Divorce through a child's eyes
Marc Rosove writes about his experience after his parents divorced.
I'm in what seems to be the majority, in that my parents are divorced. It happened about ten years ago, when I was eight years old.
When my dad first moved out, I only saw him once during the week, and every second weekend. This was very hard in many ways. I missed my dad and I didn't understand why I saw him so infrequently. The fact that I saw him so rarely made the visits with him seem like treats. It was a different place, a new room, different rules. Being eight, I often begged for more of this treat. As with most treats, mothers often have to refuse, and this made me resent my mother. After a month or so, the novelty started to wear off.
Since time with my father was so limited, rather than playing with friends or whatever else my little heart desired, I would often end up having to spend time with my father.
So, my first recommendation to any parent who has to face decision involving custody of children is to have the children see each parent equally.
Another thing that stands out in my memory is 'family therapy'. Every Thursday my brother and I would be taken out of school half an hour early to meet with our parents and a so-called 'therapist'. Unfortunately, apart from missing valuable school time, the therapy was next to useless. The sessions ended out being used to sort out schedules for seeing our parents during holidays. I also remember my mom took me to another psychologist. I'll never forget what he asked me. It still makes me angry. He asked, "Which parent do you like better?" I couldn't believe that he had the nerve to ask me a question like that. Well these experiences and others have completely turned me off any kind of counselling. So, my second recommendation for divorcing parents with children is to be very careful with any kind of counselling you expose your children to.
A few years passed and it was decided that we would now live with our mother one week and with our father the next. This arrangement made much more sense, and it pleased me greatly. But, let me point out some of the things that children in this situation have to face. I had two sets of clothes. My friends had to remember two phone numbers, and had to keep track of where I was. I had to get two copies of newsletters, report cards, etc. from school; one for each parent. This might sound petty or superficial, but when you are a young child, these are things that count. However, these problems are outweighed by the benefits of this sort of arrangement. And, these inconveniences can be lessened with a little parental thought. For instance, make sure that your child has access to his or her stuff during the time that they spend with the opposite parent. Contact the school and arrange for each parent to receive things like report cards and newsletters. This type of thoughtfulness can make a big difference, and is my third recommendation for parents who are divorcing with children: make these inconveniences as few and as painless as possible.
Now, in my case, I often didn't get along with my mother. Also, the inconvenience of moving back and forth every week started to get to me. So, when I was about fifteen, I started thinking about moving in with my dad full time. This made me realise what I now think is the most damaging result of the divorce; I was afraid that I wouldn't be welcome in my father's house. I figured that my dad used the time we weren't with him as his own time where he had free baby-sitting. As well, by this time another women was living with my dad. She was very nice, and we all got along well, but I was still afraid that she almost depended on the time we were living with our mother to be with our dad. I finally asked when I was sixteen. I remember the night. It was incredibly hard. I was crying. Luckily, all my fears were unfounded, and I was welcomed with open arms by my father. However, I now understand that until that moment, I didn't truly feel that I had a real home to come to unconditionally. So, my fourth recommendation for parents in situations similar to this is to somehow convey complete welcomeness towards your children. And, if this causes you inconvenience, frankly, tough. Don't forget, you got divorced, not your children. All your needs are secondary to theirs. This is the most important thing you can do.
I'm now eighteen. I still live with my father full time. I do see my mother often, whether it be at a Scouting event, or while I do some chores at her house, or sometimes I just drop in to say hi. I still believe that equal time joint custody is the best arrangement for the children of a divorcing family. But before you have children, please make sure that you are in a good, sound relationship.
Divorce, especially when children are involved should be the absolute last resort; it can and does destroy lives
Marc Rosove is a student living in Ottawa, Ontario. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. First published in Everyman; A Men's Journal, PO Box 4617, Stn. E, Ottawa,Ontario, Canada, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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