So much about her reminded me of myself at 19. A sophomore in college with straight long brown hair parted in the middle, she was an eager learner and a hard worker with a sunny attitude. With the return of fashions from the ‘70s, even her white eyelet dress and dangling feather earrings made me smile at the memory of those years.
Lauren talked about her parents, her younger brother she was close to, and her upcoming visit to New York. She was headed to the big apple to work side by side her aunt in a theatre. Her grandparents were active in the theatre and now she had chosen it for her major. This was an exciting time of her life.
The thought never occurred to me that this college co-ed was the survivor of bitter custody battles.
Lauren was in the fifth grade when her parents separated. She was on the brink of adolescence, soon to enter into the uncertainty and self-doubt of the teen years. At a time of life when girls either long to be with their mothers or wholly reject them, Lauren had no choice. She was to live in her father’s home, which soon included his new girlfriend, her mom’s former best friend.
The custody suit was more than a disagreement between two parents about who should get Sunday overnight or Christmas morning or legal custody. Claims of drug abuse and complete unfitness were made. Lauren’s wealthy grandparents entered the fray, claiming neither parent should have custody. But at the time the courthouse conflict raged, Lauren had no idea of the disputes.
She was unaware of the allegations of addiction, of filings at the courthouse, and affidavits alleging her parents were both unfit to have the privileges of being mom and dad. In the midst of it all, Lauren was sheltered from affidavits, interviews, and lawyers. These adults spared her from hearing relentless stories about the evil acts of those whom she loved most.
Today Lauren speaks with pride about both of her parents. About how her mom has returned to college and about how her dad works so hard to make a go of his small business as an electrician. About how they both attended her college orientation day.
Lauren shows no bitterness over the conflict between the adults who love her. Entering adulthood, she is accepting of the past decisions of her parents and passionate about the path that lies ahead for her own life.
Lauren’s innate nature and no doubt some good parenting have shaped who Lauren is today. But one other factor was sure to have played a role for this child of divorce—the choice of the adults to not discuss the litigation with her.
Lauren reminds us of the resilience of children of divorce. She reminds us, too, of the importance of preserving a bit of childhood innocence when so much of it evaporates instantly in a divorce. No matter how the adults in Lauren’s life reflect back on the divorce experience, for this they can be proud. And they have lovely Lauren to remind them of just how wise their decision was.