There is nothing like a crisis to bring families, even split ones, together. After a divorce with children, you must remember that, to those kids, you are still just one family.
This year, Hurricane Irma took a path that threatened my community. As a result, my ex-husband and I were faced with our first emergency as a divorced family.
The relationship that my ex-husband and I share is not the most ideal . . . not by a long shot. I had a vision of what I thought my divorced family would look like, just as I had an idea of what I thought my marriage would look like. I am sure my ex-husband would say the same. I think it is fair to say that neither of us has had or will have our visions completely satisfied. Reality will always lie somewhere in between, shifting from one side to the other as we attempt to co-parent. I say “attempt,” not to negate our efforts, but rather as statement of fact that we both just do the best that we can.
Both of us chose in advance to evacuate for Hurricane Irma. Inevitably, this raised questions of compliance with our parenting agreement and tested our ability to co-parent in a new type of situation. Fortunately, unlike many crises, we had optimal time to prepare. Early on, my ex-husband informed me of his intent to evacuate out-of-state and offered to take our children with him. I politely declined and informed him of my own plans to also evacuate out-of-state. Fortunately, I was able to give him the information regarding travel within the required time frame, per our parenting agreement.
The first “issue” we faced was timesharing. Why? Because this emergency occurred when the timesharing was scheduled at my house but stood the chance of overlapping into his scheduled time. I knew that evacuation might become necessary, but I couldn’t know when I would be able to return if it did! I wouldn’t know until we could evaluate the damage, if any, to our community. We agreed that we had no choice except to play it by ear and make up any timesharing days that were lost as a result of this emergency.
Then, during our evacuation, a second issue arose! With everyone evacuating the state, it took sixteen hours to drive a distance that usually requires seven hours. I needed to adjust my plans. Anyone with kids understands that, after sixteen hours in the car, with two children and a dog, it is necessary to stop, for both sanity and safety.
Fortunately, I was blessed to be able to stopover at a friend’s house for the night. Unfortunately, this was not the information that I had provided to my ex-husband. Under different circumstances, my failure to provide accurate information would have violated our parenting agreement. However, as soon as it became clear that we were not going to make it to our destination, I sent the updated information to him via text message. Thankfully, he was very receptive and understood that mine had been the best decision.
The next day, we finally made it to our destination and, as events unraveled, and the hurricane changed paths, I only had to stay two days over my normally scheduled timesharing.
We both returned home at about the same time and agreed on how to make up his lost two days of timesharing. My best decision was to keep him informed, and to treat him as I would have wanted to be treated had the situation been reversed. We both managed to stay cooperative and understanding in the situation, and we both appreciated the necessity to protect the safety of our children.
This was an opportunity for us to work either together or against one another, nitpicking unavoidable “issues” until we were blue in the face. I am grateful that we both chose to work together on this, and it does take both. Remember it only takes one party to choose for an “issue” to become a problem. In this situation, we felt that the safety of our children outweighed all other factors. The fact is, some problems are unavoidable. Those problems are not “issues,” they are life. A catastrophe is not the time to stand your ground or fight small battles. It is not the time to worry about anything besides safety. A crisis can help you focus on what is truly important at the end of the day.