Bud Dale, Ph.D., J.D., of Topeka, Kansas shared a wonderful true story about high conflict divorce and Christmas on the American Bar Association's Family Law Listserv. I asked for permission to share this story with my readers last year. Dale's message bears repeating this year. It is my hope that family lawyers reading my blog will send this on to some of their clients and that parents reading it will benefit and will share with friends who may be in a similar situation. Bud's story involves Janey, a mother in a high conflict divorce, who attended a parent education class for high conflict families. Bud wrote:
"Janey attended as a result of a court order. Despite the court order, her ex-spouse did not attend. Janey stubbornly sat through the first 2 of 6 3-hour classes, before becoming engaged in what we (my colleague and I) were teaching. She listened intently for the remaining sessions. She asked to come back to speak to the next class and has done so for each group of parents for almost 2+ years. To each group of parents, Janey tells the following story about Christmas:"Her three children brought her a gift and excitedly watched as she unwrapped it on Christmas morning. Her children knew how much she loved her children and gave her a collage of pictures of themselves. In each picture, the children were happily celebrating things and playing. After Janey unwrapped it, she quickly placed it behind the couch, noting to her children that she did not want it to get broken amongst all of the other excitement. She had immediately recognized her children and their joy in the pictures, but she did not recognize any of the events. She did not recognize the birthday cake, the pile of leaves, or the place the children were sledding. She instantly felt great sorrow at having missed so many joyous occasions with her children.
"Janey tells that she went to view the picture again that night after the children had gone to bed. The children's father was not in any of the pictures. He was the photographer. After a good, long cry, Janey talks of realizing that the children, who were almost always happy while with her, could also be happy while with their dad. She found a prominent place to hang the photographs in her home - because it was the children's home and she sometimes needed the reminder that she could help the children be happy and their father could too.
"At the end of each class, other parents comment about the difference it makes to hear from someone like Janey ... "
Bud also said:
"Janey is a real person really named Janey. She is such a powerful force in our parent education group that I checked with her before sharing. Linda Elrod of Washburn University School of Law and I sponsor a two-day workshop every year where we focus on how to help families in conflict in Kansas. Janey presented at that workshop in 2010 and told this story - and many others. I get to hear them three times a year at our educational group. She acknowledges that things aren't perfect, but her stories reflect a level of personal courage and credibility that I cannot match! If I could, I'd make her stories go viral! Isn't it good to hear when someone overcomes obstacles! Gives me more hope, especially for the children."
I agree with Bud. I'd like to see this story make it around the globe and back again--several times. Do please feel free to send a link to this blog article as a holiday newsletter to your custody/divorce clients, or if you know a parent in a high-conflict situation . . . please send him or her a link to the article.
An earlier post, How Divorced Parents can Help Children Survive the Holidays, may be read here.
Have a safe and sane holiday. Jeanne