My story starts in late 2012 when I, a 35 year old father, together with my two children – a 6 year-old girl and a 3 year-old boy found ourselves in the middle of a major transition in our lives. To be honest, it felt like I was thrown into the deep end of the pool not knowing how to swim (I still don’t know how to swim, I know, I know, it is what it is!). In the beginning, nothing was normal. Seeing the kids according to a new “visitation” schedule was not normal. Waking up and not seeing their faces every morning at the breakfast table was not normal. Yet here I was, having to adapt. Those early days were filled with feelings of sadness, guilt, and at times outright despair. It was taught and reinforced to me by family, culture, and the media that separation and co-parenting was a terrible mistake to make and to be avoided at ALL costs. Divorce rates, especially in South Asia, are less than 2.5%, lowest in the world. I was really going to be a trendsetter but not in any way positive. I was so much less than if you arrived in the place I was in.
Those first few months I did not live in my own home like I had for the previous 10 years. I went back to the bed I had last laid in during the summers when I visited my parents from university. Not only was I in my parent’s home, but my two children were going to be shuttled back and forth between myself and their mother according to a pre-ordained schedule. When the kids were under my care, the three of us would sleep together like peas in a pod. I derived comfort from their warm bodies enveloped around me, gently reminding me to have the fortitude for their sakes.
The children were delightfully oblivious to the tumult around them. They were surrounded by love from grandparents and their resiliency helped me find my way. During this time, my mom and dad’s emotional support was invaluable. Just like my children needed me, I needed my parents to remain grounded. It took me a few months to gather my thoughts and ideas about where our new home would be and what neighborhood to live in.
To any of you at the beginning, I know your story well. It is full of doubt and anxiety. Will the kids be okay? Will I be okay? What will everyone think of me? What does the future hold? I can’t answer these questions for you but I can tell you in the famous words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage”. You will find the courage, be it through family, friends, or faith, you will start to become a little stronger every day. The beginning was so difficult. Filled with grief and ashes. From it all though, came the beginning of a beautiful life that we live today. Here is an open invitation to you … come on this journey with me.