One of the difficulties of divorce is the change in life with and for my kids. They live with me and stay with their dad every other weekend. They get together with him off and on at other points as they choose, but every other weekend they’re gone. They pack their suitcases, give me big hugs and kisses, and go. I hear very little from them. When they return, I get to hear stories for days about all the fun things they got to do, what they ate, what movies they watched, and all the news of their family and cousins.
While they’re gone, I’m certainly not off in a corner crying about it. I get things done, I have wonderful companionship in my dear John, and I choose to be present. But the house is quiet, there are no cereal droppings on the floor that crunch when I walk by, nor do I get to lecture them on loving each other and playing nicely. And days like today, have a particular sting. No fun fourth of July picnics with my kids.
People write me from time to time asking about the kids and I keep it short. I don’t want my writing and my blog to be all about them. They’ve reached an age where they are much more aware of my writing life, and their need for privacy is taking a life of its own, but I do want to say that my kids are doing well. Better than I expected, honestly. The awful sting of divorce and relocation, of moving countries and saying good-bye to so much has settled and they’re finding their way. They are shy sometimes, nervous about talking to certain people and I can’t help but wonder if that is a side-affect of the awful trauma of divorce. Their faces cloud over in moments of particular pain. I watch as they recognize certain people and calculate and decide how they’re going to answer specific questions. How they’re going to explain … I know their pain all too well to minimize and say it’ll all be fine. Except … all will, one day be fine. I believe that in my deepest parts. This too shall pass. What hurts today, becomes the ground of our growth tomorrow.
It’s not that I’m banking on my children’s ability to be resilient as some excuse or go-to-pass to drag them through hell. It’s that I know the human heart. Hope springs eternal. In moments when we least expect it, joy comes forth and the great sorrows of our lives become the bedrock of all that helps us show compassion and tenderness and love to our neighbors and loved ones. I know this because I’ve lived it.
As a parent, I would do anything to shelter them from specific pain. I’d love to help them escape heartbreak and financial insecurity, rejection and loss. Yes, I have some influence, but the older they get the more I have to accept my own lack of control and entrust them to God.
When my children were tiny, I wanted so many things for them. I wanted to give them what I never had, what my parents didn’t give me. It’s taken me years to recognize the great gifts my parents gave me. They’ve taught me how to survive and live in a sometimes hostile world and believe in the goodness of God even when all evidence looks to the contrary. This was a mighty gift that I couldn’t see for years because it didn’t look the way I wanted it to look.
With my own children, there are times when it feels like the only thing I’ve given them is instability and foolish decisions. Truthfully, it’s all grace from start to finish. Anything good they’ll receive from my hand will indeed be evidence of God’s grace. It will also be because they have a mother who loves them unconditionally. Which, in the grand scheme of things is absolutely a good gift.
Sometimes love feels weak and fragile.
It’s frightening to realize that love in many of its forms breaks our hearts and leaves us naked and afraid. A boyfriend ends things with us, a dear friend betrays a confidence and leaves us shattered, someone we thought would always be there chooses to walk away and we’re left holding the bag. Someone cheats and we’re left breathless.
All these things make us wonder about love, about the goodness of risking our hearts and opening ourselves up …
My favorite novel says that God has given each of us someone to love, someone to honor. There are a hundred ways to honor and care for my two children. I can remain openhearted and tender with them. I can hold them close to me and be present and kind, I can offer them the gift of my heart, always. I can’t give them the childhood dream I had of the perfect little house, with the perfect little family … that dream is gone.
We give what we have … out of the abundance of a good God who always has more than enough love and life and creativity to make all things new.
For Conversation and Reflection: What gifts do you hope to give your children? Who has God given you to honor?
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