I cannot say enough how much I love and respect my mother. She is strong, loving and has loads of common sense. In all of the years I have watched her plow through obstacles, the one I can say brings me the most pride is of how she advocated for my siblings and I to have a relationship with our father. My parents’ marriage was . . . colorful. And while it may have started out with some good intentions, it ultimately ended in divorce. I have never found myself upset over their separation. And up to this very day, my brothers and I still agree it was the best thing that could have happened for all of us.
Although my parents’ marriage and the time after their divorce was rocky, my mother did not allow her perception of our father to influence her decision for my siblings and me to have a relationship with him. My mother never played games and never made up lies about us not being able to go out. She even let our father spend time with us at home. Any opportunity he wanted to spend time with us, he could. Did he take advantage of them? Not always. Nonetheless, they were there. Regardless of my parents’ feelings towards each other, our right to have a relationship with either parent always existed.
In divorce court, a message commonly floated to parents is that you do not divorce the children. There is no need for the parent-child relationship to be interrupted because of the parents’ inability, or unwillingness, to stay together. My mother prided herself on that message, and I respect her even more for keeping our feelings at the forefront of her decisions. I ask myself if I would be able to do the same. I like to believe that I would. My husband and I both know how it feels to not have a consistent father figure in our lives, and I could not imagine taking away my children’s relationship with their father out of spite. There are so many children in this world that do not have the luxury of spending time with an active and involved parent. Who am I to say, without a legitimate reason, that my children could not have a relationship with their father?
I believe this is why people who use their children as pawns bother me. The parent-child relationship is a delicate one that takes time to nurture and develop. Trust is key. When I hear about parents being denied access to their children, it hurts. Of course, it hurts the parent, but even more, it hurts the children. They unnecessarily end up in the middle of an adult issue and pay the ultimate price of a broken relationship with one or both parents.
Although it is not related to divorce, one of my favorite lines from the movie Hook came from the character Moira Banning. She says to her husband, “We have a few special years with our children, when they're the ones that want us around. After that, you're going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It's so fast Peter. It's a few years, and it's over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.”
Those lines have always stood out for me and I like to believe they stood out for my mother as well. They are a reminder of how fragile our time is with our children. It does go by quickly and if we are not careful, it slips right past us, along with our greatest opportunity to build strong relationships with our children. Parents are allowed to feel hurt. Parents are allowed to be disappointed in, and maybe even grieve, a lost relationship. However, it is unfair to take that pain and disappointment out on the children. What purpose does it serve? How does it change the way parents have behaved or interacted with each other? It does not. To take the approach that causing hurt is better than focusing on relationship building is to suggest the thoughts and feelings of children are irrelevant. I am not here to tell parents what they should do or to put parents down for their decisions. I simply know that such an approach would not be right for me. When a relationship ends it undoubtedly causes a riff in children’s sense of normalcy. Instead of making revenge seeking the intent, perhaps it should be ensuring children that their parents’ love for them is unchanged.
About the author: Latanya Muhammad is an advisor, group facilitator and freelance writer whose work has been featured on Blunt Moms. To read more of her writing, or to connect, visit www.shetanagain.com and Shetanagain Writes on Facebook.