“How are the kids?” “How are the kids handling it, er, everything?”
As you can imagine, these questions have come up a lot over past almost-four years. And if you’ve gone through any kind of marital strife and have kids at home, you know what I mean.
Looking back, it breaks my heart that they had to endure what they did but at the same time, what they experienced has changed their world view and exposed them to the realities of abuse and its repercussions, and the in-your-face reality of marriage itself.
Both kids are very wise, old soul-type kids. We’re extremely lucky but maybe luck didn’t play a role. After all, I like to think maybe they picked us to be their parents long before they came into the world.
For most of their lives, until 2014, they knew Scott and I to be a couple that rarely argued and were put on a pedestal as a couple other couples wanted to be, despite all the financial and health-related issues we endured. The split shocked them both, from what they have said.
They rode the waves. They wanted us both to be happy, ultimately. They saw Scott and I argue on occasion (not heated, just rational arguments) in the beginning of our separation but mostly they saw us being kind to one another.
What I now know was super hard for them was seeing their mom change.
I was always the happy mom, until 2014. The mom who would be silly and loved to laugh, yet they also saw me tackle the business world, forge paths in male-dominated industries, and succeed on national TV when I won an investment deal on Shark Tank. They saw a kind-hearted mom who helped others but who would also stand up for herself, her kids, and her family.
After the initial honeymoon phase of my relationship with my ex (otherwise known as “Love Stage”), I became a woman who walked on egg-shells. Both kids were really open to my ex—although both have said, with reservation. I think they clung to the moments when they would see me happy with him, but it wasn’t my state of being like it was in my life pre-2014. I would notice little things like Grace would be quick to come to my defense about whatever was brought up, if she perceived he was slighting me, even jokingly.
I will never forget one particular night. My ex and I were upstairs talking about something that had transpired with our furniture business and I was clearly not living up to his expectations. In his mind, I had let him down by not supporting him enough. In these situations, I would try desperately to make him see my side and how much I was truly supporting him, which led to an argument. It would normally go like this: I do something "wrong"; I try explain which he takes as excuses; he gets frustrated and loud; I start to cry and apologize; and the cycle repeats.
This time, my kids were downstairs. They—at ages 18 and 14—had come to spend the night with us. They heard it all. I was mortified and emotional. I pulled myself together and went back downstairs. No words were spoken. Noah got up from the couch, walked over to me, and opened his arms. All 6’2” of him just stood there and held me. I felt such guilt for not being the strong mom they grew up with—for exposing them to this type of abuse, which I didn’t see as abuse at the time but knew it wasn’t right. After we hugged, I sat down on the couch between them. Grace and I held hands. We just sat there watching God-knows-what on the TV and I apologized to them for having to hear what just happened upstairs.
I’ll never forget the shame I felt on every level. They were not used to this kind of interaction and here I was bringing it to them. If you’ve gone through any kind of narcissistic /emotional/verbal abuse, did you feel the same way?
A few months before we split for good—which was proceeded by me packing up his stuff and shipping it TWICE—Noah said something profoundly intuitive to Scott. He said, “Don’t worry, Dad, this is the last time she’s going back to him.” I didn’t know this, of course, until months later. And to be clear, Scott was very supportive of me and worried about me but always emphasized that even if he wasn’t the one for me, he didn’t want me on this rollercoaster with my ex—for my own sanity and for the kids. He saw how it was destroying the woman he knew and loved. Everyone did.
I feel like, as a mom, the best thing (aside from getting out) I did throughout the three years was be brutally honest with Noah and Grace. I was very open about the revelation (in 2013) of being a childhood sexual abuse survivor and I was very open, and still am, about the ups and downs of life and what I endured in the relationship. Some people want to hide it all and put on this face for their kids, but I found that being open and admitting my mistakes and humanness was the best thing I could have ever done as a parent. There’s a balance, of course, but I just relied on my intuition to tell me when to share and when to keep quiet.
I’m so proud of our kids. They have weathered a lot in their young lives and have managed to come out on the other side without being jaded. I’m proud that they are caring, loving people who stand up for others and who see life in shades of gray. They see how the dots connect and they know what unconditional love looks and feels like.
And they have their fun mom back!
So how are the kids doing? They are living in the moment and just being their awesome, wise selves. I’m learning from them and I hope they’re learning from me, too. We’re just figuring it all out together and enjoying each day as it comes.
The kids are all right, indeed.