November 7, 2004 – November 7, 2014
November 7, 2014 – Today is an important day in the history of our Extended Blended Family. It is the 10 year anniversary of our Defining Moment – the emotion-filled day we told our three children that we were “retiring” our marriage of 18 years (our replacement word for divorce – a kinder and gentler expression). It is a particularly poignant and important day, as it set the course for our family’s on-going journey – living separately as a divorced family and co-parenting with dignity and respect. It remains the single most difficult day of my life, with the loss of my father a close second in 2012. This “moment”, I’ve written about in the upcoming book Family Ever After© Collaborate Life After Divorce – Embrace a New Normal, articulates how knowing without a doubt that The Decision we had weighed with all of our hearts, needed sharing with our children and, understandably, we had dreaded the day for the better part of a year.
Preparing for “the day”
During the months that proceeded our living apart, we mindfully discussed how our “new normal” might work itself into our new reality, the many life changes and yes, sacrifices and adjustments, we would have to make to get there. We did it together – knowing we had a very important role in the future and legacy of our family. As parents forever, our focus would always be on our children and their best interests, and we knew, we would be called upon to calibrate their many expectations and calm their fears with answers to the inevitable questions like: “where will Daddy be living”? In our mind, it was crucial that we do our best to have the answers to their fearful questions in place before we chose to tell them; that date was November 7th, 2004.
As a life-long writer of thoughts to paper, therapeutic journaling enthusiast, I strive to capture the essence of a moment in real time and draw from the heart of that moment to articulate how the “knowing” begins and as Vern Thiessen writes in his award-winning play Apple “this is the moment where everything changes”. I’ve added the perspective from the same house as it remains part of our family’s life, but 10 years later, with the intention of giving hope to many who are sailing out into these often choppy un-chartered waters of uncertainty, a time in the lives of families with nothing more than faith, that it IS entirely do-able, with a focus on transformation, change and belief that you can, giving great credence to what I call “The Art of the Possible”. We had no idea at that time, a trend would seize the world of family law years later, called Collaborative Divorce. Thankfully this ideology has taken hold and is growing every day as litigated divorces take so much away, when a supportive and dedicated team approach gives so much back
Once you’ve defined your moment
You too may have discovered your defining moment, when the realization hits that this journey lies in the path of your family’s future. The choice is one that requires great reflection, discussion and planning. It is one of the changing family’s toughest, most complicated and traumatic decisions. There are no two situations that are alike. The mere definition of the word divorce triggers an automatic response of conflict, negativity and failure. None of us marry with the intention of one day dividing up our assets and moving apart from one another. That said, with current statistics (varying by region) of approximately half of marriages that will travel the divorce path, there are some who understand they are in a position to keep the drama and trauma to a minimum and quite literally re-define what society dictates a divorce might look like, a paradigm shift worth exploring. This requires an investment in oneself on the path of personal development, transformation, change and most importantly, a true BELIEF that your goals and dreams may still be realized for your children. Divorce is the end of a marriage but it is not the end of a family.
The world around us offers a plethora of negative and toxic experiences to choose from, but for thousands of families around the world, theirs are stories based on a foundation that extends from some of the reasons they married in the first place: Love. Respect. Kindness. Dignity. Many families are assembling a new unit using success models with solutions that might surprise and amaze. Quite simply, ordinary families are finding ways to live extra-ordinary divorced lives. A New Normal. These inspirational accounts are rather the testimony of the style of life that many families with the right set of circumstances and a willingness to try, with family values and strength of character during one of the most life altering and difficult times in a family’s dynamic, have found and implemented these solutions together. Yes incredible but true, these are the terms that the Cooperative Divorce families use to guide and nurture their lifestyle.
Our 10-year journey since that day has been paved with a thousand brilliant shining star moments, as well as times of challenge like any other family. We remained a common front throughout these times, as we navigated our lives between “Mommy’s House” and “Daddy’s House”, a 50/50 lifestyle, and I say with GRATITUDE to my family, that I believe we achieved a “successful divorce” with grace, love & laughter – living collaborative lives during and after divorce. Unorthodox to many, our “normal” which has many moving parts – both of us re-married earning the fond title of the EBF (The Extended Blended Family) who vacation as a family together every year, share regular family dinners and life celebrations, holidays, traditions old and new, the ups and the downs, losses and sadness, cooperation and compromise, support for one another in our world of parents, step-parents, step-siblings, in-laws, (that includes our term of ex-husband-in-law and wife-in-law), of all colors weaving a new stitch daily into mosaic of The Memory Quilt of our family. My book attempts to share a few of our experiences along the way but more importantly, to share the inspirational stories of so many others along with professional insights and resources.
There is no shortage of chaotic and dysfunctional divorce stories, but we rather prefer ours. Our main focus was and always will be: our children, now 23, 19 and 16 for whom my love and admiration for each of them knows no bounds. They have won – we have won – how could we ask for more. Everyone plays an integral role in this development. Making the commitment requires courage and stepping off the curb, out of the comfort zone and fears of the paradigm set by society. It requires digging deep within and making changes – and yes, it is VERY uncomfortable. But it IS DO-ABLE. What is the alternative? (I am not, of course, speaking to those situations where safety of the parties/children are involved, that is quite another matter and requires special care and may fall outside the parameters of the collaborative model). How you handle this time in your family’s life will make an impact on your own future, your children’s and future generations. It requires you to be extra-ordinary and proud of your accomplishments so far, and to be equally dedicated to the future. What do you stand for? Where does your integrity live? Be a trendsetter. Set the example for your children. Model the behavior you want them to duplicate. These are teaching opportunities for character development like no other. I am here to tell you with great pride 10 years later, not to water the weeds; your garden grows best where you water and nurture it.
(Excerpt from Family Ever After)
Carolyn Flower is the Author of the upcoming book Family Ever After © Collaborate Life After Divorce – Embrace a New Normal
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
“I am convinced that the greatest legacy we can leave our children are happy memories: those precious moments so much like pebbles on the beach that are plucked from the white sand and placed in tiny boxes that lay undisturbed on tall shelves until one day they spill out and time repeats itself, with joy and sweet sadness, in the child now an adult.” – Og Mandino
“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” – Charles R. Swindoll, The Strong Family