Every time my son Josh, 5, is with his dad, he cries for me. “I want Mommy,” he will tell his dad. Then he’ll call me in tears and I’ll feel sad for him. When he’s with me, he’ll cry for his dad and call his dad in tears. It most often happens when he’s tired, or doesn’t like the rules of whomever’s house he’s at, but recently I began to wonder if there was something more at play. I finally just asked him. What he said was surprising:
“I want you to be together again,” he confessed.
“So you thought if you cried for me when you’re with daddy, we’d end up having to be together again?” I asked.
Josh nodded his head and looked down at his feet.
His dad and I have been separated since Josh was two. I doubt he has any memories whatsoever of us being together. I don’t understand how you can miss something you never knew you had, and yet. . . Somehow my five-year-old has managed to craft a ploy to reunite his family. It reminds me of the movie Parent Trap.
I remember watching the original over and over again when I was a kid, never imagining that 30 years later my own son would fabricate a similar attempt, albeit less sophisticated than the twins, to bring his parents together after divorce. In the movie, the parents end up remarrying, but I had to tell Josh that wouldn’t happen with us.
“Josh, I understand why you’re upset, but crying for us isn’t going to bring us back together. Mommy and Daddy are divorced. It’s nobody’s fault, but some families are like this. It just happens sometimes. You have a mommy and daddy who love you very much, but this is the way it is.”
I folded him in my arms and got this feeling that somehow he understood. I was caught off guard, but I wanted to be blunt in my response, to help him understand that no amount of crying is going to change things.
I wish life could have turned out differently for my boys. I wish I could rewind, raise my kids in a traditional family unit, but I can’t, and at this point I wouldn’t even if I could. I hope they will learn to be resilient as a result. To rise above whatever challenges life presents. To strive to find happiness even amid disappointment. Life isn’t a movie. There’s no surprising or clever twist that enables kids to change their parents’ fate. There’s no guarantee of a wedding at the end of their shenanigans. But I know their story will be a happy one. It’s my job to make sure of it.