How I am explaining divorce to my kid

I was 12 years old when my father abandoned my family and started the proceedings for divorce.

Honestly, this took place over 20 years (yes I’m that old) so I often forget this is a part of “my story” because I don’t let tragedy define my life.  Nevertheless, my oldest daughter is starting to connect extended family members to us and she’s curious.  I have yet to find a book explaining grandparent divorce in the past which is very different from parental divorce.  My daughter does not need to adjust to a big change in her life, but divorce is still a part of our family history and she is starting to understand the notion of couples separating and divorcing.

With all “big life” lessons, I stick to the truth and share facts with maternal warmth. Whether it’s explaining death, how babies are made and birthed, or what a tampon is used for, I don’t shy away from the tough questions or conversations.

The first conversation with my kid talking about family relations:

4 year old: “Grammy is Daddy’s mama and Bubbie is your mama. Pop-pop is Daddy’s dada and who is your daddy Mama?
Mama: “My daddy’s name is Bill*, but I don’t see him. He’s not with Bubbie anymore.”
4 year old: “Is he sick?”
Mama: “No, they just don’t live together anymore.”
4 year old: “One day my piggy’s mama and daddy didn’t live together anymore and he got a new mama and dada.”

*name changed

The conversation ended there. “Piggy” was Esther’s lovey at the time.  Whatever happened in her life reflected on Piggy.  For example, she got a haircut, so Piggy got a “haircut.”  This is just tells me she’s starting to understand people may not stay together forever.

About a year later my kid asked “Where is your dad?”

5 year old: “Where is your dad?”
Mama: “I’m not 100% sure, but I think he lives in [the state I guessed].”
5 year old: “Do you think he remembers you? I don’t think he remembers your name.”
Mama: “I think he remembers my name.”
5 year old: “Does he remember what you look like?”
Mama: “Maybe, but I was a little girl the last time I saw him.”
5 year old: “Should we Facetime him?”
Mama: “I don’t know his phone number to do Facetime, but I could show you a picture of him in a photo album. Would you like to see what he looked like?”
The end of the conversation (for now).

She’s putting the pieces together…

…as seen by her saying he doesn’t remember me (which I take absolutely no offense to).  I have no animosity towards my father or the life experiences created from the divorce because I don’t have the strength or energy to carry around that kind of anger and upset.  It would be like drinking poison and hoping the other guy dies.  It doesn’t serve anyone and to be honest, all’s well that ends well.  I am a half-glass full kind of gal, and the experience helped define who I am, what I care about, and what I want to focus on.  I have a really beautiful life and an amazing marriage, which is all I really want.  I’m not suffering and count my blessings often.

The fear I had was my daughter thinking because my parents divorced, she would think her dad and I would eventually divorce.

I did not want to plant the seed and let her think divorce is something we’re all destined for.  I no longer fear this leap in logic because she’s really just trying to put together the family tree and her grandparent’s divorce is only a broken branch, the trunk and roots remain firm.

I have thought about what I would tell her when she asks why Bubbie and my father don’t live together anymore (because I know the question is coming).  My answer is very simple; because they do not want to live together anymore.


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