On Thursday, May 5, I graduate from the University of North Carolina Greensboro! I am so excited and can’t wait for my close friends and family to watch as I finally get my bachelor’s degree. In the midst of all the graduation excitement, a friend of mine who is also graduating is dreading it. I know it sounds crazy, but, while she is thrilled to be getting her degree, she, unfortunately, has to deal with “the parent drama,” as she puts it. Her parents divorced when she was three years old, and ever since then, every birthday party, dance recital, big or small celebration there is always drama between her mom and dad.
“One time,” as she explained to me over lunch, “my mom got upset with my father because brought me a dozen roses for my 5th-grade dance recital. She said he was showing her up because all she could afford at the time was carnations.” She further explained that “…every time they have to be in the same room it is like a competition for my love. One of them will probably have a large glittery sign that says how proud they are of me while the other will have a bull horn to grab my attention during graduation.” I cannot relate as my parents are married and have never acted this way, so I just laughed off the silly scenario with her. As graduation approaches, my friend was getting more anxious about having to deal with her divorced parents. Seeing her like this upset me because her parent’s childish behavior was taking away from what matters, my friend’s accomplishments.
A broken relationship of any kind is unbelievably hard. A divorce that involves children at any age can be even worse. If your son or daughter is graduating this year and you have to see your ex, as much as you want to outshine them or show them that you are the better parent, think of your child. Here are some thoughts on how to keep the spotlight on your graduating child and not your divorce:
If the divorce is still hurtful or new, try sitting in different areas of the auditorium. Completely remove yourself from temptation in wanting to act out against your ex during this time of celebration. Give your graduate a heads up that you will be sitting apart so you both can enjoy their accomplishments.
When it is time for pictures after graduation, take the five minutes or so and be kind to your ex. You both created this smart and talented graduate, so be proud together and smile for the pictures.
Preplan separate graduation celebrations. If doing one large one together is just impossible, ask your graduate where they would like to go out for dinner. Don’t try and out do your ex-spouse’s celebration or buy a more expensive gift; just ask your son or daughter what they want. You might be surprised at how simplistic they want things with you.
Do not; I repeat DO NOT bring your latest fling to your son or daughters graduation just to show that you have moved on from your ex. Unless your current significant other has been around for a while (and your son/daughter knows them well) just don’t do it.
Realize the accomplishment that your soon to be graduate has completed. You should feel proud of the person you raised. I am hoping that my friend’s parents behave during graduation; she has worked so hard for this moment and deserves a moment in the spotlight.