My earliest memories of my father are filled with joy and laughter. Weekend trips to the mall, riding shotgun in his delivery truck on those late work evenings he took us on when the babysitter cancelled. Me truly believing he was some angel walking in earth form like in those Sunday school stories. I even looked through his closet one summer thinking I would find some proof–even wings perhaps. We had so much potential for an epic Father/Daughter story. One for the books. Fast forward twenty five years and the pages to our story are still blank. I often wonder how we got here, but I recently figured out where it started.
According to current statistics, up to half of all marriages will end in divorce. Wow. And depending on exactly which Country/State/City you live in that number could be even higher. So what does that mean for the estimated 2.3 Million couples that wed in the U.S. each year and plan to have children? Should they do some pre-divorce counseling and talk about hypotheticals of what they would do if/when they had children and break up? I don´t see many people signing up for that course–can you say Debbie Downer.
A few years after the separation, my mom signed me up for a program to help kids cope with divorce. The leader of the group used a philosophy that was anti-parents being involved in the process, which I later found out was popular in the 80s with many programs like this, and used a two tier framework:
- Divorce is hard, but with time it gets better and if you were young enough when it happened then you have a greater chance to “get over it” quicker and find complete healing
- If the child going through the divorce was older than 7 or 8 then “healing” would take longer, but could be obtained if the child did not believe the divorce was their fault
Even at a young age, I realized that this mindset and strategy was flawed. Every child has a different situation, but the thing that remains the same is that both parents (in many cases) will still be a part of that child´s life in a big way. Therefore, making it imperative that any counseling or therapy be done with the parents as well.
In “How Will You Measure Your Life,” written for the Harvard Business Review by Clayton M. Christensen he advocates passionately for creating a strategy for your life. When talking about reunions with his old classmates he says “more and more of them” come to reunions divorced and, “I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them.”
But life happens. Divorce happens. Like Christensen speaks about so eloquently in his article, having a plan in place to execute life, especially when things like divorce happen is essential for staying on track with your purpose. So what if after a divorce the community via the court system through the divorce decree set up this foundation strategy for couples with children. Thereby, making it a requirement ( unless of course danger was present for any of the parties involved) to have all persons in the divorce–including the children– to work out post divorce/family issues TOGETHER via therapy. I know this is not a guarantee that everything will work out, but at least it would give parents a chance to get the tools they need to continue forming strong bonds with their children.
Over the Christmas holidays, I always check in with my father to see how he is doing and to listen to any new things going on in his life. Never bringing up anything too deep in our conversations for fear that it would push what relationship we do have into nothingness. This years conversation was harder than normal. My almost 5 year old daughter found an old picture of me and my father in a rare moment when we were together-smiling-happy. She asked me–who is this mama? The question alone said so much and brought tears to my eyes, but I pushed them back and told her that was her grandpa. She took the picture examined it closely and said you look like him and so do I, maybe he could take me to the park one day. One day for sure, I replied not knowing if that would ever happen.
I had the Christmas call with my father, and this year it was heavier than normal. Our current situation is in flux, but I am still hopeful that although my story is not filled with the pages that I envisioned in my youth that for my children there is still time for something more.
Written by Danica Schneeweiss
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