We moved into a new area when our two sons were young. My wife became close friends with a neighbour who also had similar-age children.
When my wife was killed in a freak car accident on her way to food-shopping, our neighbour saw that I was in a fog of shock and loss.
On behalf of the women’s friendship, that neighbour took charge.
She hired a part-time housekeeper to cook and clean for us, and found reliable after-school babysitters to help out with the boys.
Every weekend she insisted that my sons and I join her, her husband and kids, for at least one afternoon.
She’d organize a picnic and games/sports at a park, a barbeque dinner at their place, etc.
As time passed, her husband joined us less and less, and 18 months after my wife’s death, I learned that the couple was splitting up.
Months later, we acknowledged feelings for each other.
One year after that, we decided to marry and we bought a new home together on a different street, but in the same neighbourhood where all the children grew up.
Ten years later, we’re still together but our children are divided.
My second wife has been beyond generous. She and her ex had divided their considerable assets equally and he took the large house while she kept the cottage and boat.
Now in their 20s, her children resent their “loss” of the cottage even though their father bought an even bigger one to accommodate future grandchildren, and a much larger boat. Those adult children lack for nothing.
But they refuse to visit their mother, which hurts her deeply.
My children know how much her help meant to all of us during that first terrible year of adjusting to our loss. They still thank her at important moments like their own graduations.
How can I get through to her children that their parents’ divorce was not my aim nor my fault? How can I convince them that their mother did not “abandon” them in favour of her now step-kids?
Loss After Loss
It’s easy to see how sad this current situation is from your perspective as a couple. But the reality I’ve seen through this column is that children rarely view their parents’ divorce in a positive light.
No matter the affluence that may exist, as in this case at the time of family break-up and still, children remember the shock, hurt and blaming from when the split happened.
Unfortunately, some carry those feelings into adulthood. Their anger may’ve also been reinforced by their father, especially if he suspected an affair (wrongly or otherwise) between you and his ex, before their divorce.
Instead of inheriting or modelling the generosity of their mother who helped out a devastated family after a tragedy, they see only the comparative square footage of cottages and the horsepower of boats.
You can only hope that greater maturity and raising their own children might bring greater acceptance and understanding.
Their mother, however, can maintain efforts to try for a re-connection, by communicating her ongoing love for her children on their birthdays and significant milestones.
Any gifts from her should be more meaningful than extravagant, since she shouldn’t try to compete with their father monetarily, as it’d only encourage the kind of comparisons that arouse further greed.
But she shouldn’t give up. There’ve been past stories in this column space in which a long-disaffected adult child suddenly re-visited a parent’s home.
FEEDBACK Regarding the 14-year-old daughter who screamed “I hate you,” in response to her mother’s pandemic protections of her (July 1):
Reader – “Someone should tell that mother that “I hate you” is evidence that she’s being a great mother.
“My two sons weren’t that dramatic but my daughter said it every time she didn’t get her own way.
“She’s an ordained priest today. She and her husband own a house that was purchased just for me to live in at a rent below their costs.
“I thank God that at times I was “the meanest mother in the world.” To me, this means that a mother cares enough about her child to stand her ground to keep that child safe.
“I guarantee that 14-year-old will thank her mom for being so strict many times over in the future and when she has a daughter of her own.
“Mine did. Now I’m “THE BEST MOM SHE EVER HAD!”
Tip of the day:
Children of divorce sometimes carry resentment/anger/greed into adulthood. Reach out unless it becomes unbearable.