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Having Each Other—Divorce and Older Children

My son, S—, is eighteen. His dad and I have been divorced for fifteen years. I have worked hard to keep S—’s connection with his father strong and present in his life, even though he lived with me full-time during the school year and his dad lived across the continent, three thousand miles away. I totally supported him two years ago when he decided he wanted to live full-time with his dad so that they could have the kind of sustained connecting that comes with living together over a long period.

S— and I talk weekly, see each other about once a year, and continue to have a rich though much-condensed relationship. I have grieved about, and celebrated, the many layers of this life change for us: the end of his living at home with me; the end of his childhood; and all that I was able, and not able, to do for him when he was growing up.

I recently came up with1 the idea to live part of the year out west in the same region as S— and his dad, so that for a time he would have both of us within reasonable reach, something he has not had since he was three. I was thinking I would live close enough to be accessible but far away enough to give them plenty of space. As parents, we used to struggle over each other’s place in S—’s life. And though over the years we have managed to heal a lot of that, I was wondering how it would work and if either of them would feel I was too close, or pushing myself into their “territory.” I was feeling some doubt about the wisdom of my idea.

Fortunately, I received an unexpected “gift” from a lunch conversation at an RC family workshop I attended as an ally. It was simply to remember that we parents and children get to have each other, even after divorce and as children head into young adulthood; that fighting for each other, for being really connected with each other, remains a vitally important contradiction to all the old regrets and hurts.

I have just returned from spending a couple of months out west in search of a community and work for myself close to S— and his dad. I found this, thirty miles away from them, and will return there for most of next spring and summer. The idea of getting to have each other supported me in trusting the goodness and value of doing this.

S— and I had sweet times together this summer, including several backpacking and hiking trips that helped us to connect as two adults who love each other and happen to be mom and son. They gave us a good and spacious way to fully hear how life currently looks for each of us. His dad and I also had some relaxed time to appreciate how we have parented together in spite of the many challenges and to talk about how we can support each other in aging.

I am tremendously grateful to Chuck2 and many others for building family work and deepening my understanding. 


1 “Came up with” means thought of.
2 Chuck Esser, the International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00