Jonah and I have started a summer ritual of reading the Harry Potter novels together. It’s become our thing, and we’ve never really had a thing before. One of the most endearing (and also exasperating) parts of this ritual is Jonah’s non-stop analysis of the book. I know my friends right now are simply laughing at me. What did I expect when his two parents have doctorates in literature?
Yesterday we were reading the fourth volume The Goblet of Fire. Harry and his best friend Ron are mad at each other over issues of trust and are not speaking to each other, although they clearly miss one another. Ron is really the first person in Harry’s life that he has been able to count on. So as we are reading yet another scene where they have a chance to make up but simply get more pissed off, Jonah says to me, I think Ron and Harry still really have love in their hearts for each other even though they are fighting. I was stopped dead in my tracks because I realized in that moment, He gets it. He understands that conflict doesn’t have to destroy love.
Jonah has always been a psychologically savvy boy. He has told me a few times that he doesn’t understand why some people have a hard time getting along with others because he learned that in pre-school (with the presumption, Didn’t everyone learn that too?). He always asks me about people’s motivations and wants to hear stories about everyone in my life. When his dad was moving out of our house, he asked him why. My ex took a deep breath to contemplate his response. Before he could even reply, Jonah said, It’s so that you don’t get mad at Mama anymore, isn’t it? That pretty much summed it up. And that was all the explanation he needed. He got it.
When I wrote the article about my ex losing his license and being grumpy and tense for a day, my friend Sarah, who has a beautiful parenting blog, asked me a poignant question. Do I feel like I am leaving my kids vulnerable to my ex’s bad moods? That was certainly something that I asked myself.
We have talked about my ex’s temper and what they do when it flares up. They know that it is never their fault because that is just part of his personality. They have learned to ignore him and find other activities to do until he calms down. In a nutshell, they have learned to love someone even when that person seems unlovable. They have learned not to take another person’s actions personally. And they have learned that with enough patience, their adored father will return to his loving tender self.
The interesting answer, then to Sarah’s question, is that having to deal with their father’s moods (or by extension their parents’ breakup) has left them anything but vulnerable. Instead it has empowered them to deal at an early age with some of life’s inevitable realities. We all have our complexities and idiosyncrasies, but if we learn to accept others as they are, we can appreciate their wonderful characteristics as well. People aren’t always easy to get along with, but we can love them anyway.
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Has there ever been a time when your children learned something important from a difficult situation?
Do you have any childhood memories of someone who was challenging yet instructive at the same time?
If you are a child of divorce, did you learn anything positive from your parents’ breakup or marital conflict?