There are certain things in this life that are great the second time around. A big bowl of hot Chili soup for instance, so much better the second day. In fact I would rather have reheated chili or lasagna for that matter, than to have it the day it was actually prepared. A second child, while they often grow up feeling they have something to prove to everyone, it’s still an exciting and glorious occasion. It’s an announcement that no one would ever react to negatively….except my parents and former inlaws of course.
So at our oldest daughter’s first birthday party we thought it would be cute to announce we were being blessed with a second bundle of joy. When we presented our daughter with a very cheesy “I’m going to be a big sister” shirt. Both our families were basically silent. Not sure if they were confused….did we make a mistake? Were they not reading it correctly? Was it not sinking in? Whatever the case, it was not what my then spouse or I expected.
There is a similar feeling announcing an engagement after a divorce. Granted there are some who are genuinely happy, excited and wish you sincere happiness. The rest….WOW. Let’s start with my family… My four kids were genuinely happy. I’m not going to lie, I stressed for three days before telling them. I treated it similar to when I announced our divorce to them. There can be no games, no tests. It can’t be near a holiday or birthday. It can’t be on a night when they won’t be with me. All circumstances must be perfect. (You will come to learn failure at perfectionism is one my most domineering qualities).
Then comes the parents. As things unfold you will learn that my Was-band, as I like to call him (I think it is nicer than ex although in the place we are right now I will happily call him my ex) and my parents were extremely close. I grew up in a rural community on a farm. I’m the youngest of 3 daughters born to a farmer. Which basically means I was the last hope for a boy. My oldest sister died when I was 15, the middle sister married a parole officer and I somehow married an agricultural seed salesman. So his relationship with my family was tighter than most. In fact before we married he lived with them for a period of time. Of course my parents loved it!! My dad had the son he never had… my mom had someone to cook for every night! It was a match made in heaven. Until my life became hell and I ruined it for everyone.
So how, when, where to tell my parents was source of stress to me. I had decided to tell them on my own without my fiancé. I figured this would allow them the most genuine reaction possible (I did this for my kids as well). I’m all about being genuine, feeling what you feel, that’s ok, work through it..blah blah blah. After telling my kids I knew if I didn’t tell my parents soon, they would be told by my seven year old twins…probably not a good idea. Keep in mind the last major news I shared with them, my divorce, was via email. For someone who gets rated as exemplary at courageous communication at work..I apparently suck at it in my personal life.
So my parents aren’t getting any younger and as many of you with aging parents can appreciate their days are filled with doctor appointments. Well, I work in the medical field and happened to be at the same clinic as them for an appointment so I joined them on their appointment. As they were leaving I pulled out my left hand which had been securely in my coat pocket our entire interaction and said…”So this happened…”. Really??? That’s all I could come up with? Yes! That’s it. My parents are not emotive people so I was not expecting fireworks, tears of joy, or any fanfare. What I received from my dad was…nothing. I’m still unclear if he actually knew what the ring meant. From my mother…So when did this happen? There were no congratulatory words. No hugs of we’re happy for you. Nothing. Just ok.
Telling my “friends” has been a similar experience. First of all, I did not go all out and make some cheesy Facebook announcement…..”I Said Yes!!!” Again, fine the first time around when you are 25. When you are 41 with 4 kids, engaged to a 51 year old, a more subtle approach is appropriate. What I mean is no announcement at all. I am fortunate that my fiancé proposed with an INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL engagement ring. I literally blinded the guy at the Starbucks drive-thru when I reached to get my drink. He was intermittenlty blinded as the rock caught the sunlight and blinded him. Of course I found great joy in that moment.
I find myself hiding it half the time. And the other times, I want to stick it up the people’s noses who have been so cruel to me over the years. Either way, neither of these situations is how I felt the first time I was engaged.
Let’s face it, no matter who you are, where you live, how well you get along…People choose sides in divorce. So everyone on the other side is instantly not going to be happy about your current and future happiness. I was reminded of this fact this week at a basketball game where my wasband and I had chose to sit on opposite sides of the court. A friend came up to me and said well you guys bring choosing sides to a whole new level!! And it’s true. Especially when one is in a position of moving forward into a new life. I’m sorry that I have a successful happy relationship people. I’m sorry that you think it’s any of your right to judge! HOW IS MY EX ONCE AGAIN THE VICTIM OF MY ENGAGEMENT?? OF MY HAPPINESS?? It’s funny I will typically root for an underdog, but sometimes the underdog is just that…a dog. And there’s a reason he is behind and struggling. Maybe he didn’t do the work? Maybe he made grave mistakes? The underdog isn’t always someone who wasn’t privileged or at a disadvantage. Maybe they just failed.
Everything said and done, once again my engagement has demonstrated to me who my friends are. Who is happy for me? Who am I actually NOT afraid to tell? Who am I EXCITED to tell? These are my people.
I think I will go reheat some chili…..