We spend a lot of time with our kids. It’s only reasonable to assume we know how they feel about most things. They feel the same way we feel, right? Uh, not really.
As divorced moms, one of the hardest things to read is our children’s feelings about their father. Some things you can see, but much like an iceberg, you’re just getting a hint of what lies beneath the surface. One of my little icebergs gave me a glimpse recently, and it wasn’t at all what I expected.
If you’ve been following along for a while, you already know that I love road trips. The kids and I take at least one a year to go home to the Wyoming/Nebraska area where much of our extended family lives. Well we just returned from such a trip and boy was it eye-opening.
As we drove, I reminisced with my 13 year old about past trips along that same stretch of highway, including the one his father & I took 17 years ago that led us into a relationship. I’ve always gotten the impression that the boys like stories about their dad. They don’t see or hear from him much, so I feel like they are longing for any connection, any tidbit of information that makes them feel closer to him. My son and I had a great conversation, leading me to ask how he feels about the situation with his dad. Usually this kind of question would elicit a one-word answer, but the timing was right and I got the truth, a lot of it. And what I learned is that I was wrong. My son’s feelings weren’t even close to what I’d assumed. And he shared feelings about his relationship with my husband as well. Enlightening.
It’s not necessary or appropriate to share exactly what he said. The point is, parental relationships are so complex, we just can’t assume to know how our kids feel. Nor can we control how they feel. That’s not our job. Our job in this area is to do 3 things…
– listen without judgement
– be a loving example
– pray for those relationships to be healthy
It may not be easy to do these three things, but doing them will ensure that no matter how your child is feeling toward the other parent, you are providing a safe place and and open door for communication.
And of course, remember that as your child grows and changes, so will those feelings. Sometimes from hour to hour! Hang in there and if they won’t open up, just get in the car and drive until boredom weakens their defenses.
(archived from Aug. 1, 2013)