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Advice for Divorced Parents—When I Only Wanted to Buy Some Bananas

Our Greenbelt mom columnist says standing in line at the grocery store was not where she expected to receive the best advice about her divorce.

I was standing in line waiting to pay at the grocery store, lost in thought as I often was during this time. I clearly had a dissatisfied look on my face. The cashier gave me a smile and said, “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.”

“I’m getting a divorce,” I replied flatly.

Everything seemed to stop. I couldn’t hear the beeping of items being checked out, the music playing over the speaker system was suddenly quiet. The words left my lips before I had a chance to realize what I was saying. I hadn’t really admitted it to myself yet, but I knew in my heart my marriage was over, and here I was in the grocery store trying the sentence out for myself.

“I’m getting a divorce.” How did it sound being spoken out loud? Would it hurt less the more I spoke those words?

“Let me give you some advice…” the cashier said holding a bunch of bananas in mid air.

I rolled my eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. Immediately aware of this rude behavior I stumbled over the words, “I’m sorry,” while trying to think of a better apology. And the cashier looked at me with such a kind smile, eyes reflecting my scared face.

“You got kids?”

I nod, “Yes, two.”

“You and your ex needs to act like you talking. Don’t let the kids know that you ain’t. My ex-wife and I would exchange the kids in this parking lot and we’d stand with our backs to the car so the kids couldn’t see our faces. And we’d just stand there. Ain’t sayin’ nothin’. But the kids didn’t know. They thought we were talkin’ all those years.” He points his finger at me causing the bananas to swing oddly in his hand. “So they never tried to pull nothin’ over on us!”

I smiled and made small talk, changing the subject to the weather while wishing he’d check me out faster. I wasn’t in the place, mentally, to really hear his advice that day. My then-husband and I were living under the same roof and hadn’t spoken for weeks, I couldn’t visualize us standing side by side in a parking lot.

I received a lot of advice while going through my divorce, but years later the advice from the random checkout person at the grocery store is what I most often think about when co-parenting with my ex-husband. We don’t need to be best friends. We don’t even really need to like each other. But we do need to communicate for the sake of our children. The children need to feel as though both parents are making the choices in their upbringing. For a while we only talked about the children: their schedules, difficulties in school, new friends, etc. But now we ask about each other’s families. We even talk about our careers. It’s still on the surface, but I’m glad I took the cashier’s advice.  And I know that because we are communicating with each other, it’s laying the groundwork for the future of our children. And that is what matters the most.

Gretchen Schock is a mom living in Greenbelt, Md., a writer and a yoga instructor. Check out her creative writings and crafty goodness on her blog, www.CocktailMom.com. Or come to a yoga class and be inspired!

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