My parents divorced when I was five and my sister was three. Looking back now it was the best possible outcome but at the time it was messy, very messy, for all of us. I remember the arguing and the drinking. I remember hearing my mother cry at night when she thought we were asleep. There is an image that will forever be imprinted in my mind of her leaning over the washer and dryer, which was in our bathroom in our tiny five-room apartment, with her head in her hand, in her yellow robe that she wore until the seams were unraveling, sobbing. Just pure, raw emotion. I remember just staring at her. I don’t think she saw me but I saw her, oh I saw her. At the time I couldn’t figure out why she was crying. I thought Daddy was working late . . . again. My mother seemed to wear anger like her favorite robe most of these days but that moment solidified something and I remember knowing that things would never be the same.
I don’t remember exactly when my mother told us about the divorce, nor do I remember the words that she used. All I know was I was angry. I was a child who all of a sudden got thrown into the front row seat of a roller coaster she didn’t want to be on. Maybe it was because I was older, who knows, but I was caught in the middle of this mess somehow. I took it out on my mother because my father left. All I knew was what I saw and that was that our family was not whole. Oddly enough, I don’t know if I ever knew what “being whole” as a family looked like or felt like. I don’t remember Mom and Dad together much. I see pictures but the memories just aren’t there. I would like to think there is something to remember. I went to live with my father, who moved back in with my grandparents, for two weeks. I remember my mother’s anger with me about it. I couldn’t understand why, and as an adult I still don’t. You cannot expect a child to understand the complexities of what was occurring nor should I have been pressured to do so. I just wanted to be around my father and all I knew was he didn’t live with us anymore so I chased that love. The next few years were filled with my father’s issues with alcohol (he is now sober over 25 years!), split holidays, step-families and feeling as if I didn’t know if I was coming or going between my parents. Things eventually leveled out as time passed but that time stays with me like a bad dream you cannot shake.
Now that I am a mother, I look back on these years and wonder what I would have said to my child self could I have spoken to her. I am reflecting and picturing this girl sitting next to me and here is what I would like her to know:
It’s not up to you to figure this out. It isn’t your fight nor is it your job to carry this weight around. You are a neutral party in this and you shouldn’t be made to feel any other way. You are loved by both and you don’t need to win either side over.
This is not your fault. You are young and such a blessing to this world. Your parents have a job to protect you from the “in-between’ and while they haven’t done a great job at all about doing this it has nothing to do with you. You are wanted.
It WILL all be OK. Those nights holding on to your sister while covering her ears to protect her from the screaming and yelling are terrifying and I know you’re scared but I promise you it will all be OK. You are OK. You are strong.
You do not have to choose one over the other. Parents should never make you do that. You should choose both, equally, but please be sure you choose yourself along the way as well.
You are beautiful. You are strong. You are enough just the way you are. I know this time is making you question everything you ever knew about yourself, and your home, but please do not ever question if you are ever good enough for anyone. Never mistake anyone’s opinion or judgement of you for the truth. There aren’t any standards to live up to and as long as you are happy then they will be happy too. Please do not spend your childhood wishing to have another life. You were given this one because you were meant for wonderful things and you will, and can, change the world.
Life is really messy and really crazy. Things happen that are out of our control and it’s easy to get caught up in the why and the how. Being stuck here is not healthy. If you stay stuck here you will remain here for more of your days than you probably would want to. This kind of negativity will bring on more negativity and will eventually carry over into all aspects of your life so choose to let go.
The world will let you down, over and over again. It’s how you respond to it that will make all the difference for you. Your friends and your family will also let you down and disappoint you. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or you aren’t good enough. You will learn to work thru disappointment and you will learn to navigate thru the hurt. Life ebbs and flows but with each wave comes a lesson learned to make you even more awesome than you already are.
You are not broken. Please, my love, you are not broken. You are nothing requiring fixing. You are a whole person aside from these circumstances and this world needs you. They need you. Your heart may feel as if it will explode in a million pieces but one day it won’t sting as much. Promise.
Sweet girl, this does not mean you no longer belong. You fit in just the way you are. You do not have to search for the light because it is already there inside you. You do not have to search for acceptance or self-worth because it is right there inside you. You do not have to search for your place because you already have it right there inside you. You do not have to search for love, because it is right there inside you and the world around you.
Originally published on the author’s blog