When divorced parents interact, they typically act like this: cold, impersonal, cordial, angry and/or annoyed. At least at the beginning of the divorce. We all have to hope that as time goes by, divorced parents can be genuine friends.
I want to share a story about two divorced parents–me and my ex, who ended up in the ER with our son shortly after we were separated, and how it changed our relationship and my perspective on divorce.
I will probably remember the day for the rest of my life. Here is the story:
I was lying on a lawn chair on my back patio stealing some of the bright sunshine while on a conference call for work. Ah…the life. I’m catching some serious rays while landing a pretty big deal for my business.
I hung up and started walking back into the house when I got another call, a number I didn’t recognize.
“Hello, this is Jackie,” I answered.
“Hi Mrs. So and So, this is So and So from your son’s camp. Uh…” She starts nervously stuttering and that’s when my heart began to pound.
“Well, there was an accident. Your son’s head is bleeding pretty badly. We have an ambulance on its way. You should go to the hospital.”
Now I was frantic. I seriously was out the door within 3 seconds.
Just before I pulled out of the driveway, I called my ex husband. He didn’t pick up. “Call me. It’s an emergency,” I texted. He called back a couple minutes later, as I’m flying to the ER.
Through tears, I said, “Go to the emergency now. There was an accident at camp. That’s all I know.”
“Be right there,” he said.
My heart continued to pound. I couldn’t stop shaking, and tears were streaming down my face as I kept repeating, “Please, God, let him be okay, Please, God, let him be okay…” over and over.
I waited at the hospital for the ambulance and when it got there, I got to go to his room, where I saw my sweet little boy sitting there, (he was about 10 at the time) brave as you can be.
I had stopped crying because the lady at the front desk told me to. She said if I cried in front of my boy, it would scare him.
So, I smiled and hugged and kissed him and held his hand. I was told pretty immediately that he needed 4 stitches in his head, but all in all, he was going to be fine.
A couple minutes later, in walks my ex, his eyes red, the most worried look I think I’ve ever seen on his face.
At that moment, we weren’t our ordinary divorced parents who were cold and distant, who talked to each other with disgust and bitterness. Rather, we were divorced parents with a common prayer: let our son be OK. We were humble and compromising our negative feelings for each other with desperate prayer.
No arguing, not yelling, no dirty looks, no blame game, nothing. Just two divorced parents desperate for their child to be OK.
Despite all the ugliness we’d been through in the past few years, at this moment, I wanted to hug my ex husband. I wanted to tell him he didn’t have to worry because everything was fine. I wanted to tell him that nothing on earth really matters except for our children, and that the divorce seemed so minimal and stupid and meaningless. I’ll go so far as to say for a minute, I even wanted him back. I wanted to erase the past and pretend it didn’t happen. I wanted my family back together.
What’s funny (and very sad) is that the minute we knew our son was going to be OK, those feelings vanished instantly. BUT, they had been there and some of it stuck. I’m not sure if that’s a natural reaction, or if I’m unique. But I think when something like this happens, the resentment, hostility, and coldness you feel for an ex is replaced by the fragility of life–of the people you love most–the kids. Being there in that ER made me realize that the pettiness and the hate and the anger of divorce really are a waste. Because if God forbid the day would have turned out differently, nothing else would have mattered.
After that day, I remember thinking maybe this was the start of a friendship for me and my ex. Sadly, I was wrong. He went back to being his cold, distant, angry self for many more years, and who knows? Maybe I did, too. But the ER trip really did make me think and that is what I hope for divorced parents reading this.
Why did it take a trip to the ER to wake me up to the fact that life is precious and the divorce is a very small bump in the road of life? And that without health you have nothing. Nothing. My wish is that divorced parents can think this way even during those times when hate seems to consume you.
Accidents and tragedies and deaths change people’s perspectives drastically. Unfortunately, it’s usually temporary. The perspective switches back after the hard time ends.
I want to end with this: Keep that in mind next time your ex does something that really bugs you, and you feel that hatred, anger, resentment, and/or annoyance, think to yourself: ‘Health, life, happiness.’Going back to the basics–which is everything that matters, will help you realize that life is soooo much larger than your divorce.