We told the kids on the 30th. I found it incredibly difficult to fall asleep and probably got 3 hours. We’d agreed to tell them around 10am, when everyone would be awake and have eaten breakfast.
I’d recently installed Dragon Age: Origins, which I’d purchased during a Steam sale, so I finally loaded it up and messed around killing time on the game, mostly fiddling with sliders during character creation.
I stopped playing around 30 minutes before it would be time to tell them. At that point, if I were capable of having panic attacks I’m pretty sure I would have been having one. I felt physically ill. I alternated working on my breathing with muttering profanity under my breath.
My husband let me handle the announcement. I’m sure he was happy to let me look like the bad guy. I reassured them it wasn’t their fault, and kept the explanation short and sweet – their dad & I weren’t happy living together and a marriage shouldn’t keep going if people can’t be happy. The kids and I all cried, even V, my 15 year old. They didn’t say much.
V had stretched out on the floor when we first called them out, and he was the first to get up, heading to his bedroom without saying a word. The look of devastation on his face and in his body language was hard to witness. I let him go, though, knowing he would probably need a little time alone. The rest of us disbanded after that, too. B went back to his game, N went to her room, and C asked her dad to play chess.
My husband and I each reached out to the kids, separately, to check on them as the morning progressed. I was kind of surprised that there were few questions asked, but it’s possible with the reassurance that they’d be living in the same place and staying in the same schools that nothing much had come to mind.
Thanks to advice from redditors that we have some kind of family activity planned, I’d suggested a family trip to Indy’s Nine Lives cat cafe, a place my husband takes our daughters on occasion. It would be a peaceful distraction that the whole family could attend. I figured even V might enjoy that. We were there from 3 to 5pm. The first hour V was still looking dazed and sad, but even he relaxed and started enjoying himself by the second hour.
We went home, had supper, and then watched Jumanji 2 for movie night. B and C had bounced back the fastest and seemed almost normal. C I’d expected – something like divorce isn’t going to feel emotionally real to a 7 year old if nothing is happening right this instant. B’s resilience was a bit of a surprise. He’s 13 and a thoughtful, sensitive kid – but it’s possible his previous practice wrestling with difficult topics gave him a leg up compared to his siblings. N and V were still a little sullen and somber but doing much better. B, N & C all expressed affection towards both of us. V is not a physically affectionate teen, so his standoffishness was in character.
As the movie progressed, things managed to feel pretty normal. I’d like to think we made the day as easy and painless for them as possible.
Today there’s still some residual sadness to be spotted here and there, but they seem to be acting pretty normally, still. I haven’t been asked any more questions.* (I was told that kids tend to be pretty self-focused – as long as they feel their needs will still be met, they adjust more smoothly and won’t necessarily have much to ask.)
That morning, after having told them, I’d posted a short announcement on Facebook. My husband did the same. I’ll admit as we passed into afternoon a new feeling joined the sadness I felt for my children – and it was something akin to fierce, angry joy. Now it’s known. Now it’s public. You don’t own me.
*While still working on this entry, B, my 13 year old, asked me about holidays. Would we still spend them together as a family? I told him I wasn’t sure. I hoped so, but sometimes people have bad feelings because of a divorce and don’t want to be around each other. I could only answer for myself, I couldn’t answer for his dad. I then made sure to hug him and assure him we both still loved him and reiterated the divorce had nothing to do with him or his siblings.