Life doesn’t go as planned-and thankfully so. My plan was to marry young, have kids young and raise this beautiful made-for-TV family. I wanted four kids, two close in age and two more six years later. I was delighted by the visions I had of the future. The whole big family coming and going in the house, kids bringing their friends over, family parties, the whole sha-bang. Instead, I married young, had a baby and got divorced. So what happened to the plan-or rather, the dream?
I changed it. That’s what happened to it. I love children and I love family. I had a great childhood with married parents and a sister. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anyone’s. And if things had gone differently-if I had made some different choices-I’d have loved to raise a big, intact family of my own. But life didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK. Braden and I are this awesome little team.
We apply this approach to everything we do together. Nothing brings me more joy than when he says, “because we’re a team,” about something we’re doing.
From very early on in the divorce process, I’ve had my mind made up about having more kids someday. It’s not going to happen. People are surprised by this. They see this young woman with a young son and bright future and wonder why I wouldn’t want to grow my family. But what they might not understand is how important it is to me that Braden and I remain a very strong team.
Right now, Braden knows he is number one in my life. And when he’s at his dad’s house, I am doing boring grown-up stuff that he could care less about. Imagine if I have more children with a man I am madly in love with. Let’s say two. Now four of us are always a unit. These two younger siblings were born to a complete family, and I love their dad completely. And then there’s Braden. Braden, who goes back and forth. Braden, whose dad I don’t love. Braden, whose family was never intact. Braden, who is significantly older than his other siblings. Braden, who misses out.
A really neat thing about families is that memories are made out of the smallest, most unexpected moments. Last spring, my mom, sister and I created a list of all of our favorite family memories. It was pages long! And you know what is interesting about that list? Most of the memories on it are of insignificant events that happened on insignificant days. It’s not just the holidays or vacations or parties that create the memories that bond a family. It’s what happens in the day-to-day.
If I were to have more children, Braden would miss out on half of those days. One Tuesday night when he’s at his dad’s, the dog will eat the whole pizza-box and all-while we’re all hanging up our coats. That story will come up over and over for years-and Braden would’ve missed it. I will never make my son feel like he’s stuck on the bench of our awesome little team. I just can’t do it.
I decided this early on in order to guide my decisions going forward, as every one I make affects Braden.
For the record, I also decided that if I do wed again, it will be to a (preferably divorced) man with his own kids. Why? Because I would love to have a bigger family! And if Braden and I blend our team with another team, then all the kids have another parent to visit on different days and no one is left out.
Lauren Navratil is a mom and writer living in Palatine.