There will be no case summary today.
Today I want to write about something more important than the law. I want to write about the importance of being a good parent after divorce. And I want to write about my father.
My father died Wednesday, March 16, at age 79. He had been hospitalized since November. When we last spoke earlier that week, he was the same as always—witty, curious, and fully engaged. A sudden and unexpected turn for the worse on Sunday left him on life support with no hope of recovery.
When this post is published on Monday morning, I will be in Nashville burying my father in a veteran’s cemetery with military honors.
My parents divorced when I was around four years old. At the time, Tennessee followed the “tender years doctrine,” which created a legal presumption in which custody of young children automatically went to the mother unless she was clearly shown to be unfit. (The tender years doctrine is no more. Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-101(d) now expressly provides that gender is of no consequence.)
My dad ended up seeing me and my sister every other weekend.
As is the case with many divorced parents, he was angry about the unfairness of it all.
Being little children, my sister and I didn’t understand why he and our mother didn’t live together anymore. Naturally, we would ask him.
He always bit his tongue, kept his frustration and anger to himself, deftly changed the subject, and changed the focus to something fun. We eventually stopped asking.
Throughout my childhood, he never made a derogatory remark about my mother or stepfather in my presence. I am sure he wanted to many times over. But he didn’t.
Today I recognize how that small act of kindness was such a wonderful gift to me and my sister.
All too often I see divorced parents who are consumed with the unfairness of their situation. They are quick with disparaging comments about the other parent.
I certainly understand the temptation to make derogatory comments about the other parent.
While it may give the parent momentary pleasure to speak his or her mind, the parent does lasting damage to his or her children.
My father always took the high road. He kept his children out of the fray. He protected us from the damaging aftershocks of his divorce.
For that I am forever grateful.
Today I want to celebrate those divorced parents who always put their children’s needs above their own. It isn’t always easy to bite your tongue. But it is an act of loving kindness toward your children. One day your children will appreciate your selflessness in having done so.
I know I do. Thank you, Dad.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family Law Attorney.