My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. They sat my big brother and me down on the couch and told us together. They told us that they’d always do what was best for us, even if it was hard. I wasn’t completely shocked but, of course, I was sad.
Life changed after that, we all moved around to different homes and apartments, and visitation schedules were put in place without our input. I remember feeling fairly calm throughout it all. My 10-year-old self perceived my parents to be in control and organized. I know now that probably wasn’t really the case, but they put their brave faces on and I bought it.
Related: We divorced—and our family thrived
From the very beginning, special days were spent together. My dad would come over to my mom’s house for our birthday dinners. He was always with us on Christmas morning when Mom would make a big brunch and we’d open presents together. We walked out together, one parent on each arm, at halftime in the Homecoming football game when I was a member of the court. Everyone was present and sitting together at my graduations.
This isn’t to say there was never tension, or that everything was perfect. Even so, I knew deep down that my parents really did care for our best interests and were trying hard for us kids. I knew because of the way they treated each other in front of us.
My dad remarried in the spring of my senior year of college. I was married just a few months later. All three of my parents—Mom, Dad and my new stepmom—were a part of my wedding. We have a family picture with all of us together. The thought of any drama between them never even crossed my mind. I knew they’d be civil to each other.
After my wedding, I was technically a grown woman. At that point, my parents lived in different cities. During the holidays I often wished it were easier to visit everyone at the same time, or wished I could call just one house, instead of two, to check in and chat. It could be hard to schedule get-togethers and divide time equally between everyone. We made it work as best as we all could.
When my husband and I had babies, all three grandparents were there to help. All three are active in my daughters’ lives. I can send a group text to Mom, Dad and my stepmom of the girls’ first days of school, or of the girls in their Halloween costumes. I can send group emails and not worry about any awkwardness between the recipients.
I hadn’t really given much thought to the beautiful divorce my parents continue to have until just a few months ago when my mom’s father died.
There I was, 38 years old, sitting in the church for Grandpa’s funeral. In walked my dad, stepmom, stepbrother, my dad’s mother, and two of dad’s sisters. I was so touched to see them all there, supporting my brother and me, but also showing us that divorce didn’t sever the relationships within our extended families. I listened as my mom told them all to “sit up front with the family.”
My parents have been divorced for almost 30 years and yet they still strive to do their divorce right. I can look back and sincerely thank them for sticking to their word and doing what is best for their kids and now their grandkids. I know it couldn’t have always been easy. I feel so abundantly loved through all that they do to maintain a relationship for our sake. Doing divorce right, working hard to create a beautiful divorce despite the mess and hurt, is something children like me will thank their parents for. Especially in 30 years.
A version of this post was published January 9, 2019. It has been updated.