I would say that the majority of my friends come from “whole” families. Their parents are not divorced. Mine are. My parents have been divorced since I was about 6 years old. Before I get to into this blog let me explain some things. I am not trying to lecture people on divorce or condemn people who are divorced. This blog is to explain to those of you whose parents are still married the differences that children of divorce experience. This is to show those who are going through divorce what to expect, both from the child living it and the parent trying to help the child.
Let me start off by expressing that I hold no grudge against my parents for their divorce. Life happens. Sometimes a marriage that looked like a good idea at the time falls apart. I understand that. I love my parents. I don’t want any misunderstandings about this blog. I do not pretend to know how every divorced child feels, but I will tell you what I felt and still feel.
As I said at the start my parents got divorced around the time I turned 6. Those of you who know me know that I do not have a very good memory. I really don’t remember much of my life for the few years they were together. It’s as if my life didn’t really begin until after that time. I’ve been told stories of when they were together, I just really don’t remember. It’s like my brain decided it would be easier to just start life anew. What I do remember is that fateful night I first heard of the word Divorce. To me, as a very young child, it was explained that Mommy and Daddy could no longer live together. That’s a very confusing concept for a child to grasp. Children that young don’t understand the concepts of adulthood. They don’t get marriage and “that” kind of love. What they do understand is that Mommy and Daddy love them. When a child is told that they can no longer live with both of their parents they start to wonder, “Was I very bad? Did I make them mad?” I blamed myself for my parents divorce. I must have done something wrong, something so bad that they can’t stay together now. I understand now that is not the case but no amount of assurances on my parent’s part could clear me of that blame. I had to come to that realization on my own.
I was lucky to have very mature parents who were and are able to remain friends after the divorce. They did not have a lengthy drawn out custody battle or fight over child support. We had all been living in Georgia, after the divorce my Mom moved back to Kansas to live with her parents. It was agreed that for the first year after the divorce I would live with Mom. I remember that was the year my Dad was held hostage in the Atlanta Penitentiary riot. That was scary! After the first year it was back to Dad in Georgia.
After the first year it was time for the tennis match to begin. Mom’s in the summer and every other Christmas, Dad got me the school year. Sometimes I think I got to see Mom at spring break as well. It was an emotional roller coaster for all parties involved. Tears because I had to leave Dad to see Mom and tears because I had to leave Mom to see Dad. Let me tell you, after a minimum of 2 round trips flights per year from age 6 to 15, flying looses its appeal.
It was hard to adjust to this new way of life and after awhile I found the easiest way was to lie, to myself and everyone else. After all how were the people in Kansas going to find out that I was no where near as popular as I pretended to be? How were the people in Oregon going to find out that I didn’t really do all that cool stuff in Kansas? I felt as though I was two different people and I didn’t really like either one of them. At first it was hard to live this split lie – two houses, two rooms, two families. It was hard to leave pets behind, especially my little Ghost cat. It was hard on her as well; she would ignore me for a week or two when I finally came home. It was my punishment for leaving her.
After some time I got used to the double life. I was very good at packing a lot of stuff in a few suitcases. I came to have some favorite flight attendants. I started to think of it as something special. In my child mind I had this neat life no one else could live and pretty soon my parents were going to get married again.
My parents did not get back together. My father married a wonderful woman with two girls. They adopted an adorable little boy later in their marriage. My mother had my rotten (but great) little bro and then married a fantastic man. I love my extended family.
At first however I was not a bit happy with my Dad’s marital plans. We were in the shed when he asked me what I thought of A. I’m pretty sure I said something to the tune of, “She’s ok.” Little did I know his response would be that he was so glad to hear that because he planned on asking her to marry him. My typical 11 year old reply was… WHAT!!!!! You can’t do that to me!! I mean if he marries her what’s going to happen to Mom, this was not how life was supposed to work. I am going to have to share a house with J & M?!?! NO!! I did not share well…HELLO only child for 11 years! Now I have a baby brother and 2 stepsisters on the way. What level of hell is this called? I told Dad that under no circumstance could he marry A, he had to marry Mom. Would you believe that my opinion wasn’t quite as important to him as I thought is should be?
So now that chapter is closed, they got married without my blessing or consent. They even poked fun at me, J, & M’s mutual displeasure at the event. – Oh yeah, you can bet that they were just as unhappy about this as I was. After all I did pull J’s hair every time I passed her at school. – I believe the wedding invite read:
J, J, & M joyfully happily grudgingly dutifully invite you to the wedding of
How cruel. But true. Contrary to popular belief the Brady Bunch is a VERY fictional depiction of mixed family life. We did not get along, we did not like each other, and we did not want to be near each. Oh we had our moments of friendship but we were not sisters. J & M were sisters; they had and still have an unbreakable bond. I was very much on the outside of that bond. Don’t get me wrong I do not begrudge them their sisterly ties. They have something together that we can never have. Just like S and I have something that they can never share, DNA and Blood are stronger ties than some people understand. I have a couple of people that fill that sister void for me but they are not my sisters.
It took a lot of growing up to understand what a truly wonderful person my Step-Mom is. To understand the animosity I had towards her I need to explain. I was THE woman of the house; I had all my Daddy’s attention, all his love. Anything I wanted I got and no one came in between us. I know now that my Dad still feels that way about me. At the time I still did not fully grasp that someone could love more than one person that much. I thought that she was going to steal all his love away. I know now that was silly. A did so much for me; she tried her best to love me even though I tried my best not to let her. She is a truly great person and I am better for having her in my life.
My Mom had it easier when she remarried, Dad had already done it and I was closer to 17 or 18. I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to stand next to my Mother as her Maid of Honor, to sing at my Mommy’s wedding. (I’m sorry I fighting back the tears here.) I was one of the most special experiences of my life! My Creepy (that’s was I call my Step-Dad, he’s not but it just kinda stuck to him) is laughter personified. You can’t find a happier, more loving, OCD laced teddy bear than him. He never fails to make me smile. He has brought laughter to my Mom and our whole family and I love him for that and so much more. Like I said, he came late in my life so he just had to put up with the 30 year old 17 year old.
In many ways divorce forces a child to grow up fast. I think I took care of my parents as much as they took care of me. But you know that you are truly grown when you can look back and say…
God had a purpose; this pain was not in vain. I am better person today because of the pain in the past. I love my family, all of them. I appreciate the pain I put my A through and I sorrow that I did it. I know what a contribution these people have made to the woman I am. I know how to love and be loved. I know how to let people go that do not want you. I know how to be who I need to be in all things…good and bad. You can let the past rule you or you can rule the past. I am Queen now.