Five years ago, my ten-year-old marriage officially came to an end. My world was thrown into turmoil and I had no idea what to do next. During the divorce process, my wife and I agreed to share custody of our three children. She would have them one week and I would have them the next. It was the best I could hope for, given the circumstances. My kids and I have always been very close. I was losing my wife, but I refused to lose my children.
The next few months proved to be trying and frustrating. Learning to live with a new routine was difficult. Learning to live as a part-time, single parent was even more difficult. At the time, my children were 7, 4 and 4. I had a 7 year old son, and 4 year old twins (boy and girl). I loved and cherished my time with the kids. For the sake of the kids, I tried keeping things as normal as possible, while doing more things together. The kids had just been through a tumultuous 6 months, while their mother and I went through the legal process of the divorce. I would like to say their mother and I were able to shield them from the ugliness a divorce can bring, but we were not always successful. I was attempting to create a routine which would help eliminate those bad memories.
I don’t know about other single parents, but WOW, this is not what I expected. During the weeks I did not have the kids, all I could think about was them. I missed them so much, yet all I could do was talk to them on the phone each night. It was not enough, but it was all I had. During the weeks I did have them, the first few days were wonderful. Then, I found my frustration level growing. Raising three children on your own is tough, even if it is every other week. I had no idea what was in store for me.
Four months after our divorce was final, my kid’s mother asked me to keep them one evening. It was her week with the kids, but she had a work related function she wanted to attend after business hours. Of course I would keep the kids. I took every opportunity I could to see them. I picked the kids up from school and started our usual after school routine. We had fun for the first couple hours and then did homework. After homework was completed, I cooked dinner and gave them baths. We all got ready for bed and turned in for the night, with all three kids in bed with me.
The next morning I awoke and started getting ready for work. I then woke the kids to get them ready for school. My cell phone had died the night before, so I had left it in the kitchen the night before to charge. I went to unplug the phone and noticed I had 12 missed calls and a few voicemails. Immediately, I knew something was wrong. There were calls from the police, the hospital and various friends of my former mother in laws. I returned a call to one of her friends. When I reached her, she said “Michael, there has been an accident”. I asked how bad the accident had been, and her only reply was “bad”. My ex wife (Tara) had been in a terrible car accident on the way home from the business function she had attended, and they did not know if she was going to make it.
A week and a half later, she was removed from life support and on November 30th, 2006 Tara passed away.
At this time, I am not going into the details of how the kids handled the circumstances of their mother’s accident and subsequent death, or how I presented the situation to them. I will save that, and much more, for a later date.
Suffice it to say, our worlds’ had been turned upside down. My children just lost their mother, and I just lost the best friend I ever had, and the mother of my children. I had so many questions without answers; I did not know which direction to turn. The one thing I did know was, my kid’s emotional health was at the top of my priority list.
As tough as I thought part-time, single parenting was, I had no idea what to expect as a full-time, single parent.
I knew at an early age that God had placed me on this earth to be a father. I just had no idea this was what He had in store for me. The next few years would prove to be loving, frustrating, fulfilling, stressing, educational and demanding. A family member once told me our circumstances would really “test my metal”. That proved to be an understatement.
Throw normal out the window. It was time to adjust and create our own new normal.
—by Michael Searer