Extended Family: Sometimes, divorce can be healthiest choice for all

By: Sierra Steen

While kids my age were learning their ABCs and 123s, I was learning secondhand what it means to walk away from someone you love when things aren’t working out.

When I was younger, my mother and father divorced, an experience most children don’t have to go through. Even to this day, that one event changed my life in so many different ways.

Between deciding which house I’d be staying at during certain days of the week, paying for child support and moving around a lot, my childhood was not as simple as it may have been for children in a traditional family.

I remember being in elementary school and wondering frequently why all of the kids I knew would have two parents at an assembly or concert while I had four. As crazy as it sounds, I even wondered that last week during my senior night of marching band. I was the only one down on the field who had two parents on either side of my arm when I walked up as my name was recognized.

It’s not necessarily bad. It’s just different.

Not knowing a lot of children who were in the same situation as me made it tough growing up. I was frustrated that nobody else had to deal with the constant moving around, the driving back and forth between houses every day and the fears that either parent would never find another significant other to make them happy. Going over to friends’ houses for sleepovers made me realize that their families seemed so normal.

I wanted to talk about it, but nobody understood.

The physical aspects of it are simple to grasp. You go to one’s houses some days and the other’s the rest. You have two rooms. You have a very large family and you even get double the presents at holidays.

This is what everyone can see from the outside.

What nobody can see is the mental stress that it causes, both on you and your parents. You feel like the byproduct of something that wasn’t meant to be. Your parents might fight for your attention or love, pulling you this way and that.

For me, the worst part of it was feeling like it’s inevitably going to happen to me someday. I didn’t get to experience the childhood I felt like I deserved because I grew up so fast, knowing the signs of a deteriorating relationship long before I ever even thought about dating. I was so careful of the paths I was choosing, hoping I wouldn’t do something that might offset my future and cause me to have divorce written into my fate. I was a child worrying about my future children before I was even physically able to have them, knowing I would never want to put them through this.

I knew more stress and grief than a child should ever know.

A lot of recurring thoughts haunted me for a long time after the divorce. These thoughts told me that the divorce was my fault, that maybe if I was never brought into the world, they would still be together. They taunted me and twisted various reasons for the divorce into my doing, even when they had nothing to do with me. I found myself completely flustered over the fact that everyone’s parents seemed so happy — why weren’t mine?

The truth is, they were happy. It was just hard for me to see that the two people who had brought me into the world were simply not meant to be together. They were proud that they created me, but they just needed to find who they were put on this earth to be with. It took me a long time to understand this and to stop blaming myself for what ended up being a good thing.

I won’t lie. I still think about what life might be like if they stayed together. It would be interesting to see where and who I would be today. Everything happens for a reason, and even when you think it’s going to be bad, you just have to wait it out and see the good it can bring.

Today, I am happier than ever.

I have two sets of completely loving parents, which means double the love (and the presents). My brothers on both sides of the family are hilarious and wonderful. My stepparents aren’t evil, regardless of the famous Cinderella-esque trope. I’m even lucky enough to have split parents that still can be good friends.

Once I let go of the guilt that had built up for so long, I realized that growing up in a different situation than most wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, it made me stronger in ways that I didn’t even know I was capable of. It’s so much easier for me to see that being happy is more important than being together with someone who isn’t meant for you.

After all, that’s what should matter most, more than love and more than fixing things broken beyond repair — your own happiness.

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