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Erin Mantz

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No Manual for Navigating Milestone Moments

Posted: 06/27/11 04:56 AM ET

Today, I attended my six-year-old's kindergarten "graduation" ceremony in his classroom -- an adorable and emotionally-charged hour of the kids' reader's theater, award distribution and song and dance. My ex-husband attended as well, and all was well, as we each used our respective fancy cameras to capture the moments our son sang, read, and smiled over at us. But, then it hit me. Exactly one year from now will be our older son's elementary school graduation day, and that will be a lot tougher. So what if the divorce will have then been two years prior? As HuffPost Blogger Erica Manfred said so perfectly in The Kids Are Never Grown, "The fallout from divorce keeps reverberating over the years, with every new family event, every graduation, wedding, birth, funeral." I am just realizing this now.

Who will our son eat lunch with to celebrate after his elementary school graduation one year from now -- me or his dad? Or both? What about the big dinner out that night? Will everyone in my son's crazily blended families have to -- or be able to -- sit at one gigantic table for a nice dinner out that evening so neither parent has to miss it? Me, my partner, her kids (one of which will also be graduating from fifth grade that day), her kids' dad and his wife, my kids, my ex-husband, his girlfriend, her kids, my ex-mother-in-law, my mother and step dad and on and on it goes? Would any table be big enough, literally and figuratively? It may have to, because neither of us will want to miss out.

So far, it's been relatively easy to share our sons' birthdays, but these significant school and life-related events seem to be times too hard to break cleanly in half. How do divorced parents do it?

Then, I remember. Sometimes, they don't. As a child, I was one of those kids of divorce who had only one parent there -- my mom. I don't remember awkward moments at school events, plays and track meets with my parents post-divorce; there was simply no interaction, no exchange, no forced moments. Just some empty ones.

I recall a friend in high school whose parents were divorced and got along famously. Not only did they attend the same things, they sat together - with their new spouses - at my friend's school play, cheerleading performances, sweet sixteen party and more. They acted more than civil; they acted friendly. If I was amazed then, I am even more so now.

At the end of the day, how fondly my sons remember their important moments is most important to me. I will be there for them, and so will their dad. That is what they will hopefully remember. If such a big thing like that is promised, shouldn't there be a way to work out the logistics of meals, seats and hours? Surely, it can all be figured out and it's our job as parents to do so.

For the tens of thousands of dollars that divorce lawyers get, It's scary to think super-detailed marital settlement agreements don't account for everything. Sure, the holidays and summers are covered, but what about our kids' once-in-a-lifetime occasions? My kids are six and ten; there are hopefully many more joyous and celebratory times ahead of them. With the hundreds of books out there for divorced people, perhaps there is one that covers how navigate through things like kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school and college graduations? For readers who have been there, please share how you did it.

 

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