After a great soccer game, the mom of one of my son's teammates approached me in the parking lot: "I was just telling your husband what an amazing goal your son had this morning." Actually, he is my ex-husband, I thought, half-annoyed by the idea that people still think we are a happily married couple. I thought about explaining that Brian and I have been divorced for seven years, but I realized that could be slightly awkward for all. So I accepted the compliment on behalf of my son and kept the conversation moving.
This happens fairly often. While it may annoy me at times, I do take it as a compliment of the positive coparenting relationship my ex and I have worked hard to maintain. We sit together at sporting events as we cheer on the kids. When the games are over 40 minutes away, we'll all head over in the same car. We celebrate birthdays together — sometimes at his house, sometimes at mine. If the kids prefer to have their birthday dinners at their favorite restaurants, then we celebrate together as the happy, divorced, nontraditional family that we are. We have even gone on (very short and usually sports-related) vacations together. Because, why not?
Our divorce certainly shook us all to the core. The first two years were very challenging as Brian and I ventured in and out of family court to discuss things like child support, custody, and alimony. Tensions were high. On top of it all, the kids were adjusting to a life with mom or dad instead of the life with mom and dad that they had always known. We never wanted our kids to suffer because of our decision, so it was heartbreaking to see them regress or act out and know that it was because of our actions. Those years were tough, but we got through and slowly learned a new normal. The kids adjusted and displayed an incredible resilience that helped them to settle into a new life.
Divorce changed almost everything about our lives: we had new homes, more financial adaptations, a different family dynamic. But one very small yet very significant fact remained the same, the thread that held us together even through the breakdown of everything else: my ex-husband and I are the only two people in the entire world to love our kids as much as we do. And that unites us forever, whether we like it or not.
This shared love slowly mended our family. As the days, months, and years passed, so did the anger and resentment surrounding the divorce. We moved forward as a divorced family, sharing custody of the children. We never sat down and discussed coparenting. We never made a verbal commitment to be the best coparents we could possibly be. It just happened. Before we knew it, we were sitting together on the sidelines, having dinner together twice a month, and celebrating holidays together — all because it was best for the kids.
Is it hard? Hell yes. It's very hard. The reasons we got divorced are still issues we deal with, and they always will be. We fight. (Kind of often, too.) Sometimes we argue loudly on the phone. Other times, we communicate through all-caps texts and lots of exclamation marks. But we still sit next to each other on the sidelines. We still have those birthday dinners together, and when the kids are around, those arguments get put on hold.
"Mom, we are so lucky because you and dad are friends. So many of my friends whose parents are divorced tell me their parents can't even be in the same room together." When my daughter said these words to me randomly one afternoon, I nearly spit out my coffee. Friends? Me and Dad? I never thought of him as a friend. I thought of him as my ex-husband, a coparent. But maybe she was right. Maybe he was a friend, after all. I guess it doesn't matter, either — what I call him, or for that matter, what anyone else calls him. Husband, ex-husband, friend, father of my children. What I know is that we both love our kids so damn much. And that love binds us together and always will.