When I tell people that my parents are divorced, 99 percent of the time they respond with one of two reactions: "I'm sorry," or an awkward expression that indicates they are looking for any possible way to change the subject.
And so because I'm aware that saying "my parents are divorced" elicits the same reaction as "I have crabs," I've learned to immediately clarify to people that no, I do not need a hug or a look of pity -- the divorce is a good thing.
My parents have been divorced since I was three years old, and despite being barely old enough to form memories, I have one clear recollection from when we all lived in the same house: my parents fighting, and me standing in the doorway with my hands over my ears.
My parents are two people who are fundamentally incompatible. My father is adventurous, outspoken (sometimes brash) and constantly on the move. My mother is thoughtful, literary and -- above all -- motherly.
Time spent with my mother is usually filled with eating at various restaurants, shopping, swapping books and guiltily watching "Long Island Medium." When I'm with my father, we never sit still; we're constantly brainstorming ideas for the various businesses we will absolutely start one day and debating the merit of a good glass of wine. The relationship I have with each of my parents is unique, and I wouldn't have developed them had my parents spend the majority of my childhood sparring over what to buy me for Christmas.
From an early age, my parents treated me not just like their daughter, but as a person. They didn't speak to me in baby talk. They didn't use euphemisms like "tinkle," or tell me that when my grandmother died she was "just sleeping." They were honest with me, and did not discount my beliefs, wishes, opinions, or emotions just because I was a kid. And because they treated me like a person, I understood that they too were not just my parents -- they were people as well. People that deserved to be happy, deserved to be loved, and deserved to be free. As they respected my needs, I learned to respect theirs.
I understood that, although being a parent was one of the most important parts of their identities, it was not the only thing that defined them. Just as I have been a daughter, a writer, a singer, a best friend, a girlfriend and many more things over the course of my life, my parents have been many things too. My father is not only a dad; he's been a traveler, a cook, an artist, a college student, an oldest child, an early EDM fan (yes, I swear), a son and a brother. My mother is not only a mom, but a daughter, a sister, a photographer, an intern, a professor, a mentor, a literary and -- my favorite -- a bass player in a punk rock band.
From a young age, I knew that even though "wife" and "husband" were no longer parts of their identities, there were so many other facets of them as individuals that were wonderful and that I could look forward to getting to know over my lifetime.
My parents understood this too, and because they treated each other like people -- and not as simply exes -- they were able to stay friends and co-parent. Just as my relationship with them hinged on their respect for me, they developed a new, divorced relationship based on respect for each other.
Divorce may not be a blessing, but it is not a curse either -- nor is it a failure. My parents did not fail me, nor did they fail each other, by ending their marriage. I would have failed them, and they would have failed each other, had they stayed together unhappily. Instead, they were able to give me an awesome childhood while co-parenting apart, and I'm grateful for that.