It was a particularly rough day for everyone in our single-parent small group. One single mom was fighting for sole custody of her boys. Another was arguing with her ex about school and visitation, and she didn’t have a lot of good things to say about her ex-husband. The conversation became even more animated when a recently divorced mother of four vented her frustrations about child support.
And then he spoke up. One of the five fathers in the room, Daniel was feeling overwhelmed by the turn of conversation. He spoke hesitantly at first but grew more passionate with every word. "You need to know that each one of us represents half of a parenting team. Your ex might be venting in a group exactly like this across town," he paused. "What I want you to think about is how you would want him to vent about you. As a single father, I love my kids. I want the best for them, and sometimes that means disagreeing with their mom. As a Christian, I want to do right by my children and fight for their best, but I also want to do right by their mother – and not cut her down in front of anyone else, no matter how angry I get. We need to be cautious, supporting each other but keeping a close watch over our tongues.
"We’re mothers and fathers in this room, and none of us will do it all right. We make mistakes, and I don’t want my ex to announce those mistakes to a group of people." He suddenly went from strong to uncertain. "Does that make any sense?"
Everyone nodded. He was right, and we were all feeling a little uncomfortable in the spotlight. He’d given us something to think about. While we needed a safe place to vent and share and grow, a small-group environment wasn’t necessarily the place to talk about divorce conflicts.
"Maybe we should save conversations about our exes for one-on-one time with God or a close friend," I said. "It’s true that we do need to process through anger and frustration (we don’t want to pretend that they don’t exist), but we need to be careful how and where we do that."
We redirected the conversation back to God’s truth, and the rest of the afternoon was spent studying, laughing and praying.
What I love about . . .
I lay in bed that night, and I thought about the father who stood against ex bashing earlier that morning. I thought about Sami’s dad and how even though he lives far away, Sami adores him. He works for Ford, and every time she sees a vehicle made by Ford she points it out and proudly tells anyone within earshot that her dad makes cars and trucks. She loves him, and even though she doesn’t see him very often, her love and devotion are unwavering. And I thought about my own father and all he has done to make the world seem a little less scary. I’m 35, and I still need him.
Then I reflected on our meeting earlier in the day. I was reminded that it’s always easier to focus on the negatives of our ex-spouse. It’s easy to get caught up in the financial frustrations, visitation schedules and parenting differences. Yet our children have one biological mother and father, and those relationships can never be replaced. Mothers offer something unique and precious; fathers offer something equally unique and important.
So the next time you’re hanging out with a group of single parents, take a minute to do something completely out of the ordinary: Brag on your ex. Talk about the things you are grateful for, the things you appreciate and the characteristics you hope your child will inherit. Granted, this wouldn’t be appropriate in some circumstances, but for most of us, it’s very doable. And as you talk, you might discover that you’ve built up some of the other ex-spouses in the room – just when they need it most.