I can’t speak for my sisters and the lives they had growing up. I experienced some life-altering trust with my parents, as well as discipline. They let me make up my own mind, experience my own choices, and live by the consequences. However, if I began to venture too far, they were right there to intervene just enough to inform me what was happening and still allow me my choice in the end.
If I lied, I was adequately punished. If I kept my promises and followed through on my responsibilities, I was rewarded. By the time I was in my teens, I was learning how to operate as an adult without really knowing it. This was because I had two parents, both strong and weak, in their own rights, who supported and loved me beyond what I could comprehend.
Growing up, I never heard them argue. Of course, they didn’t always agree, but I don’t have any memories of them actually arguing or fighting.
Neither of them ever laid a hand on me, but the discipline was such that I never questioned who was in charge, and what would happen if I broke their trust or rules.
I remember one time saying something to my mother that was not appropriate. I think I was around ten to twelve years old. I was angry over something and entirely out of line, but as a kid, I kept going. We were in my room, my father was present and heard what I was saying, and he proceeded to pick me up and toss me onto my bed.
I remember the surprise at his actions and the feeling of absolute helplessness as I was lifted like a paperweight and then flung into the air. My heart fell into my stomach as I wondered what I would hit, and if I’d be ok. In an instant, I landed on the bed, and only the bed. I never touched the wall, I suffered no bruises or broken bones, and I was left terrified and caught off guard.
My mother and father looked at me, and my dad said in extremely emotional words, “Don’t you ever disrespect your mother!” He didn’t yell. He didn’t threaten. But I learned several valuable lessons. First and foremost, my father cared for my mother very much. Second, how my behavior indeed was wrong and needed to be dealt with.
And despite the drama of my dad’s choice to throw me onto the bed, I learned that he did so with control, care, and to make sure I also didn’t suffer any harm. It did exactly what it needed to do.
My mother required the best of my sisters and me, and wouldn’t allow anything less. If there were chores to do, then we did them right, or we had privileges taken away. She taught us about money management, planning, being observant, how to care for others, and how to look for individual characteristics in ourselves and others.
I love and still love both my parents.
I understand that this is a highly generalized summation of my childhood. Still, I hope you can see how at eighteen, almost done with high school, and eager to enter the next phase of life, that my parents sitting us down to say they’re getting a divorce blindsided me beyond explanation.
And not only that, but the divorce was due to ten years of my father’s indiscretions. Later I learned that my mother knew about my father’s actions many years before they told us, and when she knew it was over, she still chose to wait until her kids were older before taking any drastic action. That is, after all the efforts to help, and fix, and attend therapy, etc.
As a disclaimer, don’t share this to condemn my father and immortalize my mother. Being a divorced man myself, I know that any relationship takes two. And I’m not here to defend or condone any of parent’s behaviors concerning their marriage. Frankly, I’m not educated enough in it to even come close to criticizing.
And please don’t take this as an opportunity for you to harp on my father and pity my mother. That’s not the reason for this either, and I need that to be clear. My father knows what he did, and forgiveness and change have happened.
There are facts in life, and no matter how we feel about them, they are what they are. I am sharing these facts to present more than what they were in the moment.
So we’re in our living room, on a calm Sunday afternoon, and our parents just drop this bomb out of nowhere, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Up to that point, I’d never had something so impactful happen so sudden.
I needed to leave the house, so I told my family this, and they understood. They just said be safe, and I walked out of the house, hopped in my car, and drove off.
Naturally, there were many questions, and naturally, there were no answers to them. I was an ignorant teenager in flux because my perfect world came crashing down. I’d known many kids with divorced parents, had family who was divorced, so I at least had an understanding of what could happen to my family. But the fact that what we had was now gone was probably the thing that hurt the most.
May 22, 2005, was the day I started keeping a journal. As a religious individual, I recall vividly walking into the store on the Sabbath to purchase one. I wondered if God would hate me or get angry with me for doing so, but I, to this day, know He understood. I’m not saying He liked it, but I’ve never received any condemnation for it.
I recently went back and read my first journal and those crucial first entries. There wasn’t much school left in my senior year, but I wrote how much my perspective changed while being there. Suddenly a harsh, mature caste had formed around everything. I hurt, I was confused, but thankfully I never got angry or acted regrettably.
I was surrounded by incredible people everywhere I looked; friends, coaches, family, teachers. I know my sisters also took this news hard, but I can’t say as I know what their lives were like in the following months after that day in May. But for me, this network was what helped me get through it all.
This type of experience is something that never really leaves you. Something about me, whether good or not, is that I can move on from things pretty easy. I’m talking concerning moments, or changes in phases: like coming out of high school, graduating college, moving on from jobs, and in my case, my parent’s divorce, my own divorce, coming home from a religious volunteer mission, amongst others.
To say I move on means I eagerly look forward to the next thing. I take the experience I just had, and I’ll hold onto that forever, but I enjoy the change that another phase will bring. I know I need that change, I want to use what I just experienced to improve, and that’s probably a driving factor for this ability.
It took me about three months to let go of the negative feelings I had for my family, but I realized they did none of us any good, and it kept me and possibly them from allowing forgiveness and change to occur.
I’d rather see us overcome the nasty, hard thing as opposed to wallowing in it and holding it against them until the day I die. That is so much energy and a life spent toward what can only cripple, destroy, and commit to degradation.
I think that through my parent’s divorce and the subsequent effect on my family, this is one of the biggest lessons I picked up. To this day I still feel I have a great relationship with my father and my sisters. My mother, sadly, passed away back in July of 2016. I’m happy to say I enjoyed a truly tremendous and joyful relationship with her until the end.
Sucky things happen, as we all know. But when these types of things do happen, this is how I choose to react. It takes a lot to get me beyond the point of hope, and I love my family for putting up with me and keeping me close despite my difficulties. I’ve yet to meet a family member or friend who is beyond redemption, forgiveness, or a helping hand.