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I sometimes hid under the covers at night when I was a kid. Not because I feared a monster in the closet, but because I imagined what would happen if my mom and dad ever divorced.
Mind you, my parents just celebrated their 47th anniversary in July, so they're doing fine now, just as they were when I was a little. But a generation or two ago, divorce was the stuff of Lifetime movies (and not the Lifetime movies where a couple divorces and then one finds out the other was a serial killer. No, just being divorced was enough to be the subject of a entire TV event).
Back in those days, if your parents weren't together, you'd probably only see your dad for a Chinese dinner on Sunday nights, or a few days a month, if ever. Your mom would smoke cigarettes at the kitchen table all day long with a cold cup of coffee by her side. The look of resentment in her eyes would be all she could muster up to serve for dinner.
That's not to say there aren't divorced families in the present day where one parent is mostly or totally absent. More than ever, though, you hear stories of evolved exes who do what's right by their kids—not just what's right for themselves (or even, more simply, what's next).
Shannon Newman recently posted a photo on Facebook of her with her husband of 11 years, Chris. Both of them are smiling excitedly, their heads are tilted towards each other. You can imagine from their lightness they've just done something fun or planned something wonderful.
They'll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or spring play, because we'll be sitting together.
Then you read the caption on Shannon's photo and learn that, in fact, the photo was taken just after filing for divorce:
"Here's Chris Neuman and I yesterday after filing for divorce! But we're smiling?! Yep, we're kooky like that. Are we smiling because the partner we chose for forever turned out not to be the forever partner we needed? Of course not. We're smiling because we have done something extraordinary (we think anyway!) We have respectfully, thoughtfully and honourably ended our marriage in a way that will allow us to go forward as parenting partners for our children, the perfect reason that this always WAS meant to be, so they will never have to choose. They'll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or spring play, because we'll be sitting together. They won't have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we'll be sitting on the same side of the aisle - THEIR side. We have struggled, but we have succeeded in the plan we came up with together, to come out on the other side as their two parents who live in two houses who give them two teams to love them up two times as much. And now that you know it's possible - please consider our way if you find yourself on this road, or share our message if we can help remind them that it's possible to love your kids more than you hate/distrust/dislike your ex (which we have felt at times on the journey but for the record we do actually like each other). Nice work ?#?teamneuman??#?divorceselfie?"
The photo, which has been shared more than 30,000 times on Facebook, comes after the exes "struggled to come up with a parenting plan," according to Fox6Now.com, although "they made it work for their [two] children." They clarified to Canada's Global News they weren't celebrating the dissolution of their marriage, but "commemorating the accomplishment of a goal that we worked really hard to reach."
The Neumans had been separated for nearly four years before divorcing. Perhaps just as important as their message of putting the kids first is being honest about how it can be a struggle—and, sure enough, Shannon said they endured "sadness, disappointment, heartache, confusion, guilt and shame."
While surely divorce is still hard on most kids today as it was when I was a kid, it's heartening seeing how more of an effort is being now made by parents to show their kids their future will be full of kindness and respect all around—which will likely lead to fewer kids cowering under the covers and more understanding that the road ahead will be explored together with the shared goal of a loving destination.