I was 17 when my dad filed for divorce. I was a senior in high school, I had a brother who was a sophomore and my youngest brother was in 8th grade. I got a call from my dad when I was in school, he told me that he wasn’t going to be home when I got off school. No biggie I thought. Then he said “I’m leaving your mother, I wanted to let you know first, so don’t tell her yet if she calls you.” Click. End of conversation. Um….what the fuck? Who calls their eldest child and tells them they are leaving their mother and not to tell her?! Who does that?! Did he even realize how much pressure that put on me? How much guilt I felt at the time of knowing that kind of information and not sharing it with my mom?
Of course my mom called me like 20 minutes later saying “Are you okay? I just have this feeling something is wrong?” Of course she is having her daily motherly instincts that are usually spot on and creeping me out. So I do what my dad told me and I didn’t say a word. I pulled my middle brother out of class and we avoided going home until the last possible moment. When we walked inside, it was chaos.
You usually hear about kids who want their parents to stay together, or blame themselves for the divorce. Not us. We love our parents, but they fought ALL the time. Screaming at each other, calling each other names, I can still remember the fear I would get any time I heard them fighting. I would literally be shaking for hours. I was actually quite happy they were finally deciding to get a divorce. They weren’t happy with each other, we never did family things anymore because they would argue the whole time, and it wasn’t a very healthy environment for us to be in. So after 25+ years, they got a divorce.
How my parents went about their divorce was horrible. It went on for 3 years. They bashed each other, talked about the divorce to all of us, and kind of forgot that just because we were teenagers didn’t mean we liked hearing about adult problems. Especially your parents nasty divorce.
I was 17 when it all started, my brothers couldn’t handle being stuck at home and I was the only one who could drive. So some times I would take them out for ice cream or slurpees, just so they didn’t have to be around all the drama. I wanted to protect them, I was leaving for school soon and they were going to be stuck at home with God knows what.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. We were very fortunate to have a good childhood, even if our parents fought all the time. They still loved us and made sure we were taken care of financially.
I can’t begin to express the seriousness of parents fighting in front of their children. IT IS WRONG! There is no excuse as to why you have to verbally abuse your spouse, let alone in front of your kids.
It is not okay.
They hear EVERYTHING.
You think they are upstairs in their rooms playing with toys? No, no they are not. They are listening to you, they hear the words you are calling the person they love and look up to. They will be hurt, and there’s nothing you will be able to do to erase that image from their mind. You think they are asleep in bed? No, you’re wrong again. They are sitting on the stairs crying because they want to make you stop fighting. They want you to be nice to each other, like you taught them to be, treat others how you want to be treated.
Well, in my eyes, there was two ways I could handle this situation. I could either let it define who I will become and just follow in my parents foot steps and mimic their relationship strategies OR I could learn from it. Realize that THIS is NOT what marriage is about. This isn’t how you treat someone you love. I will NEVER let anyone verbally or physically abuse me, I will not tolerate it. And above all, my children will never have to go through what my brothers and I went through growing up.
So that is how I have been ever since. I will never tolerate arguing in front of the kids. I don’t care who you are. If I’m that upset I will say “I’m going to walk away from this conversation right now to cool off, we will revisit this issue, but right now I can’t rationally talk about it.” I firmly believe it is all about communication, but that’s a blog for another day.
Kids don’t deserve to hear you bash your ex/their parent/their parent’s new partner. They don’t need to hear you be negative about them. To this day both of my parents will STILL take jabs at each other, my dad got a lot better, I’ll give him that. But still. Come on. I tell my parents the same thing “I’m sorry you feel that way, but you chose to marry them, I didn’t get to choose my parents and I will love you both no matter what, always.”
I understand not everyone can control their anger, but I beg of you, please, not in front of the children. They didn’t do anything to deserve to hear that. They mimic what we do and say, they are sponges. Do you want them to grow up thinking that is how they should be treated? Yeah, I didn’t think so.