BY CONNIE SCHULTZ
An Annual Reminder: It’s Your Divorce, Not Your Children’s
Such a happy month for countless families of young children who are already brainstorming who or what they will be for Halloween.
Lots of dragons this year, I hear, and superheroes. In our family of seven grandchildren, I will not be surprised if Peppa Pig makes an appearance, trotting alongside one of the pups of “Paw Patrol.” Ryder, maybe, or Chase. I expect a pajama-clad appearance from Woody, as is our family’s habit. We’ve watched “Toy Story” so many times in this joint that I can’t hear Tom Hanks’ voice without looking around for Buzz Lightyear.
There is no holiday less complicated and more fun for little ones than Halloween — unless you’re one of those parents who sees trick-or-treat night as round one in your endeavor to make an estranged spouse miserable for the holidays.
This column is written on behalf of the children whose lives you are about to ruin.
Yes, this separation or divorce has been beyond brutal.
Yes, the fault falls entirely on the diminished shoulders of you-know-who.
And yes, you love your children.
Let’s start with Allhallows Eve.
I’m sorry to be harsh, but for the sake of your children, I don’t care if the man or woman you once loved has betrayed every promise ever made to you and cackled over the pile of shattered pieces of your heart. If he or she is no danger to your child — as determined by an expert — and you are interfering with visitation or otherwise trying to poison that relationship, then you are violating the greatest trust of all, which is the one you owe your children.
I’ve written about this issue at the beginning of the holiday season for years, at the request of divorce lawyers, and domestic court judges and referees. I’ve noticed an uptick in this year’s number of requests, which is why this column comes earlier than usual. It would appear that political tensions increasingly are creeping into every crevice of family life. Let us acknowledge this, and agree that this bears no resemblance to an excuse for mirroring the behavior we almost universally claimed to abhor before the 2016 election.
If this is your year not to take your children trick-or-treating, another opportunity has immediately presented itself: You can model the behavior you hope to see in your former beloved, and create great content for your children’s eulogies at your funeral many years from now.
Help your kids with their costumes, if that’s one of your many talents. Or celebrate the other parent’s efforts to make your kids’ Halloween dreams come true. Honor the agreed-upon time for the exchange of children, and act happy about it. If I can pretend to like a stranger who has just suggested I inject Botox into my face to look better for my senator husband, you can pretend, for your children, to like the person you once promised to love until the day one of you drops dead.
Please don’t mistake my certainty about all of this as evidence of lack of experience. I was a single mother for a decade, starting when my daughter was just 7 years old. I know that it’s easy to be the model of class and grace when things are going our way, but that it’s quite another thing to pull it off when we feel alone and hollowed out. I also know, from direct experience and through interviews with countless families of divorce, that children grow up to be adults who will decide for themselves who was fair and who deserves to know their grandchildren. Please think about that if ever you’re tempted to make your child feel guilty for wanting to love someone.
You can be the parent your children want you to be.
This happy grandma is cheering you on.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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