When my ex-husband told me that he wanted to ask me a favor, right after we divorced, my first inclination was to just say no, without even hearing what he had to say. This man had chosen gambling over me and our baby. This man had stolen money set aside for diapers and childcare. This man had put me in the position where I must choose to buy either bread or milk, because there wasn’t enough money for both. He lied and deceived me again and again.

This man wanted to ask me a favor? I listened. He asked of me that we agree to always do what is in the best interest of our son, and not to let our personal feelings get in the way. He asked that we raise our son with as much cooperation as possible, given the circumstances. For my beloved son, I agreed. I never regretted that decision, but only twelve years later do I fully see the implications of it.

When my son was old enough to ask why I had divorced his dad, I had to be creativeWhen my son was old enough to ask why I had divorced his dad, I had to be creative. He idolized his mostly absent and sometimes awesome father. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him. I knew that eventually he would find out. There are enough other people who know my ex, and his lifestyle, and I love my son too much to damage his image of his super-dad.

I had promised, so I tried to answer creatively. A rabbi told us that we should divorce. His father had other priorities that made family life difficult. It was a decision that we had to make, but we both love him dearly, and are glad to have brought him to the world. All true—but he knew that I hadn’t really answered his question.

Last week he surprised me. Big time. We had gone to get my son, now almost as tall as me, a new passport. In order to do so, both parents must be present. It was the first time in years that I had been in the same room as my ex. We didn’t really talk; we just went in and did what we needed to do. It was pretty quick and painless.

We had gone early in the morning to beat the crowd, and so that my son wouldn’t miss too much school. When we finished earlier than expected, we decided to go to a bagel shop for breakfast. Once we had settled down with our meal, my son said to me, “Mom, it was so strange being in the same room with both of you.”

“Yeah, that never happens.”

“I’m used to being a certain way when I’m with him, and different with you.”

“With both of us there, you weren’t sure where to put yourself.”

“Yeah . . .”

A few more bites of bagel, then the bomb.

“I know why you got divorced—the gambling and all.”

“Huh?” I almost gagged on a bite of tomato. “Who told you?”


“He did?”

“Yeah, I asked him.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, I asked him and he told me. A few months ago, but I wasn’t ready to say anything yet . . .”

Whatever feelings I had towards my ex, in that moment I was filled with respectWhatever feelings I had towards my ex, in that moment I was filled with respect. He had owned up to the mistakes that he made. After all of the dishonesty that had marked our marriage, in the crucial moment he made the right decision and was honest with our son. I was filled with respect for my son. There are other people in his life whom he could have asked, but he was strong enough to ask his father and to get the answer he needed to hear in the most direct way. He got an answer that didn’t diminish their relationship, or my son’s self-image as the son of his father.

I was glad that I had listened twelve years earlier to my ex’s request, and glad that I had agreed. I was grateful for the strength to hold my tongue at the times that I did. There are still many questions in my mind, but that moment was the parenting equivalent of peeking into the oven and seeing the cake turn out beautifully, only much, much greater.

I understand the desire for revenge. I was hurt and disappointed. But I had a choice to make. In the end, by doing a favor for one who I felt deserved it least, I helped myself most.