Divorce Through the Eyes of a Child
The Happy Memories of Both My Parents
Divorce. It’s a scary word, it can strike fear into some, and for others it brings up old memories of a broken marriage and a broken home. To me, it reminds me of my early childhood. I don’t have many memories from when I was little, most of my childhood memories are from after the divorce of my parents.
It still hits a chord with me. Divorce doesn’t go away as you get older. Divorce is living out of a bag if your parents decide to share custody of you and your brother. It’s not knowing how to use drawers when you are older, and the strange feeling of not having to pack a bag every Wednesday night and every other weekend by the time you get to college. It’s balancing your time between both parents on college breaks and holidays. It’s trying to figure out which parent to spend your birthday with.
Divorce doesn’t end the relationship completely if you have children. Now, my parents didn’t do so hot as a married couple, but as a mother and father, they did great. I have wonderful memories of being in the old rental house my mom moved into, even if we didn’t have cable. We had these interesting movies about wild animals that we watched all the time, a good sized living room, and in the winter, we had an awesome fireplace.
I didn’t realize it as a child, but the TV dinners and the cheap movies, and the fact that we didn’t have internet, were probably because my mother couldn’t afford much. That doesn’t go through your mind when you’re eight. I didn’t realize the reality of my mom’s struggle of being newly divorced, having primary custody of two small kids, and having to deal with sharing the kids with an ex-husband.
I didn’t notice the behind the scenes phone calls when my parents tried to figure out who gets the kids on Thanksgiving, or whose weekend it is to have the kids. No, it didn’t even register to me that my brother and my’s now-favorite cereal is in fact a generic and more affordable brand of Cap-n’ Crunch until I got older. I remember that Dad would always buy that cereal because my brother and I loved it.
I remember that on Saturday afternoons, my dad would start to make pizza dough, and then by the time we had to leave for church, he timed it so that he could leave the pizza dough to rise while we were at church. Then after church, if my brother and I could tell Dad one thing about the sermon, we would each get to pick out a movie at the movie rental store. By the time we had picked out our movies and drove the 10-15 minutes it took to get home, the pizza dough was ready to be put on a pan, sauced, and covered in toppings. We’d change into comfy clothes, and then when the pizza was ready, we’d pop in a movie and watch it. All three of us.
I remember that my mom bribed my brother and I into sleeping in our own beds or with each other, because we slept with her a lot. If we didn’t sleep next to Mom at night, we’d both get TVs in our room. Since we were both little and scared of the dark, we would usually sleep together in my brother’s room. Let’s just say, we got those TVs. They were small and only played VHS, but in the early 2000s, not many people had a DVD player. We didn’t care, we were happy.
I have never been a morning person, and as a child it was a fight to get me out of bed. My room at Mom’s rental was also super cold, so the bond I’d make with warm blankets was difficult to break on cold winter mornings. However, my mom got me figured out. She’d throw my clothes in the dryer for a bit, and then when she woke me up she’d say, “Your clothes just came out of the dryer.” I’d get up and put them on, loving the feeling of the warm clothes. We always knew when it was someone’s birthday, because on those mornings, Mom would make cherry turnovers. They were the boxed kind, but I imagine that it was only occasional because they were expensive and they were packed so full of sugar that my mom didn’t want to give them to us on a regular basis.
I also remember the heartbreak I felt and the pain of not understanding why Mommy and Daddy were no longer together. I couldn’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I wished and prayed that my parents would get back together.
One day, when I was at my dad’s, I went into my room and on my toy chest was a children’s book called Dinosaur’s Divorce. I didn’t know how or why it was there, but I picked it up and began to read. It was a great book that really helped me understand, and I don’t know how many times I read it. Sometimes I’d read it cover-to-cover and other times I’d pick out a section or two to read.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my father had bought that book for me. He had purposely placed it in a spot in my room where he knew I would see it. My parents had also decided together to send me to the elementary school counselor so I could talk and come to terms with the divorce.
My parents did so much for my brother and I, and I don’t ever remember seeing or hearing the fights I remember from the time they were married. I remember when I fractured my right wrist, my mother came and got both my father and I. We had to go to a bigger town that night, because I needed surgery. I woke up the next morning, and both of my parents were in the room with me. They didn’t fight, they didn’t say any nasty things to each other, they were just there for me because they knew I needed them.
When my brother hurt his back, both of my parents were there for him because he needed them. Through everything from surgery to IEP meetings, both of my parents were there for me and my brother. Whatever the problem was, if it concerned me or my brother, my parents put all of the things between them aside because they knew we needed them to be our mom and dad. I know that to this day, if I have an accident tomorrow, both of my parents would be there within just a few hours. If the doctor told them I might need some form of therapy, they would discuss and decide what to do and where I would be getting that therapy together. My wonderful stepparents may offer to help, (my stepmother is great at doing internet research), but in the end my mother and father would decide. Though they are divorced, they have never once put their broken marriage before me and my brother and they never will.
Now, I don’t know about other people, but this is what I saw in my parents as a child. As I got older I started to understand more and more as to why my parents didn’t work out and why they did what they did. It makes me love and appreciate both of my parents that much more.
To all of you single parents out there, keep feeding those kids the cheap cereal, the boxed mac 'n’ cheese, and the homemade pizzas. Keep making those kids take those gross tasting vitamins when they are with you and keep doing your best. Keep loving your kids. They won’t know that you struggled paycheck to paycheck, that you cried at night because of the pain you felt, or that you are literally struggling to find them new clothes because they won’t stop growing. When they get older, they’ll remember the dinosaur nuggets, the laughs, the gross-tasting vitamins, and most of all, they will remember that you loved them.
And if you are lucky enough to have an ex that works with you as well as my parents worked with each other, they will remember that, too.
As they get older, reality will start to take hold and they’ll realize that the reason they had boxed mac 'n’ cheese a lot was because that was all you could afford. However, the nostalgia of childhood will still be there, and they’ll still smile and I hope that one day they will tell you, “thank you,” because you deserve it.