Divorce, Children, and Shared Simcha/Shiffie Grossman Merzel

Posted on March 10, 2011

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About a year ago I received two invitations in the mail, two Bar mitzvahs within two weeks of each other. Both boys were from one-parent homes. From one of the invitations I was able to gather that it was going to be a joint party, meaning both mother and father were making one party together. The other invitation only had the name of one parent on it. When I saw it my heart broke, and I cried. As a divorced single mom, I was sad for this soon to be 13 year-old child who was going to be celebrating this amazing experience of become a Bar Mitzvah without both his parents at his side. I understand sometimes the anger is so strong, but however much anger there is, there are still poor innocent children being used as weapons.
I went to both Bar Mitzvahs. The first was nice, food was good, the dancing was lively, and the flowers were pretty. All of that didn’t really matter, because the achdus (unity) in the air was what made the party a success. The Mom gave a speech and thanked the Dad, the grandparents shook hands/hugged/ their ex-children in laws. You couldn’t tell who was from which side.
The other Bar Mitzvah was not quite the same. The food was just as good, the dancing was just as lively, and the flowers were just as pretty, but the atmosphere was bittersweet. It was lacking the family togetherness.
At that time, I had a daughter who was 11. I knew I’d be making a Bat Mitzvah for her in the next few months. I wanted it to be a joint party, one filled with achdus and joy. I wanted the day to be all about my daughter and I didn’t want anything getting in the way of that. I called all the local halls and caterers, and got prices, I then emailed my ex with all the information and he told me his preferences, I told him mine, and we made our decisions. And this is how the whole thing went.
I’m not going to say the planning was all easy-going. We definitely had some disagreements about certain details, but in the end the day of the party arrived with a sense of happiness.
We both walked in the room. The joy we both had for our daughter outweighed any anger or resentment that could have existed. We smiled at each other. My ex’s mother walked in and kissed me. My father pulled my ex into the corner and danced with him. We took turns taking photos with our pride and joy. He spoke nicely and thanked me for all the work I put into arranging the whole party. There was simcha in the air. Our children even picked up on that and they reveled in it. It was a beautiful simcha and not because of the candy platters or food or music but because of the peace and happiness that was all pervasive.

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