In the months following our separation, the dynamic between my ex-husband and me was reminiscent of stale business partners. To keep our family operable, we were forced to run things by each other; things like finances and our shared son’s schedule. Our interactions were cordial, but brief.
However, the following year our relationship gradually began to change. Much like the way the earth shifts and settles, without one realizing it. The changes happened slowly and silently; yet making a huge impact on our blended family.
We began to sit together at our son’s sporting and school events, once in awhile grabbing a bite to eat after. Then we added birthdays and holidays to the mix. Rarely did a day pass without either of us texting the other. A friendship was beginning to form which not only benefited the son we shared, but our other three children (one his, two mine).
The following summer, my ex asked me to drive our son down to his campsite in San Diego. He suggested I stay the night to make the drive easier on myself. My initial reaction was a negative one. I didn’t want to put any of us in an uncomfortable position. Besides, wouldn’t this trip be confusing for our 8 year old?
After a few days of deliberating the idea with myself, I came to the conclusion this was about my son. We had spent many years camping together as a family and they were some of the best memories of our time together. Besides, just because the romantic side to our relationship had ended, didn’t mean our family had to.
Before I agreed, I spent some time talking to our son about it. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to get the wrong idea. I explained that we could continue to do things together as a family. However, that did not mean mommy and daddy were going to live together again.
It was a quick trip and went off seamlessly. We spent the day at the beach, played soccer then sat around the campfire and chatted that night. I found myself relaxed and free to fall back into the good things my ex and I had together – the laughter and comfort.
This trip was the element that opened the door for two more family vacations for us. We went to Las Vegas for our son’s football tournament last year. We split the cost of a car rental, gas and food. It was an added bonus that both parents were present to celebrate our son’s team’s victory in lieu of him having to try and share the excitement over the phone with one of us.
This past Spring Break, we planned an even bigger outing: a road trip up to our family cabin in Utah. I wrestled with some mixed emotions going into this trip. We planned on driving the 12+ hours together up to the cabin, that was bought during our marriage. There were a lot of emotions and memories I needed to sort out. But I agreed.
The morning of our trip, my ex pulled up outside our condo just after 4 a.m. Crawling into his truck was like crawling into a time machine. Foreigner was blaring on the radio, the cab was filled with pillows, blankets and bags of snacks. We slept, we ate, we sang and laughed. All the things you do on a road trip and all the things we did when we were married.
Once we go to the cabin, I stepped inside to a flood of memories. I scanned the kitchen and living room to see not much had changed. Above the couch, my eyes immediately fell upon the wildlife photos we picked up in Canada one year.
One of the photos was of a mother Polar Bear rolling around with her cubs in the snow and the other was of a lone Black Bear. The Black Bear was standing in the middle of a lake with a fish in it’s mouth. When we chose these two photos, we joked how the polar bear was me and he was the black bear. They became symbols of our marriage- I enveloped in the children as he spent the majority of his time out providing for us.
Dealing with my emotions and putting them aside were all worth it. Our boy had both of us here to shoot hoops, ride the quad and sled. He sat between us on the over sized couch as we watched movies and ate our favorite snack of popcorn and M&M’s . He was able to kiss both his mommy and daddy goodnight at the same time.
I have learned so much over the past few years. Marriages may not last a lifetime, but family does. I encourage anyone who has a good relationship with their ex to let your guard down and open up to making your own kind of family.
I couldn’t help but wonder if time would allow us another family vacation. I glanced over at the pictures of the bears, hanging opposite each other. I noticed how different the scenes were. The contrast between the two photos was imminent… yet these images still complimented each other beautifully.