My divorce became final in July, 2004. It wasn't on the fourth of July, but I celebrate it then anyway. I like the idea of fireworks going off in recognition of my personal Independence Day. And, that's how it felt that first year: like I'd won the lottery, dropped the anvil I'd been carrying in my soul for the past four years (or maybe longer) and walked free in the open air. I've never been surer in my life that I was doing the right thing. When the main emotion surrounding a decision to end your marriage is not anger, or hurt, or fear or sadness, but relief, then you know it's the right thing to do.
Of course, it was no simple thing, giving up. Besides giving up on a marriage that brought neither of us happiness, I gave up a house I loved, a job I really enjoyed, and (I thought) my prospects for second child. And, I had a little girl to think of. She was four at the time, heartbreakingly smart and intuitive. To my ex's credit, he did his best to leave her feeling blameless and loved. But leave her, he did, moving to the other side of the country. And it was me who tried to answer her questions, to reassure her that while a mom and a dad can stop loving each other, they can't stop loving their child.
He sees her rarely. Mostly, I think that is good, at least for me. I know moms who have to share their children with their exes on a weekly basis, having their kids for four days of seven, or every other weekend. I know moms who still have to share parenting decisions with the men who proved themselves untrustworthy as husbands, to have their judgment questioned over things like shoes and lunch and extracurricular activities. He made it easy for me, in a way, living far enough way that I don't even have to see him for the exchange, passing her to him at the mall or a playground like a ransomed victim. He doesn't interfere in our lives much, leaves plenty of room for my new husband in the father places in her heart.
But he's not all gone. He still wants his visitation. Mostly, I think this is good. It would break her if he didn't want to see her anymore. So, each summer, I sign the “unaccompanied minor” paperwork and put her on the plane and try not to cry too visibly on the way back to my car. The visits are not many, but they are long. I've never had her with me for another July since then.
So, as we approach another July, another Independence Day, I consider the idea of independence. Independence is costly. That's part of why we value it. There's always something you have to give up. Maybe a nice home. Maybe an easy life. Maybe fireworks with your child.