I watched as my 5’11” 8th grader patted his barely 5′, 6th grade teammate on the back. I could hear him from the sidelines as he said, “Shake it off man! You did your best on that play! I’m right here for you! I’ll get the block so you can hit the hole and run the ball!” And back into his 3 point stance he went ready to block the next kid that tried to tackle his teammate. Numerous times over the course of the past couple weeks teachers and parents had approached me to share how much their younger sons look up to mine. “He’s not your typical 8th grader Jess. He’s so encouraging and supportive.” Gold star for me!!!
“Kids are resilient. You don’t need to worry so much about them. They’ll be okay.” I can’t tell you how many times people matter of factually stated this to me over the years. People who’d never faced what we had. People who’s families were intact. Advice given with good intentions, however I still worried ….. for a looooong time. Okay, fine, I still worry!
What I know to be true is that every traumatic event I suffered, they have too. What I know to be true is that the very terror that lived inside my being, also resides within each and every one of their cells. What I know to be true is that every time I felt the stress that accompanies dealing with and surviving a covert narcissist and then smiled at my babes and told them I was good ….. we were good ….. they knew that wasn’t true because they too were feeling the stress. I prayed day and night for some sort of relief from the constant, unrelenting pressure I was under and at the same time, begged Jesus to shower mercy over my kids. The last thing I wanted for them was to repeat the patterns I was modeling for them daily – a boy learning it’s okay to completely and utterly disrespect and use women and a girl learning to bury her true self so as to not cause someone else to feel insecure.
What I know to be true is that kids truly are resilient. I remind myself that they are not just half of him, they are half me. I may not be all good, we all have a dark underbelly worth looking at, however I know that most of me is good and well intentioned. My son has my compassionate bleeding heart stirred in with his old soul and my daughter has the wild, untamed, beauty in her soul that I know exists in mine. I pray my son never raises his hand to a woman (and I’ve made sure he’s well aware that if I ever catch wind he has, I will kick his ass no matter how old he is!) and I pray that my daughter never allows herself to tolerate such behavior from another (and knowing she stands her ground with him, I believe my prayers are being answered).
I ramble and share all of this because I see glimpses of what I know my kids believe to be true and if you look closely, you will too. I have shared little about the nightmarish marriage or divorce itself, the hoops I had to jump through and continue to jump through, the bullshit game playing and blatant lying he engaged in and for the most part, my filter on my mouth has stayed screwed tight not allowing much if anything negative to flow out with regard to him. I said from the get-go that I wanted the kids to be able to form their own opinions around the type of person he is and what he chose to remarry (a female version of himself … we think 😉 ). I chose to only fight for what was in the best interest of my kids and leave the rest behind, it shows. They recognize where they want to be, not because we’ve alienated them (a whole blog in and of itself) rather because they are well aware of the stark contrast in households. They recognize the difference in marriages where one is built on mutual respect, honor and true, unconditional love and the other well, not so much as it’s more about the facade and riding on coat tails. Maybe more importantly than anything else, they recognize the difference in how they are treated. Under one roof they are treated with respect. There are expectations, boundaries and partnership. Under the other they are merely treated like toddlers quite literally still put in time out! You want a sippy cup with that!?!
Divorce is like someone detonating a bomb in the center of your existence. I can only imagine what an amicable, adults behaving like adults, kind of divorce might be like however even in that instance, families are still torn apart. I encourage you to take the high road … the much higher road. It’s difficult to navigate. Your lip will be fat and your tongue bloodied and I assure you, you will become a professional at tightening down the filter on your mouth however, it’s more than worth it because as the dust settles, you will sit back and observe your kids and know in your heart of hearts that the reason they are able to show such resiliency and character is because of you and those you choose to surround yourself with.
Choose friends willing to call you out and ask you to be more than you believe you can be. Choose to be around supportive (not shit talking) people who want to know how you are and how your kids are, who truly listen to you. These are people who have no need to introject their own thoughts and opinions into your situation and rather play devil’s advocate (and yes, this will piss you off!). Choose to surround yourself with everything beautiful in this life and each and every day, choose gratitude.
You will sit back, even in the midst of your storm, and God will shine a little light through the rain and thunder. You will be blessed to quietly witness your child choosing to be bigger than life itself, choosing to do the right thing, choosing to help another, choosing to say something encouraging to a younger classmate, choosing to take the high road and standing up for what they believe is right and in that moment, you too will receive a little gold star and a nod from God Himself as you feel reassurance that the higher road is paying off.
I watched as toward the end of the game my son reached his hand out to help a player from the other team to his feet after getting hit hard, tackled not just to the ground but into the ground. He patted him on the back and said, “Nice play man!” as they lined up and dropped into their 3 point stance again. That’s right, that tall kid whose all legs ….. he’s mine ❤