With limited knowledge prior to our own experiences with divorce, I had always heard that it would be easier on the children if the divorce takes place while they are young. Both my husband and I had gone through our separations when our children were under the age 1. We were under the impression that they wouldn’t be as affected by the divorce as children who are old enough to watch it happen. We thought they would grow up just being “used to it” that it wouldn’t be a huge disruptive factor. We thought we had dodged a bullet and were “lucky” for going through this process when our children were little. For us, the ordeal was over and we would start a new and normal life of just co-parenting.
We had each dealt with the brutal exchanges during the toddler years. The terrified screaming, tantrums and schedule interruptions with an inability to explain the process to our children. Slowly they began to grasp the routine and from the 3-4 age years there seemed to be a relatively happy acceptance of their shared households.
However, during this past week, especially, our middle child (my child) has really become alert to the realization that both of her parents are not together. She asks some curious questions. Why can’t daddy live here? Why can’t I see daddy more? She may even collapse her 4-year-old self in a pout when not getting her way and say “I want to go to Daddy’s.” She even voiced that she was “worried” about her father when we had to trade weekends due to his military training and she voiced her concern that he might get hurt. Her little mind has learned to put two previously separate worlds into one cognitive reality, and she doesn’t like it. She has realized that she has to be shared between the two people she loves the most. “You have to share me. You don’t snatch me. You don’t fight over me. You have to take turns. It’s ok to miss me. You can still love me even if it’s not your turn.”
Our oldest child, who’s from my husband’s first marriage, was only a year older than his sister when he started asking similar questions. He would always ask: “why did you and mom get a divorce?” “Why can’t we all live in the same house?” There was one time in the car when I asked him how it would work if we could all live in the same home. He began to describe a skyscraper in which he, of course, got the penthouse. Just below him is where his father and I would reside with my little girl, his new sister and the dogs. Next would be his sets of grandparents and below them his mother. Then he went-on on a really long tangent about the next several levels which would house a T.V. room, an indoor pool with a huge tube slide and many more imaginative levels. Concluding with a statement that his step-father and our cat would reside in the basement level where the cat could scratch his step-father. While this story did result in a few chuckles, it was overshadowed by the grim reality that the divorce is still fresh and real in his mind.
At only 5, our oldest had realized that not only do his parents not live together, but that they once did. He began to be plagued by the dream and longing that his parents were still together or would even get together again. For the past four years he has continued to question why it happened. Often he will declare that things are just so unfair and that he feels like he is the ONLY one in the world who has to deal with things THIS bad. There are hours spent every night trying to console his tears and on one recent occasion I just held a child, one under each arm, as they both just sobbed into my shoulders, crying for their other parent.
My husband and I are able to provide a specific document that has a degreed end date of our divorce. It’s the date that we could breathe a sigh of relief and finally move on with our lives. For our children, that date is not the date the divorce ended, but rather, the date that it began. And for our children, the divorce does not end….