A letter to you, on the day you decided to leave your marriage:
Congratulations. You just made a really, really hard decision. It’s something you probably agonized over for months, maybe even years. You likely shed thousands of tears. If you have children, you laid awake in bed at night agonizing over which would scar them most: a divorce, or a miserable marriage.
The day you leave is officially the first day of the rest of your life. My wise cousin told me, about a month into my separation, that my life hadn’t begun yet. Everything up until this point, she said, was about creating my daughter. Everything from this point forward is about creating my life. She was right. And I believe that’s true whether you’ve been married two years or twenty.
Today is the day you begin living for yourself. And, if you have them, your kids. Always put them first, and you’ll never make a wrong turn.
I’m not going to lie to you. This is going to be a hard road. At times, it will be incredibly liberating. Other times, it will be so miserable you will wonder if leaving was worth it. But you’ll know, even as you ask yourself that question, that it was. Absolutely, 100% worth it. You are brave. And, as they say, fortune favors the brave.
I have a lot of wishes for you. Things like confidence in yourself and your choices. The strength to not jump into another relationship until you learn how to be alone. Faith in yourself, your intuition, and a higher purpose. The ability to forgive and appreciate the gift that this experience is, no matter how awful it can be. And patience with the process, because it’s going to take awhile.
But you’re not ready to hear those things yet. This is your journey, and you won’t get to things like forgiveness until the very end.
So for now —pardon my language— fuck forgiveness. Be angry. After all, anger can be empowering, so long as it doesn’t go on for too long. Just don’t allow yourself to become a victim.
Learn how to make boundaries and stick to them – you’re not going to get over this unless you commit to yourself. You are no longer committed to your former partner. It is his or her responsibility to take care of him or herself. Take the space you need. Say what you want, and stick to it.
Call a therapist. If you don’t love that therapist, deep in your gut, call another one. And another one, until you find your therapeutic soul mate. No excuses. You can find yourself a sliding scale therapist. Commit to therapy for at least a year. Realistically, two, three, or even four years. Because even after you’re over this, you’re gonna love that therapist and you're gonna see your own potential.
Accept help from the people who love you, because you need help. I know it’s hard. You don’t have to accept help from everybody. But please, accept it from somebody.
Don’t rush the process. I know it is awful. It really is. But you can’t rush art, and that’s what this is. You are transforming yourself into something new and beautiful, and that takes time.
I have so much to say to you, but mostly, I just want to say this: Congratulations. You took the first step of a long journey, and I know you can finish it. Keep your head up. I’m on the other side now, and I can tell you this: it’s worth it.
So much love to you.
As adults, we know what responsibility is - after all, we wake up every morning with a household to take care of and bills to pay. Kids, on the other hand, get to play all day, act silly whenever they want to, and - last but certainly not least - they can nap. As their parents, we don't want to take the fun out of childhood...but we also want little kids that grow up into big kids who do their homework, help without being asked, and care about their future. So how do we help our toddlers and preschoolers turn into responsible grown ups? Here are 5 easy tips you can start today:
1. Start Young
Have you ever heard the term, "it's easier to build strong children than mend a broken adult"? Here's where we start building strong children, and you can start when they're toddlers. You can't suddenly spring responsibility on a crabby teenager and expect them to be open to it. Teach your toddler and preschooler how to get their own snacks, and you'll end up with a pre-teen who helps make dinner.
Photo courtesy ThreeIfbyBike on Flickr
2. Let Them Help You
Having a small child help you with the laundry or the dishes definitely makes it take longer, but it's worth the extra time. When kids are invited to participate in jobs around the house, they think it's fun - and they feel a major sense of accomplishment when they're done. They'll want to help with all sorts of tasks - and eventually they can take ownership of smaller tasks like setting the table.
3. Put Them in Charge of Themselves
Kids learn responsibility (and gain self-esteem!) when they know they're trusted to perform age-appropriate tasks on their own. Toddlers can get themselves dressed, set the table, and get their shoes ready in the morning. Preschoolers can do all that, plus go potty, brush their teeth, and set the table. The only problem is remembering what to do (and in what order). Set them up for success with a Routine Chart, like this cute magnetic one from Mighty and Bright:
4. Praise Them
Kids - especially little kids - love to help. And even more, they love to please you. Give them lots of positive feedback in the form of "I'm proud of you!" and "Thank you!" Make sure to praise them for specific actions, like replacing the toilet paper roll or setting out silverware at meal time.
5. Teach Common-Sense Consequences
Rather than time-outs, teach consequences that make sense to a kid. For example, institute rules that you can easily enforce (and stick to them!), which will help your child develop a sense of responsibility for his or her actions. For example, if your child wants to take out another project or toy, he or she must clean up the last project first. If they don't clean up, playtime is over. It's hard at first (oh, the tantrums!) but the more you enforce the rules, the more likely your child will clean up without being asked (or at least without whining about it too much).
No one is perfect - especially not little kids, who are just learning. But with patience and a commitment to the task, one day you'll end up with a kid who brings you breakfast in bed. Or at least, one can hope!
Featured Image courtesy Donny Ray Jones on Flickr