Written by Katie Bailey
Everyone has their picture of a “perfect family”. This picture may be different from person to person. Even if you feel envy of a family’s perfect pictures, hold your jealousy because a “perfect family” doesn’t exist.
I thought I was a part of a perfect family growing up. I had two parents that loved and supported my brother and I. Together, we were a small family that always ate dinner together, took summer vacations, and did anything else you can think of. Sometimes we argued and talked back but we always made up. I loved our little family so much until it was almost taken away the first time.
The First Time
When I was 11 years old, I remember my teacher coming up to me and telling me that she wanted to walk me out to my mom’s car in the parking lot. The gesture was very nice, but it seemed excessive in my mind. Then, I came home to my mom telling me that my dad was going to stay with a friend for a few days, which again, was very unusual. I guessed that something was going on between my mum and my dad. That’s when I knew nothing was going to be the same.
Time passed and my parents stayed together and never told me anything else about the situation. Everyone pretended that things were just back to normal. But since then, my dad stayed distant and my mom got closer to me and my brother.
Things really had changed
As I got older, she was easily my best friend. But that’s not always what you want to be with your mom, especially when she goes through round two of rough times.
Last year, my mom asked me how to view a Facebook message. That sounds like something so simple, but it was a very out-of-the-blue question from my technologically challenged mother. The next night we went to a Jimmy Buffett concert and got a margarita. Again, seems pretty normal for anyone else besides my mother. Buffett was performing his song “Boat Drinks” and conveniently changed the words of one particular line to “I shot 6 holes in my husband” rather than fridge.
Breaking the news
And that’s how I was told my parents were getting divorced. In the middle of a concert, with my mom laughing and singing along like this was just a casual thing.
I spent the next three weeks being my mom’s only “friend” who knew about his affair, and she told me far too much about it. The problem was I wanted to be there for my mom more than anything in the world, but I also didn’t want to. She expected me to be an adult she could confide in for advice and comfort. Her person to vent to and to tell all of the emerging details to like who, when, where, for how long, etc. But I wasn’t that. That’s what psychologists are for, not daughters.
I am her child. I may have been 21 years old but I was still her child. I’m my dad’s kid too and there are certain things your kids shouldn’t know about their parents.
What I found out was that my mom could have left a long time ago, but she stayed for her kids. She did not want me and my brother growing up splitting time between houses, parents, maybe even new spouses. She wanted her kids together with her all the time.
What Should Have Happened
My parents did not seek out a psychologist during the in between years for couples’ therapy or just adult therapy for her own guidance. I love my mom, but I don’t know why she thought she could fix it on her own. Seeking out a psychologist immediately after could have saved the entire family from emotional damage 10 years down the road.
But I think about how things could have been different if she had switched her decision when I was 11. Would it have been harder then or now? At least I’m mature enough to understand now, right? Wrong. The best advice I’ve received from help I sought out was this:
“They say the worst time for parents to get divorced is when the child is in middle school, but they’re wrong. There’s no ‘worst’ time for parents to get divorced for the children. It’s always going to hurt so let yourself grieve as if you are 11.”
The New Normal
I still get upset coming home from school to a quiet house. I need to use GPS to get to my dad’s new house. My parents stand on opposite sides of the competition floor waiting to hug me after gymnastics meets. It’s weird but it’s my new normal. Moving back to school away from home gave me a distraction and gave me a place that was the same as when I left. My mom is still my favourite person in the whole world, but, for good reason, is no longer my best friend.
Parents, listen well
Parents, coming from the other end of it, just be aware of what information your child does or doesn’t need about the divorce. If they ask questions, be honest and genuine, but respectful. Most importantly, separate them from your spouse. Don’t take anger, sadness, frustration, or whatever you may be feeling out on them. And remember, no matter what age, they still are your KID.
Written by Katie Bailey
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