Posted on | February 7, 2013 | 13 Comments
There’s a billboard just outside my town and coincidentally, I pass it every time I take J to meet up with his grandparents for his visitation weekends with his father. It sits on the left-hand side of the road, so I only see it on my way up, never on my way back. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but honestly? It startles me every time.
There in big bold letters, some organization or another has purchased space to advertise one “small” thing:
“Children do better with parents together.”
The first time I saw it, I cried.
The second and third times, I tried to ignore it.
But now, it just makes me sad on so many levels.
I am, on the whole, a very fortunate divorced woman, so maybe my opinions are skewed. I have a job that allows me the financial ability to pay most of my bills. I have a house and a car and I can put food on my own table. My ex-husband and I have a very cordial relationship. Except for when he gets a little too familiar over text messaging, we get along quite well. He pays child support on time every time. He does the best he can for his son. He thanks me regularly for taking good care of our child and he knows that there is nothing more important than doing what is best for J, even if that means not seeing him every day.
He’s doing the best he can to make the best out of an ugly situation.
I’m doing the best I can to make the best out of an ugly situation.
Divorce is just flat out ugly, BUT, we’re making it work for the sake of our son.
If you’re new here, you may think “Hey, if they get along so well, why aren’t they still married? Couldn’t she have made MARRIAGE work for the sake of her son?”
And that question goes right to the heart of when divorce is not just “an option” but your only option. When you have children, the most important thing in the whole world is to do right by them. You scrape and save for Christmas, you play the same games over and over, you teach and learn and read and tickle. And you absolutely, 100% SHOULD NEVER STAY IN A MARRIAGE THAT WILL DAMAGE YOUR CHILD.
Do you hear that, billboard people? There are times when children do better with parents NOT together. There are times when a father can not be a father 365 days a year but he can be really good at once a month. There are times when a mother can not mother 12 months out of the year but she does a bang up job on every other weekend and twice in the summer. There is abuse, both mental and physical. There is infidelity. There is anger and hatred and words that can’t be unspoken. There are flat out times when being apart is the best damn thing in the world for the most important damn person in the universe.
My ex and I were terrible at being married to each other. We fought a lot. We screamed and yelled and said hurtful things to and about each other. And luckily, we separated before J was old enough to really remember that part of our relationship. We were terrible at being married. We could not have made the marriage work and still raised a healthy child… he would have been scarred by our actions and by what our inaction meant to his future relationships. We could not have made our marriage work… not for anyone’s sake.
But we are making divorce work for us and for our child.
And that, my dear billboard people, is what really freaking matters. It’s not about staying together for the sake of your children… it’s about being the best parents you can be for the sake of your children. If you can’t do that together, if being together is going to leave your children scarred and bruised by fists, or words, or danger, or egos… then get yourself right on out of that situation. Because nothing… and I mean NOTHING… is more important than raising physically and emotionally healthy children.
Not even marriage.