Most adults look back on their parents' divorce feeling scarred. Others look at their own divorces and worry deeply about their children. How will they turn out? Will they resent me? Will they hate themselves? How do we make this work? Will my children be unhappy? I am positive that my mother at times asked herself all of these questions at once.
I witnessed the early stages of my parents' divorce in January of 2001. It goes the way many divorce stories go. After years of dealing with my emotionally abusive, arrogant and self-absorbed father, my mother was fed up and decide to grab us kids and move out on her own, leaving behind a twenty-plus year marriage, the stability of having two incomes in one household and the seemingly "happy" family we had lived in for most of our lives. I remember the weeks after my parents' breakup, and how my second-grade teacher tried her best to give me kind words and consolation assuming I was going through the worst time of my life.
She was right. At the time I was afraid, resentful toward both of my parents and confused. I was eight years old, and I didn't understand how come mommy and daddy couldn't just apologize and fix it. I wasn't the girl in my class who could be proud of her two married parents compared to everyone else who lived in single parent households. Now, I was one of them. For some reason, at eight years old, I felt like that was something to be ashamed of.
In the years since my parents' divorce however, I have gone from the frail and bewildered child questioning what the heck happened to a young woman empowered by the experience. Yes, I witnessed my parents' divorce. Yes, it was painful. But today, I feel more thankful than anything. See, life in a single parent household is exactly what contributed to the woman I am today. I learned to do things on my own a lot quicker than most people had to, because I had a mother who was working all the time to keep food on the table. My siblings and I had to learn how to work with her, how to help mom as much as we could. We cooked, cleaned, combed our hair, and dressed ourselves at early ages. We knew what it felt like to have close to nothing at times, and we knew how to be humble on the days when mom could give us more than usual. We did excellently in school and every thing we applied ourselves to, motivated by a need to keep our hard-working mother happy and proud of us.
We got our ears pierced, watched cable TV, went to the movies, and in our teen years we dated, all of which would never have been allowed in my father's household. We had the freedom to speak and a mother who listened intently and became a best friend in some way to each of her children. We developed an intimate relationship with my mother that I could not picture had her marriage never ended. The divorce made her a different woman -- braver, empowered and one who experienced life. In turn, it made her a different mother -- a better one. She tried new things, she faced fears and in turn, showed us how to find bravery to face our own. She made the impossible possible.
Divorce isn't easy on children. It is a scary time for everyone involved, especially when they are unsure about the future. Still, there lies beauty in the end of a marriage when everyone involved is allowed to discover who they truly are. That simple fact is what changed my life for the better.
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