Sometimes happiness comes under the most unexpected of circumstances.

Field Notes on a Child of Divorce: My Son Gets It

Posted: August 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: parenting | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

Jonah, deep in thought, with his Egyptian headdress

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?

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6 Comments on “Field Notes on a Child of Divorce: My Son Gets It”

  1. 1 Sarah Buttenwieser said at 2:51 pm on August 24th, 2010:

    It’s so lovely 1) that Jonah assumes everyone learns what Sunnyside (preschool) teaches so carefully & well & 2) that they are becoming equipped to handle the ebb & flow of their parents’ true selves without needing another adult on hand to help them navigate rough waters.

    As a child of divorce myself, for better but also for worse I was left I think it’s fair to say vulnerable to a father without so much self-awareness (plenty of strengths, more than a person’s fair share of narcissism & add some unspoken substance abuse etc.) yeah, vulnerable. That said I don’t think my mother being there would have necessarily protected me any better!

    I think as I read your blog I feel like your kids are lucky to have you both. Finally, that’s such a gift, mainly possible because you both feel that too!
    Sarah Buttenwieser recently posted..Table- House- Life

  2. 2 Molly Monet said at 2:54 pm on August 24th, 2010:

    Thanks Sarah! I think the word self-awareness is key. We are both striving to be as mindful as possible about this whole process and how it might affect our kids and we also communicate between the two of us about it whenever possible. Both the kids and I have learned that when Hugo is in the right frame of mind, he is a good listener.

    Yay for Sunnyside! Its name itself has been a good omen.

  3. 3 Laura Furey said at 5:34 pm on August 25th, 2010:

    Jonah sounds so insightful and even-keeled. Your children clearly know they are loved and feel secure in your (and Hugo’s) unconditional love for them. While I am not a parent, I am an interested observer of many different types of families. It seems to me that children thrive as long as they experience this type of love . . . and proper nutrition, education, etc. . . but emotional security is key.

  4. 4 Molly Monet said at 5:45 pm on August 25th, 2010:

    Jonah is so wise. I am so fortunate to be his parent. And yes, I do think that we provide him emotional security in that he knows that he is loved, and that we all are a family, just in different homes. I really believe that if more divorced families could provide that, divorce would be a lot less damaging to kids.

  5. 5 Jenn said at 7:30 am on August 26th, 2010:

    Such a wise and insightful comment from a young boy! You must be really proud to be his momma.
    Jenn recently posted..10 Ways to Help Your Child of Divorce Be More Resilient

  6. 6 Molly Monet said at 7:49 am on August 26th, 2010:

    I am! Thanks.

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