BY: JESSICA BEUKER
I can vividly remember staring out of the living room window, hands pressed tightly against the cold glass, tears running down my red cheeks. I’d wait for the ignition to roar, and then watch as the exhaust poured out of my dad’s blue-green Chevy truck. He’d wave profusely as he drove by the window and past my neighbour’s fence, until he was around the corner out of sight, and I was left sitting on the tear-stained couch, my mother’s arms wrapped tightly around me. The Canadian divorce rate is nearly 50 percent and in 1996 my parents joined that statistic.
I was born in the tiny town of Melfort, SK, where I grew up until I was five years old. Following my parents’ split, I moved to Saskatoon to live with my mom. The distance between Melfort and Saskatoon is roughly two hours, but for a five-year-old, who has no concept of distance and time, it felt as if my hometown was on another planet. Still, I travelled to Melfort every other weekend and on all holidays. On Sunday evenings my dad would drive me back to Saskatoon. We would spend the two-hour drive belting out Metallica songs – I might be the only five-year-old in history to know all of the words to the nightmare inducing, ‘Enter Sandman.’ Before dropping me off, we always did two things: Eat at Bonanza, a buffet-style restaurant that had quickly become my favourite, and go to Ruckers, a tickets-for-prizes style arcade. Then he would take me home. And for the year or so after my parents’ divorce, the above crying scene played out every single Sunday, like clockwork.
Now before you go feeling sorry for this child version of me, let me tell you that eventually the crying stopped, and pretty quickly I became not only accepting of my parents’ divorce, but happy about it. And here’s why.
My parents are happier as individuals
I don’t recall ever witnessing my parents fight. This could be because it happened so long ago, that I’ve blocked it out, or it could be because they hid it well. Either way, I’ve come out of this thing unscathed by harsh arguments. If my parents had stayed together longer, or for the sake of me, their only child, any fighting that happened behind closed doors would have gotten increasingly harder to hide. Not to mention that they would have spent a longer period of time unhappy. Growing up, I got to spend time with the best version of my father and the best version of my mother.
I got the opportunity to experience each parent as a full and attentive parent
Whenever I was with my dad, I got to focus all of my attention on him and vice versa. The same thing goes for when I was with my mom. I did things with my dad, that I would never have gotten to do with my mom, like watching age-inappropriate horror films, and do things with my mom, like spend a Saturday helping her garden. This constant one-on-one time with each of my parents let me get to know them better as individuals, and hone in on the parts of myself that I take away from each of them. I’m the biggest coffee drinker, a habit that I picked up from my mom, and we have the flexibility to spend our time together going on coffee dates – something we’ve continued to do via Facetime every weekend, even after I moved away. On the other hand, when I’m with my dad, I get to utilize the traits that I picked up from him, such as being competitive. When I was a child we spent our weekends playing soccer in the backyard or staying up all night trying to beat Super Mario World. These traditions still carry on, as whenever I visit home, we spend hours engaged in heated Battleship competitions.
I don’t have two parents – I have four
This is the best benefit of them all. Eventually, my parents fell in love with other people. Since I was young when it happened, my story is less like the classic “angsty teen hates her step-monster,” and more like “lucky child is doted on and loved by four people, instead of two”. I bond with my stepparents over different things than I do with my biological parents. I’ve learned different things from them, and have such close and positive relationships with them that I wouldn’t have had if my parents stayed together. Not only that, but I got five wonderful sisters out of the deal – two on my mom’s side and three on my dad’s. I will never know for sure, but I would deem it highly unlikely that if my parents had stayed together they would have had six children. And even if they had, those siblings would be completely different people than the ones I have now.
A 2005 survey of 1,500 adults ages 18-35 revealed that even in a divorce where parents amicably minimize conflicts, children still inhabit a more difficult emotional landscape than those with married parents. I don’t buy for a single second that divorce causes a lifetime of unhappiness for children. Of course, every case is different, but I’m tired of hearing the all-too-common, “We’re staying together and working things out for the kids’ sake.” That’s bullshit. Kids are tough, and they’re also incredibly adaptable to change – even if this part takes some time. As a child of divorce, I have absolutely no resentment or misgivings towards my parents’ decision. I think I’m a happier person because of it. And if anything, I get two Christmases.
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