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My divorce taught me to say 'yes' to my kids—and myself—in a way I had never done before

I had to learn that sometimes the best thing you can do for the people you love is break all the rules.

My divorce taught me to say 'yes' to my kids—and myself—in a way I had never done before

Last night my kitchen got trashed. Completely obliterated. It smelled like a possum died in the oven and looked like he'd used every last pot, pan, dish and utensil to make his last meal.


Why? Because I said “yes." Yes to my daughters and their friends making supper. Yes to using the oven and cutting food with the sharp knives. Yes to trying recipes from Grandma's Betty Crocker cookbook. Yes to creating new recipes from their own brains and whatever they pilfered from the fridge.

Yes to me sitting back and letting it all happen.

It wasn't that long ago that the mere thought of potential chaos made my stomach clench. I might have tolerated a few moments of raw creativity, but then I would jump in to help this or guide that. The end result would be me running the show. I would keep things from getting out of control.

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I feared things spinning out of control.

I had good reason to feel this way. My marriage made me feel like the floor was littered in broken eggshells. My job was to tiptoe carefully around them, a basket of laundry in one arm and a heavy, shifting tray of glassware balanced in the other. Voices must be kept down. Laughter must be appropriate. Joy and creativity and spontaneity must be contained.

To keep things under control, I said “no" a lot. No keeps things clean. No keeps people safe. No makes things quiet and orderly and proper and acceptable and appropriate.

No follows all the rules.

I am not in that relationship anymore. I am now divorced, a single mother of two. I am now the breadwinner, the bread baker, and occasionally someone who finds time to eat something. By many people's standards, I am a mess. A train wreck. My life is trashed, completely obliterated.

Thankfully, my standards are not the same as many people's.

To me, the mess you see is a home of warmth, playfulness, laughter, and joy. Dropping the eggshells dance means I have space to say yes all the time. I can embrace the chaos, because chaos is the brave starting point for something beautiful and new.

It took a lot of saying yes to myself to get here. I had to learn that my own happiness was just as valuable as anyone else's. That my job was not to suffer in relationships, but to put boundaries on the toxic ones that threatened my freedom to laugh and love. I had to learn to not feel guilty for choosing relationships and activities that bring me joy and fill me with peace.

I had to learn that sometimes the best thing you can do for the people you love is break all the rules.

Today, my kids spill things and we mop it up together. We make mistakes and just flat-out poor choices, but we patch things up and are back to laughing within minutes. Sometimes my kids get mad and shout things, and I don't even demand an apology; I sit and wait. I trust their kind hearts and know they will offer one up when they are ready. Sometimes I get mad and shout things too, but instead of clenching up or retreating, they sit and wait for Mom to get herself together. They trust I always will.

We embrace the messiness, because a mess means someone was brave and tried something new. Last night, for example, someone learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder. Someone else learned that you can't fix stiff cookies by pouring milk on them halfway through baking. And someone learned that you can't skimp on water when you microwave rice (hence, the dead possum smell).

And we all learned that the best place for broken eggshells is the trash bin.


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