Some may read that sentence and assume that this is a story about childhood trauma or tragedy. But, it’s not. Far from it.
While I won’t share the details of why my parents chose to part ways, because it’s not my story to tell, I will tell you why it was the best gift they ever gave me.
You see, children are special in more ways than one, and perceptive beyond belief. I’m not talking about the they see dead people kind of perception, but rather that kids are like little feelings’ barometers. They pick up on the energy around them much easier than jaded adults do. You can’t force a grin on a child and convince them that nothing is wrong when there is. Or, offer them a picture painted with sunshiny colors, when the true reality is grey and stormy.
They know, much like my dogs do, when something isn’t right. Especially when it comes to their parents. Ignoring, or attempting to mask marital discord, does nothing but fuel their worries and confusion, and may even cause some children to believe they are somehow to blame.
When I speak to people going through a divorce, their main worry, of course, is how it will affect their children.
Shouldn’t we stay together for the kids?
Won’t they be better off with their parents together, under the same roof?
The answer to these questions, from my own experience, is a resounding hell no! In fact, some people should divorce for the sake of the children.
Sure, it won’t be easy on them. Divorce isn’t easy on anyone involved. But, after the dust settles, and they become acclimated to their new arrangement, you may be surprised at just how many of them breathe a sigh of relief.
I certainly did.
Even at eight years old, after the divorce was final, I felt the elephant leap off my chest. I could finally breathe again, no longer having to bear the awkward tension of living in the same house with two people who couldn’t stand each other.
It’s true, the memory of the day my parents divorced is a happy one for me.
Now, I won’t pretend that the moments leading up to it, weren’t difficult, because they were.
There were years of knowing something was off, while lacking the wisdom to understand what.
My mom and dad were married for seventeen years.
I’m not sure how many years they were unhappy. If I had to guess, probably…many. I’m both pissed off and grateful that they tried to stick it out that long, for the sake of me and my sister. That’s selflessness at it’s finest, and I don’t know if I’d do the same for my children.
And, there was the guilt of thinking I had to choose between them. I knew that I wanted to live with my mom, as my dad and I weren’t nearly as close, but I was terrified of hurting his feelings. The thought of him living alone kept me up late at night.
And, he didn’t take it well. Looking back, he put me in a painfully impossible situation for a kid.
I have a vivid memory of sitting side by side on the wooden porch with him. He asked me who I wanted to live with and, too scared to tell the truth (the one who’s not making me choose), I simply said I didn’t care.
Tough stuff, indeed.
But, once the band-aid was ripped off, and I was living with my mom in our new house, I slowly let go of that guilt.
Even at such a young age, I wanted them to be happy. And, I knew that as long as they were together for the sake of us, that was impossible.
Seeing both my parents happy own their own was a million times better than seeing them miserable together. It was so much healthier for all of us.
So, do I occasionally talk with my therapist about my childhood?
And, as a somewhat adult in my thirties, I certainly have my share of issues.
But, I can assure you, not one of them is because my parents got divorced.
In fact, my therapy bill would likely be much much higher, had they stayed together for the sake of the children.