There is a fascinating dialogue over at ye olde widda board right now dealing with remarriage and children. What’s fascinating is not the fact that the dissenters are invariably not remarried at present (or even interested in anything remotely heading in that direction like say, dating), but there are two camps of thought that butt heads regularly for the entertainment, more than the enlightenment, of others.
Camp Dissent believes that remarriage cannot take place without the full and unreserved blessings of one’s children – regardless of their age or agendas. This camp goes so far as to believe that any parent who doesn’t co-parent with their own kids shouldn’t have become parents at all. A child’s “happiness” is the measure of one’s parenting skills. Things like being smart, well-mannered and progressing towards full status independent adulthood are of lesser merit than a child who is pleased with life and his/her parents role in it. There is also a sub-set of this group that believe remarriage in general reeks of personal desperation and grief denial and that suffering – sometimes loudly – is the true mark of a good widowed person.
Camp Hitched is actually divided in their stance. Both believe that parents should be the ultimate decision makers in a family, but some believe that children’s discomfort with recoupling should be given full credence until they turn 18 – a magical watershed moment – while others believe that blending is a process that time, love and elbow grease can handle.
Like most charged discussions, this one quickly devolved into a dogpile on a single poster. Not that I feel much sympathy for the victim because she is someone who confines herself these days to posts on remarriage and never misses an opportunity to call out remarried widows as desperate settlers who don’t love their children, probably didn’t have good first marriages – hence their remarrying, and are just a divorce away from enlightenment, but the original topic of the thread – the tendency of extended family and friends to expect widows to stand still in time until they are ready to let go – got lost.
The one thing about marrying again I have discovered is that it highlights the disparities in the grief time-lines of all parties. Spouses and parents grieve daily. How can we not? Children are blessed with the gift of grieving in spurts – like they grow – but they are still in touch more often than extended family and friends who only have to confront loss occasionally. Family gatherings are excellent examples of occasional grief. Weddings, holidays and reunions highlight the absent sibling or auntie/uncle/grandparent who is little remembered on a daily basis because of distance and the tendency we all have to be caught up in the life we are living.
I have mentioned before that Rob’s in-laws have been wonderful. Though I hear about the difficulties they had and still sometimes have with his remarrying just short of the first year of Shelley’s death, they have been kind and welcoming to Dee and I. Shelley’s auntie, as an example, invited us to Christmas dinner that first year, and we have a standing offer of lodging whenever we are up towards Grande Prairie or out Vancouver way from a couple of Shelley’s cousins. They have never let their grief get in the way of Rob’s journey or imposed their opinions about what he should or should not be doing in terms of the course he took.
Our kids have gone through various stages where our remarriage is concerned. The older girls expressed concern at the “haste” with which we moved from dating to engaged to married”, but they never acted out. They voiced their feelings to their Dad only and they listened respectfully to his answers and he in turn reassured them about their concerns. In the end, they were the generous and wonderful young women I have only ever known them to be. They trusted their Dad, which goes to show that laying a good foundation with your children as they are growing up is really that important.
Dee never had a father in the active sense, and she was very young when Rob came into her life. She took to him immediately but theirs is still a relationship in progress and we’ve had tense times as they’ve adjusted, as I have gotten used to co-parenting – something I never had the opportunity to do with Will.
How do I feel about needing my children’s permission to make decisions about my life? I don’t need permission. I’m an adult. An adult weighs the options, looks at possible and probable outcomes and does the deciding based on what is best long-term for all. That’s how my parents did it. That’s how, I believe, all grown-ups do things.
The kids are alright in our family because the adults are adults who think and consider and act as a unit. A family is not a democracy. It is the out-growth of a marriage.