This month I would be celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary, except for the minor fact that my marriage ended seven years ago. There was a period when I would have predicted this milestone would represent a painful speedbump in the road of life. Instead, I’ll probably pass the day much like any other.
When I first started dating again I was sure that I had a large scarlet “D” branded on my forehead. Over time, I realized I was part of a growing majority of marital refugees.
In grade school, I could count on one hand the number of kids whose parents were divorced. Times have changed. Recently, a young employee in my company recalled how in his group of high school friends, he was one of only two whose parents were still together.
It is all too easy for our moral guardians to argue that society is breaking down because the traditional family units are disintegrating. But that argument loses its charge when you realize many of the leaders of the conservative movement have a family breakup in their pasts. I think we are in the midst of a time of redefinition of what “family” means. Much like we are becoming a global economic society, we are becoming a global blended family and the results don’t have to be devastating.
I suppose the people you worry about the most in this blending trend are the kids. They are the passengers on their parents’ unpredictable journey of change. Frankly, I think we are not giving the next generation enough credit. In many cases, they have adapted to this societal shift better than the adults. I’ve found that if the parents remain stable and focus on giving their children love, the children are nurtured in ways the older generations may not understand.
My ex-wife Callender remarried and moved to Charlotte nearly five years ago and even though I don’t see my children as much as if they lived in my house, when I do have them here, I focus totally on them. A friend says I spend more time with my children than do many of the fathers in intact families. God knows, I’d love to believe that.
Time has allowed Callender and me to be friends again while our relationship consists of discussing what’s best for our children. I wish her the best with her husband Jim because he is a good man and if their marriage is stable, our children will be much stronger.
Even though it is sometimes awkward for me to stand in their kitchen and talk casually while our kids get ready to go off for a weekend with me, I remind myself that those images of us together are important for our children to record in their memory banks.
A couple of months ago, I drove to Charlotte to watch my son’s basketball game. He was playing against his step-brother Mark’s team. I sat in the bleachers with Callender, my daughter Sally, her step-sister Leigh and Jim’s ex-wife, Jane. Jim hurried in from the airport during the second quarter and took a seat between Jane and Callender. I thought for a moment how I was sort of an outsider to this new model of a blended family.
But then I looked across the gym floor at my son Thomas. He was on the bench sitting with his buddies, watching his step-brother going up for a shot. He then looked over toward us and studied the six of us sitting together in the bleachers. A gentle smile came across his face.
Then it hit me. This is my son’s family. And we were all together for the first time.
Photos: Thomas Schroder playing basketball in high school