When my ex-husband and I first separated, I couldn't imagine a time when we would be able to speak civilly, or even be in a room together breathing the same air. My jaw was tense around him, I had a migraine that seemed to last for years.
I was in a constant state of shock, broken-hearted, in complete disbelief that our marriage had ended, and I was a single mom to our two little kids.
Over time, the feelings of hurt faded on both sides. We finalized our divorce. Had a plan. When issues arose, which they still do, we see a co-parenting therapist who helps us resolve problems peacefully. Somehow, and perhaps even despite the odds, we have ended up in a good place. In fact, we have come so far that we even found ourselves recently on a "family" hike with our kids.
I had taken my boys to Arizona for winter break to spend time with my family. My ex flew down for a few days to have some of his own quality time with them. Of all the things they planned to do, there was one activity that required the help of two parents, rather than just one. There's a mountain the kids were excited to hike for the first time. It was a long, rocky, strenuous climb, and my ex and I decided it would be smart to take the boys together. Most importantly, it would be safer. Besides, neither of us wanted to miss out on the chance to accompany our kids as they accomplished this momentous feat.
I met them at the base of the mountain and, along with so many other hikers, we began to walk. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day. The kids were determined and happy. We both interacted with the boys and we even managed a pleasant conversation with each other. At certain points, we even laughed with the kids. It felt nice that we could put our past behind us and be there for our kids, no headaches, no clenched jaw; just the sound of our breathing, our feet progressing along the path.
We stopped at a lookout point to take a break and admire the view. Another hiker approached us and asked if we wanted her to take our picture. We paused, unsure of how to respond.
"No, but thanks!" we both said at once.
It would have been awkward, false, to be in a family photo even though we appeared to be on a family hike. We took pictures of the kids instead. Then we continued along the path and watched our kids make it to the finish. Their cheeks were healthy, glowing, and pink. They were out of breath, smiling from ear to ear. It was amazing to see, and we both got to see it together.
I never imagined a day when this would have been possible; not just breathing the same fresh air, but following the same path, sharing the same jokes, enjoying our kids at the same time. When you're divorced, things don't always unfold the way you hope. It's never ideal.
In the last four years, we have indeed come a long way. We are not friends or confidantes, but we have figured out a way to co-parent. I'm proud of how hard we have worked to get to that mountain, how far we have climbed. At the end of the hike, my kids drove off with their dad and I headed home on my own. I couldn't help but feel overcome with happiness. It really was a beautiful day.
Written by Erin Silver
Erin Silver is a freelance writer and blogger with more than 15 years experience writing for major magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. A single mom to two rambunctious young boys, she is inspired to share her experiences on everything from divorce and single parenting to dating and blending families. Visit her at ErinSilver.ca.