She was troubled by her eighth grade essay assignment for school: to write about a significant challenge she had faced in life. She would be reading this essay in front of her class. “But I haven’t had a major challenge,” she bemoaned to her teacher. “Anna, aren’t your parents divorced?”
As she relayed this to me, privately I felt proud that she needed that reminder – that she didn’t consider having divorced parents as being a challenge. I was scooting toward being self-congratulatory and smug until she told me she thought that would be a good topic to write about.
On the plus side, she has not lost a beloved family member, a topic that was the focus of many of her classmates’ essays. She has not suffered her own health ailments. She has not been bullied. For the most part, she has been blessed.
She spent the weekend writing her essay. When I asked if I could read it, she declined to share. This surprised me. An old familiar worry tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was sure I had not damaged her by being divorced. I started to fret about what she didn’t want me to know about the impact of being a child of divorce.
She shared with me that the divorce in some ways has become harder the older she gets. She wrote about how she did not like having to ask at high school registration for different transportation for her dad’s house. She does not like it when an extended family member makes a negative comment about one of her parents or when they chide her for talking to one parent during the other’s parenting time. She does not like having to choose a parent to sit with on the bleachers during her younger sister’s games. She does not like vacationing without me.
I realized as she described these discomforts that the divorce has not become harder per se, but she has become more self-aware. While she does not see the divorce as a major challenge in her life, she is more mindful of how she has to make choices and experience life events without the benefit of both parents jointly by her side. She only gets me half of her time and her dad half of her time, and like her parents she wishes now it was more than that.
I see I have turned the corner with my daughters getting older. The divorce is now becoming a more equally shared experience for each family member. In the time ahead it will require more awareness, compassion, and communication as my daughters join the divorce journey alongside me instead of following behind.