Solution Lady: Ex-Spouses, Anger and Kids
Parenting: Getting Angry Doesn’t Work, but Talking with Your Kids Can
After your marriage fails and you’ve gotten a divorce, you sometimes wonder how your children are affected by your choices. You wonder if you coped with your divorce well and if you helped your children cope well. It makes you wonder about your parenting skills.
I received information lately that made me wonder about this — and it made me angry. I wanted to allow this anger to fuel my writing so I started to write using foul language, the language that I used when I talked about the situation. I thought that my son was following in my footsteps, and it had me so worried that I couldn’t think straight. I was afraid that he may be messing up his life, like I thought I may have messed up mine. I thought that his behavior or what I assumed to be his behavior reminded me of mine, years ago.
Yet I knew that I wasn’t responsible for his current choices, whichever they were and I kept this in the back of my mind. I got upset, then worried after I heard from his dad what mess he had gotten himself into. I immediately thought that he was behaving like I did when I was his age. I just wanted to give him a hard time, but knew that if I went there, he’d shut me out completely. I didn’t want that. So the only way around it was to talk about it to a friend, to write about it and to let it go to the Big Guy. I needed to process it.
This information triggered many reactions. I went from anger, to blame, to acceptance, to finally realizing that the information I received was only hearsay. I did not speak to my son directly. The only facts that I had was what he had told me on an e-mail and I certainly wasn’t angry with that information. The fire was fueled by information that I received from a third party, his dad, my ex-husband. I started to wonder, again, just how much influence my old ways had had on my son. He’d had seen me with so many different men over the course of his life. I didn’t know anything about healthy boundaries when I was raising him.
In any case, it triggered something in me. It brought me back to the affairs I had, to the reasons why, to the excuses I made, to the lies I told, to the needs that I had, to the shame and guilt that I carried with me, for years. It was a dark secret that I had only shared with a few, years after it had occurred. My son’s father had told him about it when he had been drinking one night. I had intentions of telling him at some point, when I was ready and when I felt that he’d be mature enough to understand.
My choices and behaviors in the last few years have certainly improved. Even though the behaviors remain a thing of the past, the old thoughts resurface on occasion, and stay for long moments, at times, especially when I have a few drinks. I’m very well aware of when they hang around, and I do think about them. The difference now is that I make a conscious decision to not allow my thoughts to express themselves as actions.
When I get stuck with a thought that could lead me to doing something that I’d regret, I follow a simple process. I know now that this process has a clear start and a clear ending and that it must be completed to move forward. I learned, over the years, that when I get one of those thoughts that I must journal and pray. I ask the Big Guy to help me get through it and to give me the courage that I need.
It’s a different process than the one I took to move forward from the angry thoughts I felt when I heard the news about my son. I know that when I’m feeling anger and frustration, I need to reach out to someone I know that will allow me to speak and be heard. I reach out to my friends, one in particular who has a spiritual side. I then write about my feelings in a journal.
When I get in touch with my spiritual side I always come to understand that, at the end of it all, the matter is out of my hands. My son’s life and his decisions do not belong to me and the only thing I can do is to be there for him when he asks, and to support him with the decisions he makes. I can tell him that I don’t agree with some of his choices but the bottom line is that he’s going to do what he wants to do and with what he knows now, just like I did when I was his age. My son is not me. He has his own path to walk, his own journey to discover, his own mistakes to make, his own lessons to learn and his own decisions to live with and I trust that the Big Guy will help him along the way just like he’s helped me to get to where I am today.
I love my son and sometimes I wish that I could go back to change some of the things I’ve done or not done that has influenced him, but then I remember that I am me simply because that’s exactly who I’m intended to be today.
Update: He called. We chatted. After a bit of gentle prying and in a calm and loving way, we talked about the ‘mess’ he had gotten himself into. I offered my suggestions and opinions. There were certain things that I felt needed to be said, and others that needed to be kept to myself, but at the end of it all, I disclosed just enough to get him thinking about his actions now and in the future.