It's no secret that my greatest regret in life is that my kids grew up as children of divorce, and that I've spent years trying to make sense of the mistakes that were made. I realized a few years ago, though, that it's impossible to go back in time and make everything right for my kids, and that the best possible strategy is to keep the lines of communication open and validate their feelings about the events that transpired.
But of the handful of good things that came out of my divorce, one of them came to light this week. My children, ages 24 and 21, have become roommates. Voluntarily. And to say that's gratifying doesn't scratch the surface.
My son and daughter have always been close. During those dark nights when the arguments between their parents became more than they could bear, Scott was Caroline's protector, playing games with her to drown out the yelling. Through years of difficulty -- a horrible relationship on my end, their dad's remarriage, my cancer, and my eventual remarriage (not to the horrible-relationship guy, thankfully) -- my kids held on to each other. They were one another's constants during change.
I don't think they've ever argued. Ever. They are very different from one another, but they admire one another's strengths. Each one has a total, unshakable pride in his or her sibling. Their relationship is a wonderful thing to witness.
I chalk up their love for each other to their being forced to cling to one another during some pretty bad times, but I also attribute it to these things: a mother and father who, despite their own difficulties, never managed to lose sight of the fact that we were parents first. The kids were cared for and loved. And our extended families stepped in to help, maintaining positive relationships with the "opposite" former spouse and his or her family.
It took a village. Luckily, we had one.
In the past couple of weeks, events conspired to enable my kids to see that living together would be a fine idea. They have roommates and dogs, but the two of them are at the heart of the household they're building. They're a perfect yin and yang; one is much more laid back, and the other a bit more tightly wound. But they're viewing their different approaches to life as opportunities to stretch their comfort zones.
I worry less now that they're together. I know each has the other's back, and that nothing unfortunate is likely to happen to one as long as the other is keeping watch.
And on nights like tonight, when I'm making dinner for them, it's a whole lot easier to make one pot of chili and visit them both in the same place.
If I could go back in time, I'd take away the pain for them. I can't do that, obviously, but I can feel a tremendous sense of pride that my kids are made of the elements they're made of, and that they've seen that beautiful things can come from terrible times. That knowledge -- and the joy they find in being together -- will serve them well indeed.