There are times when my friends who are also divorced can understand my mixed-up emotions better than my non-divorced friends. I have just encountered one of those times.
My ex-husband hasn't seen my kids for over nine months now. Today, he emailed me that he is unexpectedly in town and wants to see them.
I want to be happy that my kids will finally get to see their dad. And to some extent, I am. But at the same time, I can't help but feel like this is a disaster in the making.
The interesting thing is, my friends fall firmly into two camps on this situation. On the one side are those who are happy that my kids will see their dad. They believe that it's always best for kids to spend time with their dad.
On the other side are those who think this is terrible. They understand that it will be emotionally difficult on the kids to see him after so long, and they don't believe he will actually show up. They have good reason to feel this way. Over these past nine months, he has made arrangements to see the kids on three separate occasions, then backed out at the last minute.
What my divorced friends understand that my non-divorced friends might not quite get is that I am in both camps. I want my kids to have a relationship with their dad, but I don't want them to get hurt. I believe that it is good for him to finally invest some time in them, even if it is just a few hours, but I also know that those few hours will not make up for the pain of being ignored for nine months, and may in fact just rip the scab off a wound that was starting to heal.
So I am conflicted.
I have a friend who is a single dad. His ex-wife was uninvolved with his kids for several months, then suddenly re-entered their lives. One of his children was very hurt by being ignored by her for so long, and my friend had a very difficult time convincing this child to resume the shared custody arrangement. Finally, the child was persuaded.
The advice my friend gave his child was very good, and I think I need to give the same advice to my children. I need to tell them, "Give your dad a chance, but guard your hearts. Give him an opportunity to win back your trust, but don't give it too easily."
And then I need to let my ex-husband choose whether or not he will win it back.