I rarely think or write about my parent’s divorce. It feels like ancient history and, for the most part, I never viewed it as a defining moment in my life.
But I may have been wrong.
As I dig down into the roots of some of my thought patterns, it seems like the fallout from their divorce is the soil from which they sprouted.
My parents, at least from my perspective, had a good divorce. Or at least as good as a divorce can be. I was insulated from as much of it as possible. There were no court battles, custody and child support agreements were made and followed. They both refrained from talking badly about the other and both made huge efforts to put my needs first.
They did pretty much everything right. Which is probably why I handled the transition well and don’t recall feeling undue stress.
But even when done well, change changes you.
We soon went from a family of three to a mom-daughter pair. I knew she was stressed and I didn’t want to add to that burden. I knew money was limited and I didn’t want to spend. I knew she had an abundance of responsibility and I didn’t want to contribute to the load.
Additionally, their divorce left me a bit like a chick pushed out of the nest a little too soon. And even though they picked me right back up, the knowledge of that unforgiving ground was impossible to forget.
Some kids go a little wild when their parents split, looking for attention and release.
I went the other way.
I became responsible.
I became perfectionistic.
I became self-reliant.
I took it upon myself to become my own parent. I watched my grades carefully and gave myself talks when I didn’t perform up to my potential. I carefully considered consequences and often held back for fear of negative outcomes.
I assumed the role of clock-watcher. Drill sergeant. Task master. If you wanted it done, I was your gal.
I took “I can do it myself” to whole new levels.
This was not an assigned role; it was self-appointed. It was my way of feeling like I had some control in my life.
Taking responsibility is a good thing. But I took it too far, assuming other’s burdens as well as my own.
Self-reliance is a positive trait. But I used it as a way to avoid feeling vulnerable.
It was my armor. My shield. My assurance.
And it was never really tested until my divorce.
And that was the first time I couldn’t do it myself.
I had to learn to release control. I had to learn how to accept help.
And I had no choice but to be vulnerable.
It’s wild – I learned self-reliance from my parent’s divorce and how to accept help from my own split.
It’s amazing how often life’s experiences will circle around again, healing old wounds and reteaching lessons. Each parallel event offering wisdom and yet threatening wounds. It can be tempting to desire a life without these difficult episodes, to dream of smooth days and comfortable nights. But I see these events differently. They are what bring meaning and purpose and perspective to our lives. They challenge us and teach us. They shape us.
Bookended tutorials supporting the life in between.
I wonder what lesson will circle around next? I just hope this one doesn’t come with a side of divorce. I’ve had enough of that!:)
16 thoughts on “Bookends”
Really good. Really thoughtful.
I envy a bit the early growth and responsible traits you exhibited, I type as I sit next to my Christmas tree I still haven’t taken down yet. (Hopefully, today!)
Wishing you much joy and success in 2014, Lisa.
I think about things you’ve written or said to me so much more than you can possibly realize.
Making new traditions. Noticing the triggers having less of an impact. Finding ways to overcome when the triggers do have an impact.
I don’t say thank you enough.
You say you envy it, but you didn’t have to live with it. As my mom can attest, I’m not always the easiest person to be around. Especially when there’s a schedule (real or imagined) to adhere to.
As for the tree, maybe it’s no longer a late Christmas tree but an early Arbor Day tree. Reframing:)
Thanks & have a great weekend!
I hope my kids come through stronger than they would have been otherwise, but I lament everyday the struggles they have to endure in order to be that stronger person…I know we all have our “stuff”, and this is just a part of theirs, but it crushes my heart that I failed to give them the childhood of joyful memories and the “nuclear” bond of an intact family that I dreamed I would provide. I think we as a society minimize what divorce does to a child – even when they come out on the other side stronger than they were before. Something about shaking a child’s feeling of security and ‘bonded’ness…
I can’t even imagine what parents go through. It seems like grieving the childhood you wanted your kids to have must be one of the hardest parts of divorce. It will impact them, at times negatively. But it can also be a positive factor in their lives. I know I wouldn’t have developed the resiliency and fortitude I have without it. They’ll be okay. And so will you:)
I wouldn’t completely blame your parents “divorce” on your attitudes. I have similar traits due to the fact that I came from a largish family and from the age of five, as my mother’s attention was diverted to the younger children, I needed to also ‘become my own parent’. Later on my father passed away and my younger brothers then also had to largely fend for themselves while my mother went back to work (and also grieve). In the end life is what it is and what happens happens and from all those happenings we become who we are. What I meant by that is that I do not believe that ‘divorce’ per se needs to be put into a category all on its own as being dreadful but rather in the ‘some things happen’ category. Sometimes life throws us curve-balls and we just need to learn to catch them. As far as I can tell, you seem to catch them pretty well.
You are so right that the same issues and lessons can come from very different circumstances:) I see that with Brock and I all the time.
How was your holiday?
Great holiday. I had two Christmases and somefun times with the family.
How was yours?
Awesome. Lots of needed R&R, time with friends, a cool ski trip and an extra day of vacation due to bad weather:)
Your parent’s divorce was the first divorce I experienced and for a very long time was the only one I had any relation to.
I know a lot of kids might be worried when a friend’s parents divorce that their own would as well. I don’t remember any such worries. In fact, I seem to recall it just seemed normal. Your parents did a good job of that.
That aside, I recall making tents with blankets under your huge dining room table. Well before the divorce you were always striving for perfection and setting the schedule of play. It’s just a part of you, and that’s not a bad thing.
Interesting. I never thought of the bigger sphere of influence. I guess it would stick out in your memory as the first divorce near you. Glad it didn’t make you worry about your folks.
Those blanket tents were the bomb! And, yeah, I’ve always been a bit driven:)
Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Up for a blanket tent when we reconnect?
Absolutely! Any chance your Mom will let us have the huge dining table for tent building again?
That was a perfect table (and nearby sofa) for it!
My kids went through two divorces, their parents first when they were truly to young to remember (6 months and 2 yo). Then mine and their fathers when they were teenagers (16 and nearly 19). I retained custody of the youngest at his mothers request (due to illness). It was difficult, the second one but their mother and I are friends and worked through it with them.
My own parents divorced after 23 years of marriage. I wasn’t home, my younger brother though had a very hard time.