Kevin and I were asked to give a talk at a Church marriage retreat. First, our assigned topic was "Communication in Marriage". I was exultant and Kevin was horrified. Then the leaders changed our topic to "Precepts of the Church". Kevin was exultant and I was horrified. Weeks went by and the topic was changed yet again to "Practical Aspects of Marriage". This topic amounts to a "lighter" talk chock-full of personal examples and LOTS of talk of feelings. Can you guess who was exultant and who was horrified?
Sunday night, the retreat leaders were coming to our house to hear us give a practice talk at eight o' clock. For several hours before, Kevin and I were extremely angry at each other. I am still unsure why he was so miffed at me, but my problem with him is easy to explain - well, maybe not. Aren't fights stupid? Regardless, we were both really annoyed with each other and I totally grasped the irony of this considering we had to deliver a talk ON MARRIAGE.... TOGETHER... by the end of the night. Talk about pressure!
Around seven o'clock, I had my part of the talk printed and waiting on the kitchen island. As I prepared some before-bed fruit smoothies for the kids, Joseph picked up the pages of my writing and skimmed over them. While I was working with the blender, my nine year-old walks up beside me and asks, "What's this part, Mom? The part that says: 'I came into marriage with divorce heavy in my past - parents, grandparents, and eight years before, I'd even gone through my own divorce after a seven-month marriage.' Is that you?" he asked.
Beyond the noise of the blender, the whole world got quiet. I decided years ago I would be honest with my children about my past. But RIGHT NOW? I'm in the middle of making SMOOTHIES, for crying out loud! Not to mention that I was none too happy with my current spouse at that exact moment. Somehow I collected my thoughts and feelings and turned to my sweet son and said, calmly: "Joe. Yes. That is about me. And it's not a secret, and I will tell you about it. But not right now."
It's really inconvenient that we don't get to choose the moments for difficult conversations. Really, I was in the middle of dessert-making and husband-grumping and pre-talk jitters. NOW is when my past has to come up with my child?
The talk went fine. Considering our dispositions going into the talk practice, we pulled it together remarkably well. Got feedback. Said goodbye to the couple who came to hear. Apologized for being stinkheads to each other. And then I told Kevin what Joseph had discovered and we decided to sit down with him the next night. Which we did.
It went like this: "Joe. I wanted to talk about the fact that I was married before and divorced. I'll tell you whatever you want to know. Do you have any questions?"
Joe: "What was his name?"
I told him his first name. Then he asked for his last name. I'm glad at that point he didn't pull out a clipboard and start writing down the facts. After that he said he had no questions and Kevin and I looked at each other. This seemed unlike the "sex talk" situation where you don't want to launch into a whole speech on the reproductive act when all the kid wants to know is something simple. We both guessed that the kid really had no way of organizing the thoughts in his head about his mom once having had a different husband. So we covered the basics--- young marriage, sinful divorce, years of counseling and trying to reckon with scripture, Catholic conversion and annulment--- all in about two minutes and language suitable for a nine year-old.
I'm glad that's over. At least for now. At least with one out of four kids.
I'm reasonably sure that the next time I'm making smoothies, Cayna's going to ask how babies are made. I think I might avoid my blender for a while.