In the four years since we've been divorced, my ex and I have learned to manage many things: Christmas vacations, summer holidays, school plays, and baseball games. We haven't always agreed, but we put the kids first and figured it out.
But now we are encountering something completely new: our oldest son's first hockey tournament. The tournament is the highlight of every hockey family's year. You play hockey all day for an entire weekend and spend two nights in a hotel with your parents, siblings, teammates, and their families. Kids look forward to pizza parties, jumping on the beds, and being surrounded by their parents as they compete all weekend.
It sounded fun at first. It's a great chance for my son to experience his first tournament, to bond with his teammates. Now, I'm not so sure. When you're divorced, these things become rather complicated.
Most often, there's a parenting schedule, and parents divide up their kids' time according to whatever arrangement they've agreed to. When it comes to the weekend, I usually have my kids Friday night, while their dad has them Saturday night. It's made me wonder how we can maintain our schedule during a tournament.
Should I stay at the tournament all weekend? Should my ex? Say we keep the schedule—does my ex move into my hotel room on his Saturday night shift? Crawl into the same bed I just vacated the night before? Technically, will we have shared the same bed?
It feels awkward, uncomfortable, unwise. I wouldn't want to sleep in his bed and smell his cologne on the pillow any more than he'd want to sleep in mine. I don't want to see his whiskers in the sink if he shaves, have his hair scattered in the shower. Not anymore, anyway.
As the tournament approaches, I'm completely stumped. What is the most appropriate solution? I find myself hopeful that after the first night their team will have lost so terribly that we can all just go home. Then I feel guilty. Maybe I can ask the concierge if we can switch rooms from Friday to Saturday, or at the very least change the bedsheets.
It's times like this I wish we were a traditional family. Then I would find comfort in sharing a bed and smelling his scent. I wouldn't mind the hairs or whiskers—trappings of marriage. Beyond what I wish for myself, it's situations like this that I wish it for my kids. Will they feel bad not to have both parents shouting from the stands? Will they see other families together as a unit, or will other parents divide and conquer that weekend, so the chasm between intact and broken families isn't so obvious? Maybe our kids are used to the scheduling, organizing, shuffling back and forth. Maybe they expect it.
I've thought long and hard about our predicament, and here's what I’m going to do. I’m going to solve the problem the way in which we've approached all our other dilemmas. I'm going to broach the topic with my ex and see how he feels. Having an open line of communication has always been the easiest policy. When we've agreed on a solution, I'm going to speak to my kids openly and honestly about how the weekend is going to go. I'm going to answer their questions, make their worries disappear with the kind of reassurance that makes them feel warm and cozy and content. Most likely, I'm going to go to the tournament on Friday. Their dad will take over on Saturday, same as usual. Instead of having my kids shuffle their things between rooms, and out of respect for my ex, I'm going to make sure the hotel room is thoroughly cleaned and that the sheets are changed.
I'm going to cheer for my son and his team and hope for the best. That's all we could ever want for our kids.
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.