Saturday, 5 March 2011

My First Divorce - I was 7

There are so many things that happen to us, so many people who touch us, and so many things we choose to do/feel/think that make us who we are.  Many of these things are small things,  having a mom who gives you lots of hugs and reads to you every night, having a brother who calls you thunder thighs, or having nice friendly neighbors.  Some are really big things that have a huge impact on you, this is the first big thing that happened to me, that shaped a lot of how I think and feel.

My first divorce happened when I was about 7.   Being young, I had no clue about relationships and how they work.  My parents didn't fight - there was one loud argument shortly before the split - but that is it.  My Dad wasn't around a lot, he worked long hours, traveled on business, and partied (I didn't know that at the time).  My mom was a stay-at-home mom so she was there all the time.  I don't remember much at all about the break-up.  I have one memory of me running through the house crying.  I remembered the running & crying, my Dad filled in for me that it occurred when my mom and dad explained to my brother and I that they were splitting up.

My whole life changed, not just the moment but the rest of my life changed.

The immediate impact was that Dad was gone, and Mom, Brother & I moved.  My best friend was my next door neighbor, and while we were still going to the same school, it was different.  My mom's parents became even less visible after the break-up - they did not approve of divorce.  My dad's mother was just as visible but pretty much only with my mother (she disapproved strongly and blamed it on her son).  I had two homes (sort of).  I had to split all holidays between two parents.

Shortly after my parents split up, my father moved in with another woman, who I suspect (but have no evidence for) he was seeing before the break.  So I had a step-mother and she wasn't fun.  We got to do lots of fun stuff with Dad, DisneyWorld, a trip across the country, we went to nice restaurants and shows, but we also were driven around by a drunk driver, exposed to lots of very loud yelling matches, and saw things thrown at people in anger.  We were emotionally manipulated and there was anger directed at us by our step-mother.  They broke up about 15 years later, shortly after that my father stopped drinking, met a lovely woman who is now my step-mother and they are great.

My mother raised us in a village of her friends, we often were at fun activities with her friends and their children.  My mom's life was not easy.  She went back to work after a decade of being at home.  She tried to give us all the stuff we wanted and tried to compete with what my dad was able to do with us, but she ended up having to declare bankruptcy and we had to move to a cheap apartment building.  The change in neighborhood and school was like landing on the moon.  I had to toughen up and get street-smart really quickly.

I always knew stuff about my parents and their divorce that any expert today says a child should never know.  I used to carry my Dad's support cheques home from visits.  I knew that the support wasn't enough.  I heard bad stuff spoken about both of my parents, not really bad stuff, but not nice.

I was torn apart.  I loved both of my parents and wanted to be with both of them.  The two houses had different rules and different atmospheres so I was constantly adjusting to what were supposed to be my homes.  I didn't always want to go to my Dad's, I liked mom's and my friends were there, but I had no choice.  Sometimes I wanted to be at Dad's, cooler toys, and even though my Dad was a drunk I loved him.

My parent's divorce changed me from being a care-free little girl into a cautious, scared too grown-up little girl.  My parent's divorce and the scars it gave me is why I chose not to settle for the wrong Mr. Right.  Why I chose to wait to get married until I found the one person I knew I could love and trust my whole life.

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