sign up to our online magazine
It’s been a long time since my divorce. Seventeen years to be precise and that old cliché, time heals all things, comes to mind as I think back and find I remember very little about it. There is one thing though that always stands out in my memory. My children were aged 10 and 13 at the time. And I would NOT send them on holiday to their grandparents by themselves.
We lived in Johannesburg and the rest of the family, his and mine, lived 870 odd miles away in the Western Cape region of South Africa.
As usual with a divorce, a circle of influence reaches far into our lives and into the lives of others, no matter how far away they may be. Grandparents, uncles and aunts did not feature in the day to day care of my children. We saw them on holidays only, every two or so years when the children and I would go and visit.
My family was never very fond of my ex husband. I would say they tolerated him. There were never any scenes, but from the questions and comments over the years, I could tell that they were not too keen on his way of being and doing. I on the other hand, was the favoured daughter-in-law. Though given the divorce I expected this to be short lived. I also knew what being the least favoured daughter-in-law might entail, but at 870 miles away, I could live with that.
Both sets of families were supportive in their own way and accepted the situation after re-assurances of how we’d manage things afterwards and that they would continue to have contact with the children. Both his parents and mine extended invitations to send the children down during school holidays so I could have a break and they could see more of their grandchildren.
It was very kind of them and I appreciated the offer. I doubt I ever explained to them why I did not take them up on that offer.
It was just that, in my own mind, I put my foot down. No way was I going to send my children down to Cape Town by themselves. I was not going to expose my children to derogatory remarks about their parents if I could help it. So I vowed that until such time that I could be sure that there would be no criticism of their dad from my family and no wiping the floor with me from his family, the children would not visit on their own.
I had made it a point not to criticise or talk badly of their dad in front of the children. It was important to me that they should not be exposed to this kind of behaviour from other people either, especially their grandparents and family. Of course, you cannot protect your children at all times, but I was determined to minimise the impact of ‘your mother is ... bad’ and ‘your father is ... bad’. Children feel guilty and hurt enough about the situation without adding to their misery, even if it is unintentional. There’s no telling what harm even a throwaway comment can do.
So what did I do? I continued as usual, taking the children down to Cape Town every two years or so, visiting both sets of family - and I stayed with them. When I was around, I could moderate or steer conversation from derogatory remarks about their parents. Eventually, the children DID go on their own. It came about naturally. By then the perceived ‘danger’ was long over and they were old enough to make their own decisions.
Riana specialises in Transition Conversation Skills, teaching strategies and skills for holding those difficult conversations when your life goes through turmoil, whether it’s divorce, redundancy or anything else where the conversation seems to assume a life of its own and before you know it, it’s in control, not you. See more information at www.rianaavis.com.
Riana is an exhibitor at the SOS event in Guildford