When my children were eight and thirteen, their parents were getting divorced. It had been a very long process involving hours of counseling and had officially started when they were five and ten. We paid counselors more than lawyers, which is a good thing. My Ex had pushed me to fire my first lawyer and to switch solo counselors. The final straw was when he decided that we needed to switch couples counselors.
“I don’t agree with anything he’s said.” said my future Ex.
I was flabbergasted but really it had been obvious. “We’ve been going to him for OVER A YEAR.”
“Yeah, but he’s on your side. I don’t agree with anything he says. I don’t want to go back to him.”
I found a new counselor and found that I had a new goal while filling out the paperwork: amicable divorce. We did one session with the children. The counselor introduced herself and talked about divorce and said that children often had questions. My extroverted feeler son went first.
“Why are you going to Grandma’s for Christmas, dad?”
Dad began to say that I was being mean to him, but the counselor intervened. “It’s not appropriate for you to tell your son about your disagreements with your spouse.” Dad argued, but the counselor stood firm.
Dad said, “I want to have Christmas with people who love me.”
The extroverted feeler just looked at him. “But we love you, dad.”
Dad stared back at his children. “Yes, you do. I am sorry. Next time I will talk to you before I decide what to do.”
My introverted thinker daughter went second.
“Mom, if you get divorced and daddy moves away, and if Auntie’s cancer comes back and you go to take care of her, who will take care of us?”
I think all the adults were stunned by the complexity of that question from an eight year old. I had left the children with their dad to go to take care of my sister for the week before her mastectomy over a year before. It was the longest I had ever been away from my children.
I replied. “If Auntie’s cancer comes back then I will not leave you to take care of her. Either she will have to come here to be taken care of or I will take you with me.”
That was it. She had only one question. She was quite clearly satisfied with the answer. I thought the counselor was amazing to make them feel safe enough to ask a big question.
Previously published on some obscure place on the internet 11/2/09.