Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 30, 2010

Telling the Kids

We told the kids tonight (Wednesday night). While Penny has agreed with me that we don’t want to have them associate the news of our divorce with Christmas, there are a number of logistical concerns that also make much more delay… unwise. Our oldest has a gym meet in a few days; do we tell him just before it, or give him a few days to process the news? We are going to need to solicit help for the move… but the more people we let know about the move, the more likely news is to spread around our social circles and, ultimately, back to the kids. Shouldn’t they hear it from us, first? And we can only delay the move so long.

And so on.

We told them after dinner dishes had been put away and the kids had had some time to play upstairs. We hate to interrupt them when they are getting along. We told them at the dinner table; I didn’t want to be in one of the rooms where Christmas decorations were particularly obvious. Rather than emphasize divorce (we never actually used the word), we emphasized that we would be moving out of our house (as they knew we eventually must) into two new houses. We told them that they’d stay at their Mom’s on Mondays and Tuesdays, at my house on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then alternate the weekends at the two houses. We showed them a google map of the new neighborhood and also showed them the new elementary school, and where their friends J—– and M—– and L—– live, and the park between Mom’s and Dad’s house. We told the 8-year-old that he could choose between staying at his current school for the rest of this school year or switching to his new school as soon as the move was complete.

We asked them if they wanted to see the new houses tonight, and they did, so we took them. Penny’s house has only three bedrooms, and we went to her house, first. When we talked about who would get which rooms, it was suggested that the 5-year-old and the 2-year-old would share a room. The 8-year-old then asked if he could share with the 2-year-old at my house. (They were, as of that moment, unaware that I actually have 4 bedrooms at my house.) Quite frankly, I was touched by this. When we went to my house and showed them the rooms, they still wanted that arrangement. My guess is that if that sticks, the “spare” bedroom will become our little shared home office.

The 8-year-old did ask (twice) why we couldn’t just all stay living together in one house. Penny answered that there were some things that she and I wanted to do differently from each other, and this was the best way for us to do that — her answer was a little more clumsily worded the first time, a little more assured the second. We stressed that we’d always both be there for all of them.

Our 8-year-old didn’t seem sad, so much as perhaps a little confused and a little concerned. The 5-year-old was giddy with energy, running around and playing with his younger brother at both new houses. Luckily, their questions were almost entirely of the pragmatic type, and we had the answers down pat. The new houses are a stone’s throw from the 5-year-old’s pool, and much closer to the 8-year-old’s gym than our current house, and if they forget something at one home, they can always walk from the other to get it.

The 2-year-old kept saying he was hungry, and wanted more pistachios. (I bought a bag earlier in the day, and he prefered them to the ice cream we’d offered for dessert earlier that evening. Go figure.)

I think it’s going to be okay. I think the kids will likely adjust faster than we will. I know we’ll need to be on our toes and continue to do our best to help that transition along.

But for all that this is a step forward, I’m a little sad. When the oldest asked, “Why can’t was all just still live in the same house,” my heart broke a little.

We came home. We read to them and made sure they brushed their teeth and put them to bed.

It was, in many ways, a night like any other night.



  1. Yes, but it’s the beginning of when *your* nights will start getting better.

  2. I’m glad to hear that you have this part out of the way, as I know that it’s been weighing heavily on you. I remember that moment with my girls – they were 3 and 5 at the time….it was heartbreaking for me.

    Remember that there will likely be more questions – and tough ones, too – as time goes on. Be prepared for that. My ex and I were always very certain to stress to our girls that we both loved them very, very much and that part wouldn’t ever change no matter what.

    You will all make it through this, I have every bit of confidence in your parenting. 🙂


  3. Same, but different. Part of life. Change is good. Remember?

    Big hugs.

  4. I think you might want to mention to the boys that this is also about you and P not being in love anymore, so that they don’t think that this is just about not wanting to be “roommates”.

    For the time being, you might want to schedule the occasional “family dinner” to help them get over the hump of going from a 2-parent home to 2 1-parent homes. Just be sure it’s not held in either home, so that one parent isn’t in the position of having to leave at the end of the night. I was also going to suggest that the kids be sure which home they’re going to after the family dinner is over, but I suppose that it might be nice for the kids to choose which parent to go home with.

    As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, at 5 yrs ago, The Mook *still* sometimes asks why we don’t all live together, even tho she doesn’t remember all 3 of us living together (she was 22 months old at the time of the split). Make sure you have a stock phrase/answer on hand for when this comes up: at the grocery store, during a temper tantrum while leaving daycare, riding the streetcar.

    Good luck. Thinking of you.

  5. Wow. this tugged at my heart because of the innocence of the boys but also the love they seem to have for each other! I love that. and I LOVE the arrangement with your homes so close to each other, that will make it a lot easier for them. I’m proud of you, good job on the initial response and I know when the harder questions come, you will be able to answer them.

  6. I am very excited that the prospective homes are in a good range of each other, the park, schools, etc. It is exciting to be moving into a new place with a new room… and now 2 new rooms!

    I do agree with Bad Mummy as well, though, that the kids will need to understand that you both will be moving on from each other as well. Perhaps it is nothing to be addressed now but the 8 year old, especially, may consider this a temporary thing and expect Mommy and Daddy to still be married.

    Just something to consider eventually. And yes, though they are excited and offering some feelings about this now, it will come and go. Change will challenge you all. Be prepared and allow them to express their feelings. My oldest, who was 4 at the time of my separation, began regressing in potty training for a short time after. She’d been potty trained for 2 years by that point. She also had moments of “Why can’t things be like they were?!” for a while. She got over it but still has her own opinions now that both her dad and I chose to spend the holidays around our new partners.

    Be strong, loving and consistent. You’ll all be just fine.

  7. It’s probably guaranteed the kids will adjust faster than you. It’s just how things go…I think. They’ll take a cue from you guys though so the more stable you act over the situation they better they’ll feel. My kids were 10&8 when we told them of the divorce. They broke down and cried so hard, but after a day it was OK…for them. I was heartbroken by their crying (they slept with me that night). There were a couple times about 2 months after The Ex & I separated that The Boy would call me from his house to say he wanted to live with only me. That was HARD…it was really hard on The Ex, too, but I felt I owed it to him to tell him what he was saying. They talked, we all talked together, and things got better quickly. My kids have fared really well: The Girl gets straight A’s in middle school–and has for over a year–and The Boy gets glowing comments from teachers & high marks on his report cards (when the teachers said they wanted to clone him b/c he’s such an awesome kid The Ex & I looked at each other…we were like point to the name of the kid you’re talking about). He had been such a class clown the year before. I think it’s true kids bounce back, but they’ll bounce back quicker and happier and better off the longer you and Penny can act OK about it with them around. *hugs*

  8. Well, it’s done. Today was a big day in the process of moving forward. Your kids will be fine, and it sounds like you did a great job of explaining things to them. And, you’ll be fine too, Inris. Take a deep breath, and imagine all the good things waiting for you.

  9. It sounds like you both handled it really, really well. Congrats, and best wishes for a good new year!

  10. For some reason, I am feeling very relieved for you. Even though, I always thought it would go exactly as you described.

    The only thing I am wondering is if maybe you SHOULD use the word “divorce”, because it’s quite possible your 8 year old knows all about that, from his friends at school. He may be confused, thinking you are going to stay married but live apart. Then again, I’m sure he’s going to ask you that question at some point.

    GREAT way to being the New Year! Congrats!

  11. what a big step. glad it seemed to go so well. still thinking of y’all…

  12. This is such terrific news. Yes, definitely tugs at the heart strings – but really what part of this whole situation … doesn’t? Glad you have been able to “keep your eye on the prize”, stay focused, and committed to your original goals. 13 months later – very definitive progress.

  13. Congratulations, inris, and Happy New Year to all of you.

  14. The night we told our kids mommy was moving out was one of the hardest of my life. I am so happy for you that it all went well. It sounds like you and Penny are doing the very best that two loving parents can do. There will be hard days ahead but keep your eyes and your heart on the future. Even on your worst days you will still feel like you made the right decision. I know I do. Good luck with your move and the transition to your new life. 🙂

  15. This was a huge step forward. It’s horrible, it’s hard, it’s difficult, you’ll never forget it but it had to be done. It sounds like you and P handled it well. The kids will have questions in the coming days, weeks, months and if they don’t proactively ask you, it would be as well to check in with them and ask them individually if they have any questions.

    Loved that your eldest wanted to share a room with your youngest too – I would definitely let that happen – he might be feeling that he’s missing out on something.

    I remember feeling immensely relieved once the children knew and I could be honest, finally, with everyone else. I hope this has taken a weight off your shoulders,

    Thinking of you,

  16. Don’t think for a minute that this is over! You have only begun!

    The kids don’t really know what is involved with this split, and as they see more about what the split means they will have questions, or develop emotional issues, or even become more difficult than normal. Bad Mummy and T discuss this developing in their comments. The key dealing with these developments will be to maintain control through being consistent. Soccer Mom mentions this. Each house must have the same rules as much as possible, so that you don’t get caught up in the “Mom lets me do XXXX at her house!” problem. You and Penny will have to be closer as separated parents than you ever were as live-in lovers for this to work.

    Well, Ulysses, you’ve launched the ship and now must sail it between Scylla and Charybdis. Keep a weather eye out, for storms may be brewin’!

  17. […] are in the early stages – INRIS at It Never Rains In Seattle wrote this touching post about telling his children about the divorce … they didn’t actually use the word ‘divorce’ so that may still need some […]

  18. I remember my moment of having to tell Bear all to well. It is amazing how well kids can handle situations. They are so tough. I’m so glad it went seemingly well for you

  19. I’m sure much more has come up since your conversation with your kids and that this process is only beginning. I wish you as much peace and joy as possible for 2011, both for you and your kids (and Penny, too, I guess).

    I’m not sure how I discovered your blog, but I ended up reading through the entire thing over Christmas (it helped me get through the weekend with my family) :). My divorce was finalized in December of ’09, though our situations are vastly different (reasons for breakup, way the whole thing came about, no kids). I look forward to following your journey.

  20. I can remember that night very well, what room, we were in and how it went down. Both kids were under two, so like yours they mostly just ran around.

    Chances are very good that your 5 and certainly your 2 year old will have no memory of living in the same house. Your 8 year old is at an age that will make adapting much easier.

  21. I just found your blog and reading it has helped me through “our last Christmas together as a family”. My stb ex husband and I have been planning our divorce for the past month and will be telling our children in a few days. Like you , we want to wait until after Christmas so Christmas isn’t forever associated with a negative. Like you, we have a sexless marriage that is just a friendship but our children don’t see us fight. Our houses will be 2 miles apart. I have been considering this divorce for 8 of our 10 years of marriage, and now that we are finally doing it, I am shocked at how terribly painful it is. I feel like I should write a letter of apology and acknowledgement to all of my divorced friends for not realizing how awful even an amicable divorce can be. I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface, as this is all pretty new. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently and honestly on this blog. It is helping me through a very difficult Christmas. Merry Christmas.

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