When I divorced, I assumed my connection to my ex-husband would end with the final child support payment; the birth of my first grandson changed that.
When my oldest daughter was born, I was momentarily taken aback by her blonde wisps of hair, very pale skin and true-blue eyes. I had selfishly assumed my dark genetics would prevail and throughout my pregnancy I had pictured a dark haired, brown eyed child much like myself (putting that in writing, it sounds seriously narcissistic!). In a split second, I fell deeply head over heels in love with her just as I had with her blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned father years earlier. She was his mini me and although we divorced when she was very young, she followed in many of his footsteps including a gift for words, a passion for science and an eventual career in medicine.
Although there may be a few people that go into marriage with the option of divorce already on their mind, I’d wager to say most envision a happily ever after. If you divorce and there are no children involved, a clean break is possible. Your heart may be broken, you’ll most likely have to part with some assets, and there may even be a custody battle over your pets, but once the dust has settled, you never need to see or talk to your ex again. When you have human children together no legal piece of paper can sever the bond. Marriage is a serious commitment but it pales in the face of the everlasting link of shared parenting.
In the ten years after the kids graduated from high school my ex-husband and I rarely spoke. It wasn’t out of anger, we just rarely had the need to communicate. We had both gone on to happy second marriages and our daughters were doing well in college. I was no longer the middleman for any arrangements between my ex and the kids. We saw each other at college graduations (there were four between our two daughters) and weddings, but for the most part our lives were very separate. When we divorced so many years ago I don’t think either of us could have grasped the fact that someday we would be grandparents–together. In my naiveté I envisioned our connection would end with the last child support payment.
That notion was brought to a halt by the joyous announcement of our oldest daughter’s pregnancy. When she went into labor, we rushed to sit in the crowded waiting room, eagerly anticipating our first grandchild’s birth. As the hours passed, 22 long hours, the waiting room emptied family by family until no one was left but my ex-husband, my second husband and myself. As one day ended and the early morning hours of another slowly passed, my ex and I reminisced about the day our first child was born, an experience no one else in our lives would ever fully understand. It had been a very difficult labor ending up in an emergency caesarean section, a tense and scary day that fortunately turned into the best day ever with the birth of our healthy baby. Our trip down memory lane ended abruptly as the birth of our grandchild was announced. The baby girl we’d lovingly welcomed into the world almost exactly thirty years ago was holding her own baby, a surreal moment. We’d come full circle, the past left behind and the future gloriously evident in our perfect, newborn grandson. As we gazed at our beautiful grandchild, I wasn’t surprised to see (through the blur of my happy tears) the blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes as part of my family tree. Our genetics would be linked for another generation and most probably, many more to come. The branches of our trees entwined for all time. My ex may cringe a little at that thought, but he’s a smart man and willing to put aside any petty differences and do what’s in the best interest of our adult kids and grandchildren. As we did with our children, we’ll both be at birthday parties, sporting events, recitals and eventually graduations and weddings. Once again, the children’s needs will have priority and we’ll do what’s best for the grandkids.
I’m grateful I like my ex-husband because our oldest daughter is so much like him. She shares many of his wonderful traits: intelligence, quick wit and a great sense of humor. At nine months of age it’s obvious Callister looks like his mother and grandfather but far too soon to know if he will also share the predilection for science and medicine. Just recently I’ve noticed a quirky sense of humor beginning to emerge, an inheritance from my daughter and ex-husband? I suppose the moral of the story is make sure to marry someone you can imagine someday sharing custody of children with and creating a lineage that connects you forever. Genetics pay no attention to divorce; we shared parenting and now we share grandparenting.