Parent Trap: Double Split
By Lauren, age 15, California
Divorce hit my family twice - once physically, and once mentally, the latter of which has existed for as long as I can remember. The first hasn't lingered with me - I was young, and moved on. Sure, I heard the stories afterward of what happened, the fights, the deserting-without-a-car stories. The tension wasn't an everyday issue in that divorce. It just happened. No big deal, no fuss, no 'my-life-is-not-complete-without-my-birth-parent-itis'.
This is common. A friend of mine has divorced parents, and spends time at each of their houses. She's loves it. When an argument occurs in one house, she can leave for the other, escaping the problem - and as an only child, there's no need to worry about the switch.
Now, throw in an older brother, seven moves, and eight different schools. Hurdle? Yeah. But that's not unusual, by far.
What made me cover my ears as a kid wasn't the tension from moving, shouting, or finances. It was from knowing how many times my parents came close to divorcing, and the fear of the consequences afterwards. My mom raised me, not my dad or my stepdad. She was older than most moms, and had worked all her life in advertising. She had no income, and I'm convinced that's the only reason they're still married today.
Did the arguments stop once my brother left for college? No, they just became worse.
I coped in the past by hiding in my room and dreaming up fiction stories. Later, I learned to treasure my time at school and find ways to stay there longer. When the internet was finally available to me in the summer of my sophomore year, I turned to music and tuned out the world.
One miscalculation: I wasn't prepared to be a shoulder.
When the parent who sees you as an angel knocks on your door, you can't exactly refuse. So I'd take walks with my mother, listen to her problems, show that I was listening, and empathize with her. In my spare time I tried to find solutions to her problems, but this only created more. Another bad cycle. Eventually I became so absorbed in her struggles, her past, and trying to make it better that I forgot about myself.
I should have walked away then, but guilt is a nasty bugger.
Eventually I dug myself out. School started again; I found that I could laugh again, mutter phrases besides "I'm sorry" and "I understand", and take pride in my school smarts. I used my knowledge of music to prepare for an American Sign Language concert, and performed with more confidence than I had ever felt before. I ignored my stepdad, tried not to think too much about life at home, even when my friends started asking questions like:
"Why don't you have new clothes/shoes/hairstyles?"
"Why don't you know the latest TV shows/movies?"
"Are you Amish?"
Make the best of the opportunities you have, and don't forget about yourself in the midst of the tornado. Telling someone can't hurt, either, and you'll be confronting the problem on your own terms. Tell yourself, "Nothing will hold me back from my dreams", until you believe it.