Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another sweet addition to our family...we're "Co-Grandparenting"!

Stella entered the world on August 21, 2016. We love her!
One thing that Kipp and I never expected to be doing at this stage in our life was to be sharing in the joy of our grandchildren.

As the parents of two sons, we always hoped that one day we would be grandparents. But I never imagined counting on Kipp to be my liaison to these little ones.

Living in Texas with my husband has been wonderful in many ways, but it has separated me from Evan and Blake, who have settled in Brooklyn. Since Kipp and his wife Nilsa are only a few hours away, they have been able to see the boys--and the grandchildren--much more often.

When Stella Day Miller, the newest addition to the family, was born two weeks ago, I wasn't able to hop on a plane and be there to greet her.
But Kipp and Nilsa were...and he sent me a photograph of Evan holding her, which is the one request I had.

I'm so thankful that Kipp and I have remained connected through these many years--able to talk about our sons at every turn and junction, able to worry together when times were rough and able to celebrate milestones like the birth of our granddaughter together.

Stella is the first little girl in three decades of Millers--and we are all so happy and proud that she has joined our large, loving family circle.

May each of you experience the same happiness!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A different kind of Christmas

Blake enjoys a moment of reflection in the mountains of New Hampshire
Christmas 2015 Holidays are hard, as most families know. But this Christmas was different from any I had experienced since the boys were born. Blake, our younger son, spent Christmas with Kipp while Evan, Noelle and Wylie (our first grandson!) came to Houston.

Nothing is the same when one of your children is missing from the holidays. This year, though, I was grateful that Blake was spending Christmas with his dad. He was working through some personal issues that Kipp was more equipped to help him manage than I was. There were many telephone calls between the three of us so that I was kept in the loop. How common is that?

Parents who stay connected through their childrens' lives enjoy the benefit of understanding and talking about everything their sons and daughters are experiencing...through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and beyond. How thankful I was that although Blake couldn't be in Texas with me and his brother, he was in New Hampshire with his dad, stepmother and uncles for walks in the woods, time to reflect, and certainly an opportunity to work through the issues in his young life.

I hope that our blog reaches those parents who are conflicted about how to handle the child custody after divorce or the best way to communicate about their children. Nothing trumps staying in very close touch with your child's other parent throughout their lives, when troubles, issues and conflicts are bound to interrupt their happiness.

Kipp and I have worked hard to continue our close parenting relationship.

We hope that you will, too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Even when children are grown, a divorce can be devastating

My friend Holly is leaving her husband after more than 25 years of marriage. 

Because their three children are grown, she thought they would be more accepting of her decision. But they were not.

"Has something changed?" asked her son.
"How can you do this to Dad?" wondered her daughter.

Nothing had changed for a long time. Holly and her husband had been living in separate bedrooms for the past two decades. They rarely went out together or showed any kind of affection. But she knew not to share private information. Instead she simply said, "We don't have a relationship any more. Neither of us wants one."

Holly was surprised at her children's reaction to the news. After all, they had witnessed the lack of communication through the years. None of the kids were close to their father, and she expected they would understand. But they persisted with questions.

"Can't you two work it out?"
"What about your marriage vows?"
"I don't accept this."

All she could do was to listen quietly as their disappointment spilled out through anger and tears.

Divorce comes as an unexpected and unwelcome shock, no matter how young or old children are when they are presented with the news. All of us want to grow old with our family intact. But the reality is that many children have to deal with the pain of a relationship gone wrong. 

Regardless of the reason behind a couple's decision to separate, parents should be aware that their children will always grieve the loss of their family. Divorce brings children face to face with the failure of the two people they love most in the world. That's why some parents think that waiting "until the children are grown" to divorce will lessen the pain of a family break-up. Nothing can be farther from the truth. No matter what their age, children long for an family with a father and mother who love one another and will remain together regardless of the illnesses, financial problems, relationship troubles and other serious issues that stop them along the way.

Many couples decide that they don't want to compound the stresses that young children are struggling through in their younger years - taking the SAT test, applying for college, craving input from a caring mom and dad. Children are in desperate need of counsel from parents who are working together, regardless of their marital status. Unhappy parents often put their failing relationship on the back burner for this reason - "for the sake of the children."

But children are keenly aware of the distance and silence between their parents. You are not fooling them with an act of togetherness when one or both of you has decided that the marriage is over. Don't wait a lifetime to address problems, issues and silences that have divided you. Seek counseling alone or together. Make decisions that will enable you to be a capable parent, even through difficult changes. Your children are watching you. You owe them the truth.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Another graduation for us to share

Last week, Blake graduated from New York University with the Master's degree he has been working toward since his undergraduate degree in college. It was held on a Wednesday, which meant that I couldn't attend since I work full-time in Houston. However, Kipp was able to attend and sent me a play-by-play of the ceremony.

For those parents who haven't experienced a high school or college graduation yet, I envy you. It's a milestone that we imagine from the day our children begin kindergarten through the tough years and into college. "If they will just finish," we tell ourselves. Some may not take education as seriously as we would like...and some may drop out altogether. But when one of our children completes the task at hand, it's an occasion to celebrate.

I wish I had been able to fly up to New York City for Blake's celebration. But since work commitments kept me in Houston, I depended on Kipp to keep me in the loop. And he did, through text messages, emails, and this photograph, which he sent me on the day of the ceremony.

Once again, I'm very thankful for the close relationship that Kipp and I have maintained over the years. It has made possible a connection that engages both of us in our boys' lives, regardless of where we are.

An email that Blake sent to me says a lot about the evolution of our family over the years: "I'm feeling very grateful for the experiences you both made possible for me growing up. It's been a long road to where I am now, and I am very grateful for my parents who are as curious as I am. I love you both."

There's something touching about Blake's note to us, indicating that each of us--and both of us--helped Blake become the successful young man that he is today. I couldn't be more proud.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Present, Past, Perfect.

Tomorrow Evan turns thirty. I’ll give him $30 dollar for each year he’s been my son. It’s a tradition I picked up from my own father, although I think he stopped giving me birthday cash when I reached fifty-five or so. But that’s ok—by that time he had terminal cancer and was preoccupied with my mother’s health. She was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, and fading fast. Dad had his hands full. Even so, we had a lot of good “last laughs” together. We were close until the night he drew his last breath. Then, along with my brothers, I became my mother’s caretaker. She died nine days later, with me at her bedside.

What has this got to do with divorced parents? Well, I’m glad that my sons and I get along so well--and that I won’t die feeling that they don't care about their old father.

It’s a terrible truth that, in a lot of families I know, grown children want nothing to do with their older fathers (and sometimes, their mothers). While this isn’t a scientific study, I can tell you that most of these grown children are the children of divorce--and the divorces were bad ones...messy divorces where Dad more or less dropped the parenting responsibilities. Kids have long memories. Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds.

When Margaret and I divorced, we kept close to our kids, partnering together to do it. So it turned out that I wasn’t a part-time Dad as so many were and are. I had a presence in my children’s lives even when they weren’t with me because Margaret encouraged constant communication between the boys and me. I was included in everything that involved my sons, and I did the same for her. So we all stayed close. It wasn't always easy for Margaret and me to be together, but we made the best of it. And we're all very close to this day.

So now I’m on a train heading south from Vermont to New York City. Evan is going to pick me up at Penn Station. No multiple subway changes and stops for me to get over to Brooklyn. No cab ride (which would cost me about $30, come to think about it).

I didn’t ask Evan to come get me since it’s a huge inconvenience in a place like New York. And I don’t mind taking the subway. But he does this sort of thing for me all the time. Still, I don’t expect it. He does it, I know, because he loves me.

Being a close family is something Evan embraces—and I can say the same for our younger son, Blake. When you’re older like me, having grown children who want to spend time with you is priceless. And for those who don’t have that kind of relationship with their kids—whether or not it resulted from a divorce—the opposite is painfully true. That's something to think about if you’re in the beginning or middle phases of a divorce...or even long after the fact. As long as you’re still alive, there’s hope.

Thirty dollars--and a surprise: a briefcase that used to belong to Evan’s grandfather, Fred--who died when Evan was three. This was the canvas case Fred carried to work each day. For some reason I saved it after he died and the studio had to be closed.  Nobody wanted it, but to me it had value. I treasured that briefcase because the man who owned it had loved me like a son—not a son-in-law.

Evan never really knew Fred, but he loved to sit on Grandad’s lap. And two decades later, Evan later became a photographer, just like his grandfather. The briefcase is a part of Fred that I can now give to his first great grandchild. It will mean the world to Evan. I know he'll thank me for hanging on to a bit of his past that he never really knew.

More good memories made. The rewards of having children who love—not dread—your two-day visit to their home in the big city.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"One is silver and the other's gold"
Forging a friendship after divorce

Kipp sent this photo to me from the
hospital on the day our grandson was born.
Evan is placing his new baby in his brother's arms.
When I was eight or nine years old, and a Brownie Scout, we were taught a song whose message has remained with me through the years: "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold." Not every friend I've made since childhood is still on my Christmas card list, but many are...and I hold them very dear. Kipp is on that list, a fact that many people find odd, given that we have been divorced for longer than we were married. But through the years I have come to think of him not as my former husband but as one of my close friends.

It wasn't always easy. Creating new lives for ourselves after Kipp and I divorced was uncharted territory, but we instinctively knew that establishing boundaries was an important part of that beginning. For more than a year, except for the few moments during the week when the boys were leaving one of our homes and going to the other, we literally kept our distance. After having been married for 15 years, it was as strange as it was necessary.

Throughout that time, though, as we built new lives and formed new relationships—even fell in love with new partners and remarried—Kipp and I "kept the old" for the sake of our sons. We held on to what was inherently good about one another...what was worth remembering...what we valued in each other as a parent and as a person. It made our job as Evan's mom and dad so much easier, and it served as a way of letting go of the hurt and loss brought on by our broken marriage.

Last week, we each traveled to Brooklyn to meet our new grandson, one of the many gifts that has resulted from our marriage and the 20-year friendship that followed. Evan placed our grandson in my arms and I listened as Kipp whispered to him and touched his tiny hand. We marveled at how much he looked like Evan, how the widow's peak of his hairline must have come from Kipp's father. That three generations were able to share this once-in-a-lifetime moment and celebrate such a beautiful milestone was another we gave each other by staying connected through the years.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When the end comes...

You'd never think that the death of a friend would be relevant to my divorce. But you would be wrong. Earlier this year, my friend Peggy lost her life to cancer. She had three beautiful daughters, a loving husband, and a wide circle of friends. Peggy was a registered nurse and a dietician who lived more mindfully than most of us. In fact, she felt well—except for nagging headaches which didn’t subside even when she took the strongest medicine available. At last she saw a specialist...and an MRI determined that she had several brain tumors which had been growing for years.

Surgery alleviated the headaches somewhat, but the cancer was still in her body, and it would take her life. You would think that she’d be bitter, angry, despondent…or that her family would. But no. They told everyone they knew that Peggy would live one day at a time until there were no days left. After that, they would make the decisions about how to go on without her. And that is what they did.

When two people divorce and there are children in the mix, it is like an impending death. Decisions must be made about how life will go on afterward. There are a myriad of choices to make. Will you be bitter? Angry? Despondent? Will you, the parent, live out your days feeling sorry for yourself for what has happened, whether it was an affair, an illness, an addiction or something else that made you end your marriage? Or will you decide, as Peggy’s family did, to go with grace into the next phase of life? After the divorce, your children will need their parents more than ever. There is no turning back. Give them what they deserve. Everyone will benefit.