by Virginia Colin
My daughter inspired this article. Her father and I separated when she was just 2 1/2 years old. She cannot remember a time when her family was just one family in one house. When she graduated from college, she wanted to have a party at which everyone she cared about could celebrate with her. She had had enough of celebrating a holiday or special event once with my family and again separately with her father’s family (or vice versa).
She was right.
This was not easy for me. The idea of being surrounded by my ex’s local relatives, who dramatically outnumber my local relatives, at a time when I wanted to be celebrating my child’s graduation sounded awful at first. It seemed as if this very special event would belong to them and not to me. I did not want to spoil the party by not going. I did not want to spoil it by going and looking lonely and miserable. I had to work on myself to find a better way to think about the party. With help from friends, that became possible.
The important thing was that this was HER graduation and HER party. It did not belong to me or to her dad. She was an adult and deserved to be able to include everyone she wanted in her celebration. My role was just to contribute to her having a great time at her party.
So instead of feeling sorry for myself about being so outnumbered, I remembered that several of those ex-relatives were people I liked whom I had not seen for years. Catching up with them might be fun. In addition, my child’s boyfriend’s mother would be there, and getting to know her was really something to look forward to. Seeing some of my daughter’s friends from high school and college would be fun. And, as one friend noted, the graduation party could be a rehearsal for her wedding. We certainly want all of her relatives and friends to be able to celebrate that together harmoniously!
So here’s to a great graduation party for my daughter and everyone she loves.
Formerly a research psychologist, Virginia L. Colin, Ph.D. has been providing family mediation services since 1999. She has written two books: Human Attachment (1996) and, with Rebecca Martin, The Guide to Low-Cost Divorce in Virginia (2014). She is the Director of Colin Family Mediation Group.