One of my favorite things about bird nesting after divorce is that our children grow up with clues to their family history. Unlike traditional “home break” divorces, we have chosen to keep our children in the family home – their father and I are the ones who move in and out to take care of them. Since the parents’ house remained the main residence, the children neither had to say goodbye to their home, nor did we share our common property in the event of a divorce.
Because of this common parenting – also known as the bird’s nest – we keep coming across memories of how our family came into being. So many of these things encourage spontaneous sharing of stories about our family history. The story of both their fathers and my own origins and family; the shared history of their father and me before they were born; the story of one’s own growing up; and the ongoing stories and experiences we share together in the family home.
How Post Divorce Birdists Help Preserve My Family History
It was, in fact, my youngest son’s discovery of a mixtape that Bill had made for me when we started dating that got me thinking about the subject. (Yes, I can tell you now know how old we are. A mixtape !? Yes.) But other memorabilia from both sides of the family are everywhere: from quilts in every bedroom that were handmade by my mother to the poster of her grandfather’s grandfather, who rode a motorcycle in the 1920s, to my grandma’s cake stand, which comes out for every birthday cake. There are countless examples of our immediate family as well, but here are a few that crossed my mind:
“The cheese carrier!”
This is a small glass bowl in a metal stand with a handle and a matching spoon that contains grated parmesan cheese. Bill’s mother bought it for me on a family trip to Italy years before our children were born. I admired them in all the restaurants we went to and it was such a sweet surprise when Fran gave me one of my own when we sat down for coffee in the piazza in Lucca. I never learned what these were called in Italian (let me know if you know!) – Bill and I started calling them “cheese carriers”, and that’s what the kids always call it!
This vinyl collection takes up a significant corner of the living room (yes, we have a record player too, of course). Most of these are Bill’s albums from his youth (all classic rock greats), with additions from the guys as they got older (from Frank Black to Wilco) topped off by my mother’s Christmas albums from the 1960s (like Johnny Mathis, The Kingston Trio and Sing With Mitch!).
ALL of her beloved childhood books – many from the person she gave them, so if I come across one I can say, “Oh, Aunt Nancy brought you this Danny and the dinosaurs from England! You loved dinosaurs! ”Or“ Oh, Santa gave you this when we first put you on his lap at the mall! No, you weren’t the one who screamed, that was your younger brother two years later. “
“Heaven” and “Tim”!
We have art from gifted friends and travel memorabilia from all over the house. But these two guys are very special – they appear in a lot of family photos and occasionally wear a bit of holiday decor. Nebo is a concrete gargoyle that sits on our patio and looks thoughtfully over the back garden. Bill and I bought it for the front porch of our first small rental home in Arlington, Virginia. Why did we call him Nebo? I have no idea. Meanwhile, Tim lives in the dining room. It’s a three-foot tall metal giraffe made from thin slices of Tuscan beer cans by a Kenyan artist. We admired this man’s work many times on our weekly forays into Eastern Market while living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. We bought it on our last family stroll through the market before moving to Indiana as a memento of one of our favorite things to do in our neighborhood. I still remember putting it in the stroller to go home. Why “Tim”? Beats me.
The list could be continued as desired. And I often relate these stories to our children (probably too often if you ask them!). But I think it’s especially important because we’re divorced that they hear about the good memories their dad and I made together. These show them the reasons Bill and I came together and why we chose to create these great children together. These memories are also one of the reasons we worked really hard to achieve the most positive divorce possible and to honor the story that made us family. Although we are different from some families because of the divorce, I hope that the way we have shaped this life for our children gives them a good sense of the strength of our family – as it is.
I also hope that stories of our history – and the way we live now – teach you a lesson not only about our family, but also about the wider story that LIFE is. Things end – jobs, relationships, friendships. Situations arise – sometimes out of the blue – that completely change what you thought. Relationships develop and change – sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Sometimes you have to make a difficult decision to change or quit because that is exactly what has to happen. But none of this negates the good things that happened during those experiences. Or the good things that can arise from frightening changes and difficult decisions.
I love history (as you can see) but that doesn’t mean I want us to live in the past. Because of our divorce, her father and I all made our own very happy places in the world. I wouldn’t trade the lessons, experiences, and memories I made on my own for anything.
Post divorce bird lists help preserve our family history. I know that at some point our children will have their own place in the world. And I can’t wait to see which chapters they add to our family’s ongoing story!
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