By Jackie Pilossoph
I don’t know a child on earth who doesn’t love a good bedtime story. Having both a boy and a girl, I have told stories about princesses in pretty dresses and wicked witches, as well as wild train rides, space voyages and ninjas. However, I want to talk about the best bedtime story I ever told my kids, and a story I think all children of divorce deserve to hear: how mommy and daddy met.
If you are a woman, you remember the exact day you met your now ex, the place, who you were with, and even what you were wearing. The details of that first meeting never fade.
So, regardless of how much you hate your ex now, what he did to you during and/or after the marriage, and even if he cheated on you, the fact is, you have a “Once upon a time story” with him that will always mean something to you, whether you want it to or not.
You might not want to think about it because it’s too painful. You might want to block it out because he turned out to be a completely different person than you thought he was. It may disgust to recall the memories of those passionate kisses that took your breath away, only to see him now and be completely repulsed to the point you might throw up.
But hear me out. Let yourself remember the story, and tell it to your kids. In fact, tell it to your kids over and over and over again. Why? Because I did that and it made my daughter so happy, it was beautiful to see.
One night, she was lying in bed, and she asked me to tell her a story. I’m not really sure what made me choose my “Once upon a time” story with my ex, but I began telling her about the first time her dad and I met, and I went into all the funny details about meeting him and what I was feeling, and how he asked me out, and even the first time we ever kissed.
Telling that story to my daughter didn’t make me upset or angry about the way things are now. What it did was bring me back to a time in my life with him when we were truly happy and in love. And that was nice.
Even more importantly, it made my daughter so happy, I almost cried. I could see the excitement and anticipation on her little face, I could see her hopeful expression, the joy in her eyes that her parents really did love each other at one time. She wanted to hear the story over and over again, and I’ve probably told it to her about 100 times since.
I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist, but what I can tell you as a mother is, kids want to hear that their parents were once in love, and that they loved each other enough to actually have babies together. They want and need to hear that there was a time their parents connected and acted completely differently than they do now. I think it makes them feel more loved.
Don’t you think kids get tired of seeing their divorced parents fight? Even if you never argue in front of your kids, there’s a feeling they get. Every time you don’t say hello to each other, every time you use that formal tone when you are telling your ex something, or when he uses that tone with you.
I am constantly watching my kids’ faces when my ex and I are in the same room, at school and sporting events. They are absorbing everything, including the hostility that is so apparently in the air, at times.
So, in telling them your “Once upon a time” story, they will get a sense of that love between the two of you that’s always missing now.
When they hear that you adored your ex’s beautiful eyes, it will make them think THEY have those beautiful eyes, too. And when they hear that your ex said he loved your laugh, they will realize that THEY love your laugh, too. And when they hear that you and your ex once stayed up all night talking, they’ll understand more why they were born.
If you were a kid, wouldn’t it mean everything to you to hear those things? Wouldn’t it be a nice, refreshing break from the constant animosity that sadly enough is part of their everyday lives?
So, please, put your current feelings aside, and tell your kids your “Once Upon a Time” story. I promise you, if you tell it over and over again, and compartmentalize that from what you feel today, not only will your kids benefit, but you too have a better chance of living happily ever after.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her websites, divorcedgirlsmiling.com, and Divorced Guy Grinning. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph is also a regular Huffington Post divorce blogger. Additionally, Pilossoph writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially” in Sun-Times Media local publications, and is also a features reporter for the publication. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. She lives in Chicago with her family. Oh, and she’s divorced. Learn more: Divorcedgirlsmiling.com