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Right after I explained to him what divorce means

Tomorrow is the court date I never thought would come. I've kept as much as I can from Lil E about this long and winding process while still trying as hard as I can to be honest about what's really going on. His memories of us being a family of three are beginning to fade and he is content in each of what he calls his "three homes" -- with me, with his dad and with my parents.

But I needed to tell him at dinner tonight that my mom would be picking him up from school. And because he is the kid he is, he needed to know absolutely every detail of the arrangement. Including where I would be. And saying "at a meeting with Daddy" just didn't cut it.

So, as I do with my boy, I put it out there. Just laid it out right there on the dining room table.

I told him that after being separate for a long time, it was time for a judge to say that my marriage to his dad was over. That it is called divorce. And that after it happens, we would not be married at all anymore.

He gets the concept of being single (and God help me for the judgment which will surely come, if not from you then from myself) because of the Beyonce song I so like to crank and he so likes to do interpretive dance to while we both sing ridiculously and loudly. And he looked off while he processed what the end of a marriage would mean for his parents.

I asked him how he felt about that. He said "fine" quickly and quietly. And then he looked up at me very seriously and said, "I'm just so sad that we cannot take a piece of paper to the judge to tell her the story of Mommy and Daddy and Lil E and how we used to live all together and what happened before you and Daddy had trouble talking and solving problems and we lived all separate. I just think she should know."

He looked with those big brown eyes and I both melted and sat straighter in my chair. I told him we couldn't take a paper to the judge but we could certainly tell the story ourselves. I would write the words and he could draw the pictures. He nodded, and that's what we did.

I pulled out the big roll of paper and bin of markers and we went to work on the hardwood floor. Of course, it wasn't just a concession for a child. It was good for me too. But what was better was that he was working it out in his head and we were putting all that on paper so we could see the big picture. We could see "the hard stuff and the good stuff," as he told me later. It was all there in its simplest form.

A few snapshots of our story follow after the jump.

Ourstory1 Ourstory8

December2008 185



Ourstory11 This was a collaborative effort and is complete with all kinds of pictures -- of the Sears Tower at night and the moving van we hauled from Oregon to Chicago and the places we now live, all by Lil E, and the story told by me and approved by consensus. But this corner, shown at the left, is Lil E's insistence, penned himself, that his dad came to stay with us "forever and ever" when we he and I moved to my parents' house. It's not true and he knows this, but he needed to believe it, needed to put it in his own writing. And so it is there, the corner of heartbreak, where this kid wrote out an untrue event to get honest with the real story. I loved him for that, and for wanting to believe the best, and so his perspective will stay right there in that spot.

« This could really be the end | Main | Pardon the dust »

Reader Comments (24)

You are an awesome mom, baby.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Ditto. It takes tremendous courage to do what you're doing, to be so present to E through all of this. I'm standing with you today, in my dansko clogs, holding you both in my heart.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLi-Wen
I'm just sobbing reading this. My 4 year old still talks some about when Daddy lived with us but it's less and less frequent and the memories are less clear these days. My 2 year old I'm sure doesn't remember much if anything before the split. I'm kind of torn about that. I don't want them to remember how bad it was when we were all together, but at least if they do recognize how bad it was, then they understand why we had to make the choices we made. I like the idea of writing out your story with Lil E. You are an amazing mom and you're doing a wonderful job for your little boy.
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWondermom
I feel so blessed to feel the love and support of so many women here -- thank you. That raw power lifts me up every single day, especially on the big days.

And I also feel lucky to have the wisdom and cheers and hugs of parents who've been through this ugliness or are going through it. So for that, Wondermom and Li-Wen, thank you and MWAH!
Jess....thanks for sharing. Itwas written so beautifully. Love ya, WooWoo
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterallison Bescak
owww, heart. tough stuff amiga
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfuriousball
this is genius, and you will go down in the annals of most amazing moms. Through your own heartbreak, you have navigated Lil E to a safe shore. Bravo!
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterValle
I'm so glad I didn't wear mascara today.
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Nathan
I know you told me a long time ago that there wasn't an award at the end of the year for best mother. BUT, if there was you would take it every year!!! you are amazing! Love you!
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter2Jmama
WOW! So awesome for you to do this for him, Jessica!
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Wow, gives me chills, what a great mom you are! He will remember doing this forever!
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa
What a lovely boy you have there.

At some point your son is going to believe you can stop loving him like you stopped loving his dad, and I want you to practice saying this, "there is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you." Just repeat it over and over no matter how bad things get.

I wish for you all good things.
January 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjodifur
It should be pointed out that you are truly a divorced mom - not a single mom. Young Ms. Palin is a single mom - never married to the father of her child. You still have the advantage of your son (his age?) being involved with his father, and knowing who his father is. Ms. Palin's may or may not be involved with the father from here on out. She will be in the most disastrous type of situation - the one that produces overwhelming numbers of school drop-outs, delinquents, convicted and jailed prisoners, drug abusers, alcoholics, and spousal abusers. She will be thankful that she has the parents that she does, because they will be highly involved with their grandchild and will provide the child with an environment and example that the single mother cannot provide alone.
March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill Locklin
Wow Mr Locklin that takes some serious nerve. I am a single mom. I was married to my son's father. He abducted my son at a very young age and has not seen him by his own accord since he was less than 2. I have a masters degree and I am putting myself through a PhD program currently. My family is 1800 miles away and I raise an autistic son alone without the benefit of child support. My son will not be one of the statiscal disasters you speak of, not because my parents have done my job but because I have. Every day, I, and millions of moms just like me, teach our children the values and discipline needed to become productive citzens of the world. Criminals, addicts, and abusers come from 2 parent famiies too.
March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanai Burns
This is a beautiful story. Thanks.

I signed my stip agreement 5 weeks ago and I am trying to sort it all out. I am encouraged to know I am in such good company as a single mom. My ex has been abusive and is pulling out all the stops to continue by not paying, etc. But we will hang in, I know we can do it when I see the tremendous strength of character here. And Mr. L. isn't worth our breath but I agree with your comments Danai.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonna B,
Well, I must say that the strong will survive. Even though the hearts both young and old grow cold with time, As the mind forces itself to forget the mistakes it cannot understand. The resultant action of broken recreation breads a darkness that must be subdued by an empty yet open universe of possbility. Yet will a heart bleed eternal. For one cannot bleed without injury and cannot hope but for recovery. To recover is to survive to contine bleeding is to die.
March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJM
I am a divorced mom/single mom. My kids are growing up and are now 14, 17, and 19. For the record, satistics DO NOT prove that paternal involvement is helpful in the outcome of childrearing. Why is this? It is because the involvement of "Dad" also often means more "issues", less stability. We decided long ago that our kids would not be torn back and forth at the whim of the adult world. We gave them a stable world that was full of love and the same bed each night.

Sadly, we are a nation who looks upon children with the wisdom of Solomon. We try to be "fair" to the grownups while we split the children in two. How often have you woken up in a motel room and had a disjointed moment where you didn't remember how you got there? This is a constant for kids of divorce.

Satistically if Bristol is able to provide a STABLE home for her son; one where there are consistent rules, the same bed to sleep in each night, routine, chores and a sense of belonging he will likely be fine. She sure should go to school, educate herself and spend every moment she can with that precious life.

We don't like it, but the truth hurts. Our insistence on "fairness" (to the adults) has cost kids a sense of home. Huge price to pay.
March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Its been 9 years for me, the pain and loss of blessings haunt me. If only people knew now what we didnt know then, nothing gets fixed, oh you put on your happy face and find new love, but the seeds of love, the family, are like chaff in the wind, never the same.............Divorce sucks...period
March 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdoobie
Your article made me cry. I'm on the father side of this and your family of three made me remember those times fondly from my own life before things went completely crazy. And I remember it as well from your sons perspective. I had a dream for years that my mother and father took me and my brother to the snow and it was the best time ever and everyone was happy. I didn't know until my 20's that we never went to any snow as a family.
March 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichael
Heather---children benefit from having a male role model in their lives. Having their dad is not a bad thing if said dad is a real man and understands children are not pawns for his own ego. Just like some women should.
March 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichael
doobie, you're absolutely right.
March 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjojo
Michael, What is a real man to you...

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdonna
i am choked up. my fiance and i just broke up, with two babies under two, there will come a day when we will tell our boys why mommy and daddy are not together anymore and because of this you gave me the strength i needed.
March 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheather
I am just beginning to walk down this path...upset and shamed with myself for choosing poorly when it comes to a partner. Blessed and grateful that our union gave me my beautiful daughter. Mad as he__ for his immaturity, inability, and unwillingness to be a real man and father. Less angry about his shortcomings as a husband...because in the end it comes down to what she has, is going to get, and will never have. I have to be able to HELP HER walk through the loss and be better than OK. I accidentaly stumbled across this piece...,funny thing God's timing. Thank you ladies...God bless!!!
March 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

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