living a well tended life... at any age

just the three of us

This was written last month from a hotel room in Chicago, where I spent two days with Chelsea and Conor to look at a prospective college.

As I was packing for this trip I realized that it would be the first time I’d be traveling with just Chelsea and Conor in twelve years.

Twelve years.

The trip? Disney World, courtesy of my parents. My marriage had just ended two months prior, and I was slowly climbing out of the hole I had spent much of the previous year deep within.

What a year. In the course of nine short but hellish months, I watched my marriage (and, I thought, my life) literally unravel before my eyes, totally helpless to do anything about it.

And as much as it pains kills me to admit, Chelsea and Conor were not my top priorities during those dark months. Yes, they were fed, clothed and bathed. Basic needs were met, meals were served and routines were kept to. But emotionally? I was about a million miles away. It was as if every cell and fiber of my being was designated to keeping our family intact. Because the alternative was unthinkable.

Of course what I didn’t understand at first was that it was already too late. So I slogged through way too many days and weeks, in an effort to keep things going (and keep up appearances), even as the signs were neon bright all around me:

He was gone for Conor’s 4th birthday party.
He was gone most weekend nights and several nights during the week.
He was gone for his entire birthday weekend.

He was gone.

And so I slowly started to let the idea seep in that this might actually be happening – and what was it going to look like for me and the kids? And I started looking at my life with new eyes.

As a single parent.

And I began making changes – small ones at first – as a way of preparing myself. On the increasingly frequent nights that he was “working late”, I began cooking real meals again (I had been treating those nights as special occasions, getting take-out as a treat – and mainly because I was too slammed to deal with actually cooking).

And then there was the Friday after Thanksgiving.

We would typically spend that day together as a family, often going to the Botanical Garden train show. When he informed me that he would be gone for the day, my first reaction was to sit at home, put the kids in front of the TV and zone out.

But I realized that this was very well going to be my “new normal” – and I owed it to Chelsea and Conor to give them all the traditions and activities that they had grown accustomed to. So we bundled up and went to the gardens. Just like always. Now, this was certainly not the first time I was solo with the kids. But it WAS the first time that I was doing so as a single mom (even if only in my own head). And as I watched them scramble up the rock maze – just like always – I felt for the very first time that it was going to be okay. That WE were going to be okay.

And three weeks later I packed his bags.

And I think I’ve spent much of the last twelve years trying to make up for those horrible nine months.

I started small – like a return to home cooked meals every night.

And designating Friday nights “Dance Party Night” in the play room (with mostly Chelsea and I doing the dancing, and Conor playing alongside us).

And taking a trip to a place that was teeming with smiling, happy, intact families.  As I looked around and imagined how we looked to others, I realized that however scary and uncertain the future was, that just the three of us was just fine indeed.

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As it turned out, I got very lucky.

He spent the first year at his mom’s house, just a few blocks away. And for whatever differences she and I had, there was never any doubt about her love and devotion for my children. They had dinners and overnights in a warm and loving home, with home cooked meals and everything in its place. To this day I am certain that spending that first critical year there was key to helping them through a difficult transition.

I also went back to school for my Landscape Design certification. Having had this plan in place before my divorce, I was all ready to implement – something I don’t know if I could have done otherwise. I was able to jump right in and relish the promise of starting my own business and becoming financially stable. School was also an essential outlet for me emotionally, keeping me productive and occupied (and sane) during those lonely, scary first months.

And of course, I met Mike – who turned out to be my future husband and wonderful father to all of my children.

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So here I sit in this room, all these years later, looking at my two “bigs” – my two beautiful, smart, accomplished and REALLY nice kids. Who are no longer kids, but amazing young adults. They are good to us, good to their friends, and fiercely devoted to one another.

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Yeah – the three of us are okay.

And our favorite song on those Friday nights?

Perfect.

38 Comments

  1. Christa the BabbyMama on April 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

    As a child of divorce myself, I just wanted to pop in and say “Good job, mama! Well done!” Wish my own parents had been as thoughtful.

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Wow Christa – thank you so much for sharing that. Your words always mean a lot to me. xo

  2. June Pope on April 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Thank you for sharing Sheri. I went through something similar so your story really hit home with me. Your kids are so lucky that their mom is so strong and capable. You’ve done a wonderful job moving on and were rewarded with a beautiful ‘second’ life!

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      I am so, so lucky indeed – thank you! 🙂

  3. Mimi on April 8, 2013 at 8:41 am

    This made me cry with recognition. My husband left me when my little girl was a year old and my elder daughter was four. He left the day before Christmas. Till today, it kills me that I don’t remember anything about my baby’s first word, first step, all her firsts thanks to the fug of despair I was in for close to a year. A few years later, I remember doing a trip to Universal studios and my elder daughter refused to go on any of the rides cos we were the only ‘family’ that was without a daddy. So, yes, your story resonates.

    Today, I have two beautiful girls who have grown up to be my pride and joy and who are extremely protective of their single mum. I applaud you and your strength and say a prayer for all us single parents out there struggling to make sense of it all! Hugs. M

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Wow – thank you so much for sharing this – I remember my 1st Christmas “after” (it was only a few weeks after he left) – it was like an out of body experience. Fortunately a good friend invited us over so the kids could have a place to celebrate. It sounds like you did an amazing job with your 2 girls and they’re lucky to have a mom like you. xo

  4. Megan on April 8, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Thanks for sharing, it was a really open and thoughtful post and you’ve given your children a great example to look up to, regardless of where their paths take them.

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Thank you so much Megan – while you’re “in it” it’s so hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. You can only hope. I’m really lucky in so many ways. xo

  5. Leslie on April 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Beautiful kids and beautiful mom. 🙂

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

      Aww – thank you Leslie! xoxo

  6. Elizabeth on April 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

    I loved this post Sheri. My parents divorced when I was just four and it brought up a lot of memories and emotions for me. It sounds like you did things the right way, and have two amazing young adults to show for it. Nice work!

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

      I didn’t know that Elizabeth – thanks for sharing. I was hellbent on not having my kids wind up being “kids of divorce” – as if I had any notion of what that would even look like. But it definitely shaped the way I parented going forward. xo

  7. Jennifer Cullen on April 8, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Sheri, I love this post. I can totally relate to the feeling of being a “single mom” for a first time. For me, it was the summer of my separation, when I flew across the country with my two. A scary and exhilarating feeling. You’ve come a long way baby. And I”m happy to call you my friend. XO

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Of course I was thinking of you often as I wrote this. Love you too. xo

  8. Sandra on April 8, 2013 at 9:13 am

    It’s amazing what we can find the strength to do in the midst of everything going sideways. Lucky kids and lucky mom…

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Thanks my friend. xo

  9. Lisa on April 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Just when I thought I couldn’t admire you anymore than I already did, you go and write something like this. Thank you for being an example that ‘been there’ can be a beautiful ‘done that’. xo

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      “‘Been there’ can be a beautiful ‘done that’” – I LOVE that – and am totally stealing. Love you, thank you. xo

      • Ellen Monheit on April 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

        Sheri, thank you for sharing! You sound as though you have ALL your priorities straight!!

        • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm

          Thanks Ellen! 🙂

  10. Sue Geelan on April 8, 2013 at 9:39 am

    What a beautiful and moving post, Sheri. It literally brought me to tears. You are an amazing woman and have done such a fine job raising your beautiful children. You have much to be proud of. xoxo

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      And who could relate to this better than you my dear? Thank you! xoxo

  11. Caroline on April 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I love you Sheri!! This was absolutely beautiful.

    I am divorced too as I know you know, and although we did not have children together it was still such a hard time for me. Your words brought up a lot of that emotion.

    I can see in the beautiful smiles of your children’s faces (and yours) how happy everyone is. I admire you so much and think you are such an awesome mom.

    Love, Caroline

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you so much Caroline – when people would say that it was a shame that we had children together I would all but shout – NO!!!! Those kids were my everything – my reason to get out of bed, go back to school – survive. They were the best thing that ever happened to me. xoxo

  12. Sarah on April 8, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Gosh. Jeez. Wow. Sheri. My friend. You know how to tell it. Such a tough read (in a really good way)… makes me wish I had a momma like you during my own parent’s divorce. It would have made the experience that much less painful. So insightful and wise and now, years later, to be able to reflect back on such a dark period of your life with such poise and grace. YOU, my friend, are amazing.
    Thanks for sharing.
    xo
    S

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Right back to you Sarah – thank you so much – when I hear feedback like this from someone like you – smart, accomplished, so, so together – I know that what I hoped for Chelsea and Conor all those years ago is possible. xoxo

  13. Peg on April 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you for that beautiful post.

    I love happy endings…( and happy beginnings).

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks so much – me too! xo

  14. Jill V. on April 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    This, my friend, is why I love you so!

    xoxo

  15. Melanie on April 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Beautiful story. You are such a talented writer. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. xo

  16. Jen on April 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Sheri, this is beautiful. You are beautiful. Your family is beyond. xo

  17. sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Jill. Melanie. Jen. My “girls”. Thank you so much – this group is probably why I even THINK that I can and should keep at this. Love you all! xoxo

  18. Lisa on April 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Sheri, what a touching story. You are such a strong and beautiful woman – how lucky your kids are to have a mom like you. xoxo

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      Thank you Lisa – I feel like I’M the lucky one to have them. xoxo

  19. Maggie May on April 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    My favorite post of yours so far. So uplifting to see lives change and the fear and then the beautiful horizon and now. great job, momma.

    • sherisilver on April 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Thank you so much – you made my day! xoxo

  20. Deirdre on April 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I loved this Sheri. My parents separated when I was 10 and divorced when I was 13. I, too wish that they had wondered more what it was like for me and made more of an effort to keep some things as sacred and add new traditions too – I grew up with few. You did such an amazing job with your kids to continue to be there for them even though you were going through such trauma, and that they turned out the way they have is a testament to your dedication. I only hope I can be as good a mom as you even without the heartache!

    • sherisilver on April 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Oh my Deirdre – thank you so much for sharing this. You have so little perspective when you’re in the midst of a crisis. You’re just trying to survive. Yet there was never a moment when keeping my kids’ lives as normal as possible was not at the forefront for me. For you to acknowledge this the way you just did means so much to me. Thank you. xo

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