by: Karen Stanton
Every story starts with a seed. An idea. The idea for the bookMonday, Wednesday and Every Other Weekend came to me in a word. Not a spoken word. A missing word. Henry Cooper and his dog Pomegranate are fictional characters. I made them up. But not without help. The two “characters” pictured below are not fictional, but they are characters in my REAL life: my nephews, Cooper and Henry.
Cooper was five and Henry was three when I took them to the beach along with my young son Will. At the end of the day, the question arose; where was I to drop them off? Their mom’s house? Or the dad’s house? This was a new question to all of us that summer. Here is where the missing word comes in…
Home. A word that Cooper and Henry had set aside since their parents’ divorce. I felt its loss too. And the seed for the story was planted.
I never set out to write a book about divorce. I am not divorced. In fact, Monday, Wednesday and Every Other Weekend is not really about divorce. It’s about finding home.
To write the story of Henry Cooper and his dog Pomegranate, I had to take my own emotional journey. I had to accept that divorce is painful and, as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t protect the people I love from pain. What I could do was to love my nephews, their parents and take the boys to their dad’s house or their mom’s house. Eventually, I accepted, I listened and I learned. Here are five things that I learned from my journey that may help parents and kids facing the adjustment to living in two homes:
1. Make a “new normal” asap. Everything may be turned upside down. The ship may be floundering a bit. Kids want to feel safe and secure. To know what to expect. In other words, they want everything to be normal again. As the fictional Henry realized when he visited “our old house, the place we all used to live together…” things can never go back to what they were. But there can be a new “normal.” Kids want a structure, a schedule that is predictable, reliable and regular.
2. Form a “friendly team”. No matter how parents feel about each other, in their dealings with their child, they will serve him best as a “friendly team.” Easy say, hard do, maybe. Okay, not maybe, for sure! Arguing about your child in front of her will make her think she did something wrong and feel guilty. Breathe deeply and form a friendly team (even if you’re faking it in the beginning.)
3. Hold the Drama please! Give your child a simple but honest explanation of why you and his father/mother are no longer together. Without details or drama. As in a good story, there is the action arc and the emotional arc. Kids are smart. Your child already knows the emotional truth at some level. The other stuff (drama or action) is better left off stage. Your child needs to love and be loved by both parents… without the drama.
4. Take time for play. Papa and Henry sing and make pepperoni pizza. Mama and Henry dance and eat perfect, golden flapjacks. There will always be time to answer email and empty the cat box. Now is a chance to create some new “traditions.” At Dad’s house we always eat sushi on Fridays. At Mom’s house I get to pick out my favorite movie on Saturdays. We always go to the library on Thursdays after school. We always walk the dog to the park together. Your child will never remember or appreciate that the house was clean or your work was done, but he will remember the time he beat you at Candyland.
5. Not so much talk. More listen. Kids talk when they feel like it, not on demand. When your child feels the need to talk or ask questions, stop everything and listen. Let him know that whatever he says is okay. Being heard is what we all really want. Listening to someone is another way of telling him that you love him.
My nephews have two homes, just like Henry Cooper and his dog Pomegranate. They have parents who love them and always will. Of course, it isn’t easy. It’s been several years and stuff still gets left at one parent’s house, communications break down. Stuff happens. But what is home anyway? It’s the place where the people who love you are. These guys are loved and they know it. Isn’t that the most important thing?