As a child of divorce, I have experienced the anger, frustration and depression that often comes with being caught in the middle. I didn’t really act out a lot but rather drew deep into myself. I kept trying to figure out what may have been broken within me, that they couldn’t find a way to stay together. There were some times when I thought that maybe I could have done something different to keep it from happening, when in actuality it really had nothing to do with me. As any child in this situation, you feel and feed off of the tension between your parents and I definitely did that. I just internalized most of it.
When my parents divorced, I felt like I got divorced too. There were times that I didn’t speak to my dad, which I horribly regret. I am working to try to repair that now. The distance was on both sides often perpetuated by my mom. Then there were times early on when I felt like I was being used as a pawn to hurt my father. So yeah, good times. It sometimes felt that winning with each other was worth more than what was actually best for me. The message of it is better to be right than loved is a strong one, and a wrong one. Parents have to be careful of this, because what you are teaching your kids is that they came from a person that is unloveable and wrong, which in effect makes the kid wrong too. Which is crazy because at some point you loved the other parent enough to have children with them. So don’t get upset when your kids are with the other parent, or jealous of what they may be doing. Kids need to be seen, physically and emotionally by BOTH of their parents. They want to feel okay about spending time with BOTH parents and they want to feel okay to love BOTH parents.
At any rate, as time has gone on, both of my parents have moved on in their own way. My father remarried, my mother didn’t. At first I acted out a bit with my stepmother because I felt like she was trying to take my mother’s place, which really wasn’t possible and not even what she was trying to do. I was 11 years old at the time and my immature mind couldn’t wrap itself around what was happening and so I did what kids do, I acted out.
As an adult I can see how silly that was and there are times when I wish I was closer to my stepmother and I am trying to make steps toward that now. I try to be sure to include her when things happen in my life because she IS a part of my life. She is my father’s wife and as such I expect her to show up when I ask to my father to be somewhere. It is only right. As I hit milestones in my life, I would like her to be able to celebrate those too. Too much time has passed (26 years) for there to still be pettiness on my part. I had to mature first to fully understand. Things happen, it isn’t always pleasant, but I can choose how to react to it. Besides, I got an extra mother figure, what’s not to like about that?
On the whole my parents (including my stepmom) have done a pretty good job. Whenever there is a big event going on in my life, they are usually all there. There is no, “Well this side of the family is going to have an event for you and then you will just have to arrange something with the other side of the family”. First off that isn’t always fair because one set of family members will feel like they are being left out or not getting all the details on something. Also, it isn’t fair for the child, whether they are an adult or not. Most of the time parents do that because they feel awkward or uncomfortable being around the other parent after what has happened. That is understandable. However, at what point… how much has to pass before you just decide to suck it up and everyone come together for the kids? Sometimes when you do that, you basically end up having the kid trying to decide what is the best way to keep the peace or how to see both sets of parents without making the someone uncomfortable. It isn’t your kids’ job to make you feel comfortable. At some point it isn’t about your comfort, it’s about what is easiest for the kids. You entered into a relationship and had kids with this person, they are now a part of your life forever, whether you stay married or not. You were comfortable enough to have kids with this person and now as a co-parent you have to decide to get comfortable with the idea that they are going to be at events in their child’s life and there are times when you may have to come and work together for the kids to make it easier. As the children get older, get married, and have kids, it’s only going to get more complicated.