Parenting With and Without Divorce

Charlotte Bismuth
3 min readNov 23, 2021

Sometimes I feel like I’m living on two different planets

Last week, my husband and I played Pictionary with our little girls after dinner for three consecutive nights. Cards spilled on the floor. Pencil points broke under the pressure of eager, clumsy fingers. The three-year-old refused every assignment: “it’s too ha-wd,” she said, shaking her head, before announcing, “I’ll dwaw a ghost.” I pretended to guess what she was drawing. “It’s an egg!” “It’s a cloud!” “It’s a giraffe!” She was so proud when I hazarded my final guess — “wait, is that a GHOST?”

The first night, I was just so happy we’d played. The second night, I thought it was just a lucky break. By the third night, I was ecstatic —we were on the brink of a family tradition! I couldn’t believe it was possible to anchor in something fun.

On Friday night, my son came home from his dad’s. He switches every Friday. He makes the switch alone now, because his older sister just left for college a few months ago. We brought him into the Pictionary game, which meant the girls were climbing on his back while we played. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d played with him. For years, he was switching homes every couple of days, and it was all we could do to maintain a basic routine.

It never felt like starting over, when I remarried and had two more kids. It was like living on two planets at once. There was so much I could do with my little kids, that I hadn’t — and still couldn’t — do with my older kids. When my youngest reached the ages of five and two — the ages at which their older siblings had faced their parents’ divorce — life tipped into science fiction. I was experiencing an alternate universe where parents get to hug their kids every single day, to teach them small things with repetition and consistency, to sit down and do homework every night of the week and see their progress. It’s a miracle.

I’m grateful to have this experience, though it hurts at times to feel like I missed so much with the older kids. But the point is to become a better parent, not to wallow and regret. That’s what I’ll be working on this week, because my big kids will be celebrating with their dad.

I’m just happy that they are all alive and well. I’m really soaking in every single minute I get with any single one of them: when my son bends down to hug me, when my eldest calls from college with a question about adulting, when my six-year-old needs help with a loose tooth, when the little one wants me on her Pictionary team. I don’t even care that I’ll be nearly a hundred years old when our youngest finally graduates from high school. The only tradition I need is to love them wherever they are.

Charlotte Bismuth

Author of “Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher,” former Manhattan ADA , Columbia Law School grad, occasional legal cartoonist.