I am an emotionally healthy, fulfilled, self aware adult living a happy and productive life. I’m also the daughter of a pair of absolutely delightful people who can’t really stand to be in the same room together. No, I’m not kidding. My parents might just be the two least compatible individuals on the entire planet and yet somehow they managed to successfully produce a tiny person that would grow up to be me without ever coming to blows or getting into any public shouting matches. In fact, for two people that would gladly throw down with each other in The Octagon they did a
pretty impressive job of raising me in an environment that was conflict-free and, as far as childhoods go, pretty dang awesome.
So what was their formula for successfully parenting under the circumstances of divorce? Here are my observations when I recall my
munchkin-hood as the daughter of a pair of average American divorcees.
- My parents never spoke in a derogatory way about each other in front of me. Looking back I could not be more thankful for
their restraint. The tension between divorced or divorcing parents is apparent enough to any child and verbalizing it would have compounded my anxiety. Divorce is a grownup conflict and my parents made the decision early on that as a child I would not have to sort out adult issues with my limited perspective. If I needed an answer for why mom and dad were not together, I was given one that essentially left everyone (including myself) blameless.
- My parents split the week 70/30, not 50/50. I had friends in school whose divorced parents were insistent that they split their child’s time down the middle, Solomon-style. My classmates who spent half of their school week with one parents and half with another consistently missed homework assignments, left necessary textbooks at the wrong house, and complained about not getting enough sleep. I feel very fortunate that my parents made the decision to let me spend my entire school week at my mom’s house and weekends with my dad. It made staying organized and on top of my schoolwork easier and it gave me a sense of continuity during the week.
- My parents communicated with each other, never through me. I was never asked to relay messages about grownup things (child support, holiday arrangements, etc.) from one parent to another. I imagine that would’ve been awkward and I’m continually shocked by parents who would as their children to act as a go-between.
- My parents presented a unified disciplinary front. I didn’t like this one much when I was younger, but on reflection it did give me a sense of stability when the rules at dad’s house could be counted on to always jibe with the rules at mom’s house. Sure, my dad let me eat ice cream and French fries for dinner every once in a while but in general rules about chores and homework were always the same. Of course this also meant that if I was grounded at mom’s house, it extended to dad’s house as well. At 13 it was a bummer. At 24 I’m glad they were both on the same page.
“Ain’t nobody perfect” is what my grandfather always told me. My mom and dad were no exception, but they did work hard to ensure that even though they weren’t a happy couple we could still be a happy family. I’m not a counselor or a social worker, but I do speak from experience as someone who had a wonderful childhood and a great pair of divorced parents. If you’re a parent who is divorced or going through a divorce, I hope that you take away something positive from my experience as a child and can put it to good use for your own family.
Bio. Megan Breaux is a humorist and advice blogger from Louisiana. Her parents are very proud of how she turned out, but they still
can’t stand each other. Ah, c’est la vie.