Keeping My Children Out Of The Middle
By Charlotte B.C. Teagarden
Almost five years ago I opened a file on my computer that was never meant for my eyes. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. In the file was a letter written by my Husband. His writing was effusive as he reminisced about the wonderful things he did — NOT with me but with HER – his coworker. This was a person he had brought to my home with her husband for a barbecue and introduced to our children. I read this letter over and over with tears running down my face trying to comprehend what was being revealed before my eyes. The lies I was told, work trips that were not actually work trips at all, places we had been together now held a totally different meaning for me. Many places I have never been to again.
As my heart was breaking, my sobs wrenched from deep within while my throat clenched, I kept saying how could he do this to my children, to me, to our family. My husband was now on a business trip – and yes you guessed it with HER. I had a hard time functioning over the next few days. It is hard to explain the heartbreak, bone-deep depression and loss I felt.
I left him a message – I found the letter… don’t call or come home. I was stunned when called me back, not asking for forgiveness but to ask me not to tell her husband because he had a temper. WHAT!!!! What about my temper? What about our Children? Disbelief ran through me – was this really happening to us?!
He came from a broken home too. He knew the pain it caused him as a child and now he was doing this to our children. The many times we talked about his childhood the one thing that hurt him most was being put in between his parents. His mom asking him to spy on his dad, feeling like he was now the man of the house and his childhood ripped away as he felt responsible for the household at a young age. I could not control or change what he did but I knew I was not going to make the same mistake. I would not put my children in the middle.
The one thing I did know – I was strong and no matter what happened next I would be okay. My children would be okay – I would see to it. I am far from perfect and I could not shield my children from everything even though I tried. I made a conscious effort to never talk trash about their dad. What purpose would it serve but to make them feel bad or even worse guilty for something that was not their fault? The times they were upset with their dad for missing an activity or for being in a bad mood I would say: “Remember your Dad loves you.” I have shielded and protected my children’s relationship with their father despite the pain it caused me personally.
When they are old enough my children will forge their own relationship with their father not as kids but as adults. Time will tell what that will look like. At the end of the day we are still their Mom and Dad, we are a family, we are their parents and that will never change.
Christy A. Zlatkus, Esquire from Z Family Law told me how she chose a tree as part of her logo: to remind families that they may be taking different paths (branches) in life but they are still a family unit. That tree needs to be nurtured to keep it strong. It does not need the weeds of hurtful words to strangle and kill the life within. I encourage everyone to remember putting our children in the middle will breed resentment – it will weaken our tree – our family. Take the high road nurture your tree, nurture and protect your children and most importantly keep them out of the middle. It is so very hard, but our children deserve the effort.