By Hannah Steiss
A term that gets used a lot when discussing children whose parents are divorced is the condescending “broken home.” Broken means defective or not right, so I guess that’s pretty much what I thought life would be like after my parents got divorced.
For my first four years of life, I had a two-parent, single-household family and assumed that was “normal.” I thought I needed that setup to be happy and considered normal, and it took a long time for me to finally realize that I could be happy and considered normal after my parents split up.
When my dad moved out, it was very hard on us. I saw my dad a lot, but it wasn’t the same as having him live with us. I had to split my toys, my clothes, and my time between the two places—one place that I had always known as home and one place my dad called home. I would often stay up late at night crying in my mom’s bed, asking her why they couldn’t work things out. What was wrong with them (with us) that they couldn’t fix? I couldn’t understand it, and I didn’t like it at all.
Eventually I got more used to the back and forth, but then came the dating—theirs, not mine. Dealing with the fact that my parents weren’t going to get back together was one thing; watching them get involved with someone else was quite another. At first I was uncomfortable with them dating because it felt so weird to think they were each looking for someone to replace the other. This was a very tough thing for me to comprehend, and the next few years were eventful, to say the least.
Actually, something I began to realize as I got a little older was that having “individual” time with each of my parents really strengthened my bond with them. I enjoy special traditions and quirky things with my mom, and I share other unique things with my dad. That’s something you don’t always get in a single-household family. I could finally see, after a long time of struggling with it, that there were some real benefits to the way my family was set up.
Once my mom and dad each ended up getting remarried, things changed again, but mostly in a good way. I had to share them with another person, but I also gained two more families. I had twice the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and twice the love.
After all the years I’ve spent adapting to my new and different situations, I’ve come to realize that my life probably would not have been as amazing as it has been if my parents had stayed married. I have had so many interesting experiences and formed many important relationships with people, including my step-parents and grandparents. My parents’ divorce opened my eyes to a lot of things I don’t think I would’ve realized otherwise, teaching me not to judge and shaping me into a really open-minded person. I also learned that not all relationships can or should be salvaged and sometimes you just have to let go. I went from thinking my life was over because of the divorce to realizing my life was just transforming into something differently wonderful.
Hannah Steiss is a senior in high school.