By Abby King
Following their official breakup announcement, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were photographed at their vacation home in the Bahamas. People magazine has suggested that postdivorce, they plan to continue living together at their California estate. Is this just another example of crazy celebrities living differently from the rest of us? What is going on?
If it's true, I suspect what's going on is something that goes on in many homes of the newly divorced. They are dreaming of something as rare as a rainbow unicorn, the "kumbaya divorce." I know this dream.
Even for those who manage to divorce without a nasty court battle, there is usually still some healthy measure of messiness. Several years ago, as I dried my tears and settled into my new life, I threw out a Thanksgiving invitation to my ex and his family to see if it would stick. It didn't. After that, other holiday and vacation invitations were left hanging in the air. "Come to Disney with us. Get your own room. Don't miss it!" We have yet to break bread together on the day of thanks or exchange holiday gifts all together in one home on one night.
But I'm going to keep asking and hoping. I believe that one day, we'll all be together at my beach house for a weekend. I believe that someday, we will overlap a few days on vacation.
Where there is too much postdivorce anger and vitriol, kumbaya is impossible. But if you get to a place where hostility fades to mere occasional discomfort, the good can outweigh the bad. This is the teeny dream I have lived.
Three days a year - three out of 365 days - my kids get a taste of this dream, a night with both of their parents. I'm not talking about a noisy gym for one of their basketball games or a field with 200 other parents on camp visiting day. Three times a year (one for each of their birthdays and before my son goes to sleepaway camp), we go out to dinner. Our original nuclear family shares a table for a few hours.
What was once hard to tolerate has eased into something different from, but related to, comfortable and enjoyable. Truthfully, any enjoyment is directly related to the real joy that emanates from both of our children when they are with both of their parents. At the same time.
Why do I continue to dream the dream of the kumbaya divorce? Not to gloss over what we are: a family once intact and now split. No, it's because, as far as I'm concerned, we are a family. That is why I still send invitations, why I visit my niece and nephew when I can, and why I keep in touch via technology since, for now, I can't do it at family gatherings and Passover seders.
For me, family doesn't dissipate; family doesn't break when two in the family decide to live separately. Family is family, and I want my kids to be able to enjoy all of their family together. If I can't make that happen all of the time, them I'm going to try my best to make it a reality more than just three nights a year.
Ben and Jen aren't so different from the rest of us muddling through divorce. Sure, he's now Batman and they have an estimated net worth of $135 million. But they are still parents splitting up their family, perhaps chasing that same rainbow unicorn the rest of us seek.
I wish them luck.