December 14, 2010

{Should a father apologize to his daughter about his divorce?}

As Raka crossed seventeen and gently started to move with confidence to adulthood, she and I have been more open about life and our past. Raka has been talking about her challenges in friendships and her occasional insecurities about performing at her peak during a sporting event or academic testing. As Raka talks, I listen. Even though I empathize with her struggles to be better, deep inside I say “You are so cool girl. I really wish I were half as cool as you, half as wise as you, and half as caring about others as you are when I was your age.”  

Over time I started sharing my own regrets and challenges with Raka.  It started with explaining how my social circle shrunk completely after my divorce which occasionally can make me quite lonely. She listened and gave me a hug. Then one day we were talking about regrets and I finally told her that my biggest regret is that Raka is growing up in a divorced household. Raka tried to coax me and said, “Dad, I am better and stronger because of the divorce. You and Ma are each better because of the divorce.” 

I knew she was simply being nice and trying to pacify me. I asked her “how can you say that the divorce made you stronger when you still feel the pain?  How can you say that this was the right thing when you hide pictures of you with your mom and me together in your room?”

Raka was quiet. I was in sharing/preaching mode. I went on to tell Raka, “ Baby, I believe when two adults get married they can do whatever they want… until they get have a child. After a child is born, it becomes essential for each parent to redefine their identity as ‘Raka’s Dad’ and ‘Raka’s Mom.’  I think that understanding that the smallest distractions can, over time, result in a divorce which will change a child’s life forever, should guide parents in their actions on a daily basis.” 

Then I stopped to see that Raka was doodling on a piece of paper.  I was not sure that she was listening.  But the moment I stopped, she stopped doodling and looked up to me.  “Baby,” I continued.  “Think. Divorce is one of the only acts in life when two adults fail at something (in this case it is a marriage), but get to move forward with hardly any consequence. The consequence is borne entirely by the child as a life sentence.”

Today when I think back, I completely agree that a divorce is better than a bad marriage, but that is looking at life selfishly from the adult point of view. Should two parents, when they are blessed with the most amazing gift of all, a child, not strive hard every day to be the best parents they can be, and in the process keep the marriage together?

These thoughts and discussions of course made Raka wonder if I would like to get back together with her mom. I raised my eyebrows when I was asked the question.  I think by not answering I told Raka “not in a million years.”  I also realized that talking about what is the right thing to do is easy, but walking the talk is where the challenge is.

I feel bad and hate to think this candid discussion rekindled any hope in Raka to have a unified home with her dad and mom. 

Sorry baby.  I did not mean to hurt you, again!
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