It’s strange how the numbers vary. A group of girls from childhood all share it. Most of my friends from Sovereign Grace have never experienced it. With people at UF, it’s usually split pretty evenly.
“It” is divorce-divorced parents to be exact. Mine have been divorced since I was 4. My dad actually remarried for the third time just a few years ago. Friends whose parents are still married often look at me like I’m an alien. The drama, scheduling, and balancing that is an every day part of my life is totally foreign to them. What is very par for the course for me is an absolute impossibility for them to even wrap their heads around.
I speak of it lightly at times, even laugh or joke about it. The laughter seems to make them more comfortable with the awkwardness. Or maybe, it just makes me more comfortable.
Most of the time, my life as a child of divorce doesn’t faze me. All of my memories are of life as it is now. This is a gift of God’s grace, because I have nothing to which to compare it. This makes resentment much harder to come by, for which I am grateful.
Special moments are one time when I feel that the wound of divorce is still oozing. I got a job offer in Boston! I have to call Mom and Dad individually. I graduate this May! Do I have to have two separate celebrations? Lord willing, I hope to be married. How will this play into that?
On a more regular basis, the scars of divorce come up around holiday time. No one is ever fully happy with how Thanksgiving and Christmas play out. Someone is always getting less time with my brother and I. And we have the miserable task of choosing which parents to NOT spend time with (because that’s how it is seen). It’s lose-lose year after year. Our holiday table is never complete, never host to father AND mother, never “normal.”
Below is something that Tim Challies’ mom wrote (emphasis mine). I see myself quite clearly in her descriptions of Heather’s dilemmas. Here is a glimpse of my life.
I am continually amazed, then re-amazed, at the carnage of divorce. I see this in Heather, a beautiful and godly friend of my youngest daughter.
Every holiday is a time of balancing all the family pushes and pulls for a child of divorce. No matter what uneasy solution a child arrives at, it does not satisfy everyone, and the child herself is ultimately blamed for causing unhappiness. In this case, ongoing pressure is placed on Heather to warmly embrace the woman who willingly displaced Mom when Dad decided to trade her in for a newer model several years ago. Mom was left bitter and potentially destitute—without even medical insurance; certainly no current skills with which to provide for herself.
Dad goes on to a life of increased wealth as he marries a young, childless woman immersed in the corporate world. Do you challenge Mom about her bitterness? When? How? Do you refuse to acknowledge Dad’s new acquisition as a relevant part of your life? When? How? And all this comes to a head at holiday time. You have to make specific choices that externalize your thinking on the matter.
Who will I eat Thanksgiving dinner with?
I have prayed and agonized with Heather over these things. I generally encourage her to give her mother the best of every holiday—it may not be a bad thing for Dad to live with the consequences of his actions. Still, there is no truly satisfactory outcome in this situation. It is too broken.
I came up against this again last weekend as I spoke on the phone with an old friend from Washington. She and her husband have both been divorced in the past. They experience holidays, of course, from the perspective of the parents. That is, with many tears. She said they both had been crying for days—crying for too many absent spots at the table, too many war wounds in their young. They are at the receiving end of the choices their kids make for holiday time.
I pray for you, my children, that you will all see with the eyes of eternity—that through the trials and tribulations of life—specifically marriage—you will never have the shade of a doubt that, from all eternity, God planned for you to be with the one you have pledged to be faithful to. Guard your hearts and never allow the slightest strain of, “Well, maybe”, or “What if”, to enter your minds. Your unconditional commitment to your marriage, based on a total conviction of God’s sovereignty in bringing you together, is its greatest strength!