkey that you wear absolutely everywhere all weekend long. Happiness can be those moments of contact with my boys that I cherish so much. Those moments are love. Love is happiness. I guess I must be the happiest man on earth.