Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Explaining Marriage and Divorce to an Eight Year-Old Boy

"Why did Eric's mom and dad move to different houses?" Jake asks me. His second question was prompted by his first. He and I were in the car driving to church and Jake asked, "Will Eric be at church today?" My social Jake is thinking ahead to the buddy he can connect with and sit by at church. I answered the first question very easily. "Eric probably won't be at church because this is his weekend with his dad at his church. When you see him at our church that's his weekend with his mom," I rattled off. Jake asked the second question and the answer wasn't so easy.

I'd talked to Jake about our friends' divorce when it happened months ago but this was an opportunity to talk again. What's the simple answer to why do a mom and dad live in different houses? They can't stand each other? Seems harsh to say to an eight year old. They fell out of love? Sets my boy up for thinking love is something you randomly fall in and out of not something you decide. They aren't happy? Don't get me started on "happy".

So I begin. "When two people get married they decide to be together forever, like best friends forever, until they die. A very long time. Like when Dad and I got married we said we would be best friends and husband and wife forever, until we die and when we had you and then Bebe (Jake's name for Zach) we said we would be a family forever. Sometimes people who are married decide that forever is too long. Sometimes a mom and dad fight and they fight so much they don't want to be together anymore. When two people who are married decide they don't want to be together anymore they get a divorce and move apart. That's what a divorce is and that's why Eric's parents have two houses."

"But even though Eric's parents are divorced they still love Eric and his brother very much. They are still parents, just not husband and wife, just not a family like they were," I add. "Just so you know Daddy and I are not going to get a divorce and you will never live in two houses, ok? We will be married forever."

I take a breath and Jake asks, "Do I haft to get married?" That's not a typo, he said "haft". "No, you don't," I quickly reply, "but one day you might want to get married and that's why you have to choose very carefully who will be your wife. Very carefully because forever-until-you-die is a long time. Because even when you choose carefully things are still hard sometimes and you have to work to be best friends forever."

"So does that answer your question, Jake? Do you understand what I've said about divorce?" I probe. "Yeah, can I watch the monster trucks DVD now?" he replies. I turn on the car's DVD player and think to myself yeah you can watch monster trucks now just be aware that marriage happens and divorce happens and things are complicated and simple but you don't have to make sense of it all right now. Just be eight today watching monster trucks and knowing your mom and dad and brother live in one house and we are a family forever.