Father’s Day always makes me think about my unique family dynamic. In a family that has been shaped by adoption, divorce, and remarriages, I have been fortunate enough to have lots of people in my life who have cared about me and who I have cared about in return. When people talk about divorce, they seem to focus a lot on making the best of a bad situation, and I’m not saying that divorces aren’t difficult and messy, especially when children are involved. However, as the product of a divorced family, I firmly believe that there is a way to do a divorce in which the positives far outweigh any negatives, and it isn’t just about getting twice as many presents at Christmas and on birthdays.
The most important thing that divorces can bring is more support. My step-parents have readily stepped in as parental figures and have been supportive to both my brother and I, and we have had the opportunity to build relationships we otherwise wouldn’t have had. The myth of the wicked step-parent isn’t always true, and while I certainly didn’t like everyone that my parents ever dated, both have ended up with great people that I am glad to have in my life.
Divorces also teach a lot about tolerance and about compromise. Although I’m sure it was painful for my parents at first, we still did things together as a family. Recently, I was reading a Question and Answer section in Reader’s Digest, and I stumbled across something that made me quite angry. A boy had written in explaining that his mother had recently remarried and that she no longer wanted the boy’s father to attend any family events. I assumed that the column writer would say something about how adults need to compromise for what is in the child’s best interest, which is sometimes to clearly have both parents together, but instead the columnist said that the mother was entitled to do whatever she wants (which is true, to a certain extent, but when children are involved the implications of that statement change) and the boy and his father would have to work out their own relationship. Wow. Talk about harsh. I’ve been lucky in that my parents have shared parenting duties, and sometimes there is considerable overlap. I know that my high school graduation wouldn’t have been the same if my family had been only half-present, or if they had refused to talk to one another or stand next to each other for any pictures. What the columnist’s response suggests is that divorce teaches children how to be selfish and ignore the needs of others. What my experience of divorce has been is that it can teach you a lot about tolerating people you may not want to tolerate, and how to compromise when someone’s best interests hang in the balance.
My family tree, which has many strange branches and off-shoots that represent the many wonderful people that are in it, has made me realize that families can come in all shapes and sizes and are formed in all different ways. This, in turn, has made me a more accepting person. Single-parent families, families with same-sex parents, families where grandparents raise children, foster families, adoptive families…family isn’t about having a mom, a dad, and 2.4 kids. Family is about a group of people who support and love each other and provide a haven of safety and acceptance. My big, divorced, re-married family gets together on a regular basis. The seven of us fill up a dining room both in terms of the number of chairs and the conversations we have. It’s taken a while for us to get to this point, but I wouldn’t trade this family for anything.
-families come in all different shapes and sizes and are made in all different ways