Effects of divorce
For 15 years I’ve wanted a voice.
At 18, I’m ready to talk about what my parents, and their divorce, have done to me.
When I was 3 years old, my parents separated. I still have selective memories of them arguing, sending me to my room when things began to escalate. Probably the worst thing I remember was being sat in the floor between my mom and dad and being told to choose who I wanted to live with, as if a 3-year-old’s decision is something considered in a court of law. I remember being confused, and eventually choosing my father. Possibly the same night, I stood at the front door, and watched my mother drive away in the dark.
Things like that have residual effects on a child. So does growing up being shuttled back and forth between homes, knowing mom and dad are still fighting but not knowing why. I never got the impression that my parents divorced because of me, which was one positive, but I always would pray and ask God to let them get back together. The older I got, the more I understood that my parents getting back together would have been a disaster. In a way I was glad they split, because had they stayed together for my sake I imagine growing up would have been twice as difficult.
When a couple has a child, if the marriage ends it is a parental responsibility to ensure the child knows not only that it isn’t her fault, but that both adults are still her parents. If they are active in the child’s life and make a point to uphold their responsibilities, they should be portrayed as nothing but good parents. My mom and dad, on the other hand, subjected me to their own opinions of each other. I was witness once to an argument on speakerphone, vulgarity and all.
My parents each tried to sway my opinion of the other, using almost any method of persuasion — promises of gifts, vacations and horseback-riding lessons. Sometimes they simply badmouthed one another.
My mother has lived in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte since the divorce, so the commute hasn’t always been convenient. The drive from my father’s house to my mother’s is approximately two hours each way, which made frequent visitation difficult and costly. Toward the end of my technical “childhood,” I didn’t see her as often due not only to that murderous drive, but also my part-time job and my internship here at the paper.
Due to her distance, throughout my life she was present for maybe a handful of school functions. Our relationship has always been rocky due to my upbringing at the hands of my father, and how much like him I turned out to be.
My father kept the house, and I’ve lived with him full-time since I was 3 years old. I learned to love guns, cars and hard work, and that crying isn’t something you do, not around my dad. He always tried to be supportive with school when I was younger, but the older I got the less recognition I received for anything I accomplished. Eventually the scolds, groundings and disappointment in any grade lower than a B far outnumbered the rare congratulation on my (almost) straight As and Bs.
I tried lacrosse and discovered sports just weren’t for me, so I eventually dropped it and focused on school. I had a long-term boyfriend freshman year, and after we broke up I wasn’t allowed to date because I needed to quote, “Focus on school.” Out of all the proms and dances I went to, not once do I remember my father telling me I was pretty or beautiful. I felt unappreciated, but most of all I felt controlled and trapped, like I was living in a cage.
I’ve never gone without necessities in my life; I’ve always had food to eat and a house to live in and clothes to wear. But what I never had was a feeling of making my parents proud. I’ve battled with depression since sophomore year of high school, something my parents never knew because I learned to bottle things inside. I’ve managed to go all these years keeping my feelings to myself, the effects of my parents’ immaturity, the parents who were still in court, to my knowledge, just before my 18 th birthday. But finally I have a chance to talk about it.
I love my parents, but I don’t think they ever really thought about how their actions would affect me. I have grown into a person that for the most part I enjoy being. My parents have tried to do what’s best for me, and I understand that. I only wish that they’d known how important the little things are.
If you divorce your spouse and you have children, always tell them when they do well, in anything. Never badmouth your ex, and don’t think you’re a better parent than the other. Be the best you can for your child, and although you needn’t be friends with your ex, learn some civility so your child isn’t the one feeling like the adult. Do your best to be the person that you want your child to be, because they will become a version of you. Don’t let that end up being a bad thing.