Some days Slayer (my dog) refuses to walk with us. If Mike is home, Slayer won’t choose to leave him. But if I force him to come he seems mad. He sits his butt down, trying to persuade me not to take him. If I pull and pull, eventually he gets in line with the others and enjoys the walk. Sometimes this scenario reminds me of my parent’s divorce.
I would just rather forget all those YEARS- yes years – of the custody fighting. Neither of them could let it go. Sometimes I wanted to make them both happy, but I couldn’t. They made me choose. Oh and what a choice for an eleven-year-old.
Most of me, of course, wanted a say in my life. With things changing so rapidly around me – things like schools, houses, weekend plans- I just wanted a place to settle in. But the hurt in choosing I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget how hard I worked just to build up both parents. The burden for a child who thinks it’s her job to fix two warring souls is heavy.
But I’m no different than many children who feel they have to parent their own parents. Many times adults rely on children to offer a much needed fresh perspective; however, too much personal information laid on a child’s shoulders negates exactly what parents are sometimes seeking- the lightness of being, a way to wade through the heaviness of responsibility, regret, remorse, remembering, resentment. To make a child feel like a marriage counselor, a family divider, a judge exploits a child’s innocence.
Compassion seeks answers. Sometimes the answers provide a safe distance for a child to still love things that no longer look and feel the same. Sometimes the answers build walls that will forever be in place.
I offer them forgiveness. Forgiveness for an excruciating time in their lives. A time of chaos, disruptions, and looming uncertainty. A time of dismantling institutions in which their lives were built upon, namely marriage and religion.
The crumbling of those two pillars in their life and mine were a welcomed reality. Something beautiful looms under the rubble. And I am here to testify to the lessons learned.
Some of those lessons are still covered in my soul – waiting to be unearthed at the right time. Some of these lessons are undoubtedly the tightest held secrets of my parenting style held close to my heart. I heard you universe. And I always learn my lessons. It’s too painful to not, to re-experience the loss of innocence, the remorse of not having the right answers, and the heaviness of choosing.
I remember not wanting to choose. I remember not wanting to go along with what felt like manipulation. And I fought it. I was an angry child for a long time.
I had no words to express the above. I had no way of describing to either of them my absence of authority in their problems. I wanted to scream, “Just cut me in half!” Didn’t the Bible teach me the real mother (or in this case the true parent) would ultimately give up their claim so the child could live? But that didn’t happen. The dismantling continued.
I couldn’t count on anyone to help me. My life was a barrage of new faces holding authority, doing what they thought was the in best interest of me – none of them knowing me more than five minutes. But they all knew what I should do. None of them offered my family what would benefit us all the most- true therapeutic counseling.
As I pulled Slayer along this morning, all these thoughts hammered against my breastbone and my brow. He, too, probably resents me making him walk when Dad is still at home. His job is to protect both of us, and it’s hard for him to do when we’re separated. But I kept pulling him, reminding him we will be home soon and Dad will be just fine.
No one told me this through the divorce. No one reassured me that this too shall pass, that they both will emerge better people and better parents through this. It would of helped me I think. It would have helped to teach me to trust the transition that change brings, to trust the process.
I know now we are now a better family because of the divorce. It worked for us.
But I am still haunted by the child who got forced to choose, who got pulled along without reason while she was trying to sit still, who got her innocence mournfully reduced to an authority when she was only eleven.
To argue what should of been done is immature. To sit around thinking of all the ways my parents could have been better is harvesting arrested development. To articulate, to understand is to heal. People do need to know when something hurts you, but to blame without compassion does not bring relief.
Calling out all the shoulds does not feel right to me. Am I still parenting them as I recount the lesson? Or am I simply recognizing the truth in the situation. A truth that I hope my son will learn too- parents are not infallible. And many times children’s wisdom grows due to the parent’s inabilities.
I think that’s one of the neatest things in the world. We parents offer up our vulnerabilities to make our children’s lives better and their emotional intelligence wiser, even if it seems like chaos at the time. Alongside the breakdown, we must teach them to reassess their life, taking stock of all the lessons learned. We must show them through living it ourselves. In the end, it’s a beautiful thing.