How did my kids handle the transition? Did I stop them from going to the JW meetings etc? How did they like their first Christmas?
Now, that was quite interesting, and it still warms my heart to think of the outcome. My kids were 8 and 11 at the time of our separation.
My husband at the time, would not allow me to leave with the children and therefore the only option I would have had (known to me at that time – I was quite naïve) would be to go to the Transition House (women’s shelter). Just a couple of months prior to this time, my cousin had to go to the Transition House as she needed protection and a safe place. My children and I went and visited her and my they both clung to me like glue. They were so scared and I have to admit, as beautiful as it was that this place was available for women who needed it, the energy there was pretty negative, no doubt due to all the fear from women who stayed there.
So, needless to say, escaping in the middle of the day while my husband was at work was not an option as I just could not bring myself to take them there. I loved my children too much to do that to them. Most people would have parents to whom they turn to under such circumstances, but not the case when your parents are JW’s and getting a divorce (except on the grounds of fornication) was against the religion. So, I left… without the kids – heart-breaking to say the least. I was pretty sure I would be able to get custody of the kids through the court system, which eventually I did, but that took 8 months and is a story in itself!
In October of that year, it was a joyous moment when the judge ordered joint custody with myself as the main caregiver. I was both excited and yet afraid at the same time as I was not sure how my ex would react, but all was fine, much to my relief.
So… our first Christmas… my daughter (just about 12 at the time) had said that she didn’t want to open her presents on Christmas day. I said to her, “That’s okay honey, Christmas morning there will be presents under the tree for you and you can open them the next day if you like”. I never wanted to sway their own beliefs or make them go against any of their own thoughts or feelings, but wanted to show them the other side of life and allow them to make their own choices.
Well… Christmas morning came, I woke up early that morning to a little boy standing quietly in my doorway. I will never forget that moment. As I opened my eyes and smiled, I said, “Good morning honey. What would you like?” He just kinda smiled and shrugged his shoulders in his little shy way. I said, “Would you like to go and turn the lights on, on the tree?” He nodded his head and immediately turned around to go downstairs. I followed and needless to say, he was pretty excited as he saw the gifts under the tree. As we turned around, there was my daughter, sitting on the couch with a huge smile on her face! So precious! What an incredible morning we had together – such a special memory!
At one point, probably within the first year, my daughter had said to me that she wanted to get baptized (as a Jehovah’s Witness). This was the only time that I discouraged her. I told her to think about it and reminded her that she was approaching dating age and that if she had sex with a boy, that her dad wouldn’t speak to her, reminding her that he didn’t talk to his own brother for 8 years. I was very grateful that she listened to that advice and to this day, she is too!
There were some entertaining times too - like the second year we went to get our Christmas tree… as we were at the boy scout tree lot looking for our 2nd tree (being sure to find one with a straight trunk this time) and all of a sudden, I hear my daughter yell out “Dad!” as both the kids run to hide in the midst of the Christmas trees. What were the odds of him driving by right at that moment!
The kids did their best to try to keep the “other side of the world” away from their dad knowing anything about it. I always allowed them to make their own choices when it came to the religion. Eventually they liked going to the J.W. meetings less and less, but didn’t want to hurt dad’s feelings.
I think one of the most difficult things that the kids had to go through was the fact that their dad would not talk to me as I had disassociated myself from the religion, so any communication had to go through them. I was always very flexible though when it came to him wanting to change weekends for J.W. conventions or anything of that sort. I tried to make it as easy as possible for them. I wanted nothing more than the kids to the have a beautiful relationship with their dad that they never had when we were together. It always warmed my heart as I observed the hugs as they went out to the car when he was picking them up. The relationship that has grown between them was worth my divorce in itself.
I am actually quite surprised the amount of memories that are coming back writing this blog. There were so many traumatic things that I went through… from being held captive in my home (for a very short period of time, as no one is going to keep me contained!) to my parents getting involved, from our child custody investigation which was not nice at all… to being told that “satan had control of me”, to being watched by the J.W. elders and to find them knocking at my door moments after I got home, from going to my parent’s house to pick up my kids while my ex was in their bed as he had hurt his back at work and they asked for their house key back… and as I was leaving, my dad (I was always a daddy’s girl) coming out of his shed and all he could say was, “Did you give mom the house key?”
I cried all the way back into town… no words such as, “How you doing babe? Is there anything we can do?” At a time when you need your parents more than ever in your life, they weren’t there. It was tough… but… as they say, that which does not kill us, will make us stronger.
There were days when things were pretty tough through it all, but I think one of the key points that I learned (on top of the strengths I gained) was that tomorrow is a new day with new beginnings and that we always learn something good from something bad and we may not realize it at the time, but down the road, we will look back and smile and realize the gifts that we have received from our trials.
A quote that may be helpful for all of us with these current storms that we are going through… “Our tribulations will be our triumph.”