Being an adult child of divorce brings a completely different set of issues from growing up with divorced parents. I was 19 when my parents divorced, living on my own. Since then, both of my parents have remarried. This also brings different complexities than would be present if I had been a child when “step-parents” or “other parents” were brought into the mix.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post and have it come out the way I want it to. For some reason, the words aren’t coming as easily as I would like. There is a moral to the story, I swear!
As I drove home last night, I found myself thinking about the environments I enter when I visit my dad and his wife or my mom and her husband. I know why it was on my mind, and that’s because I had just left my mom’s.
First, let me say that I do love my mom. The thing is, they have a way of living in the past at her house. My mom will constantly bring up the she’s upset that my dad _________ because when we were kids he didn’t __________ or something to that effect. Truth be told, I know that my dad has grown and changed in the past decade, I don’t need her to tell me that. But I find it unsettling that she still feels a need to create a void in our childhood memories.
I know that my dad wasn’t there for everything when I was younger. If he was home, he was there, if he was working, he wasn’t. That sacrifice allowed mom to stay home with us. I don’t remember feeling less loved because he occasionally missed things.
As for her husband, he seems to want to tarnish dad’s image by basing comments on what he thinks he knows of the past. It’s not as bad as it once was, but every once in a while, he makes a comment that goes over like a fart in church.
When I visit my dad, mom is seldom brought up. When she is, it’s something going on in the present. I haven’t once heard from him how my mom did ___________ when we were younger and that made us suffer in _________ way. He’s secure in his relationship with us and at times he pushes to make sure that we all have a relationship with mom.
His wife brings up my mother even more infrequently than my dad does. She didn’t know our family before she started dating my dad and seems to keep that in mind. She only knows my mom by what she’s been told or what she’s seen the relatively few times they’ve been around each other. She doesn’t assume that she knows my mom. She doesn’t try to improve her standing in our lives by cutting our mom down. By acting this way, she has become a mother figure to us.
I know this may all be confusing. Some of the details have been left out intentionally. The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t HAVE to see my parents’ spouses as parental figures in my life. Their actions have determined how I see them. It has also affected how I view my relationship with my parents. I hope to never be faced with step-parents in my daughter’s life, but if I do, I hope that I would take the high road that has been taken by my dad.
No matter what age the children are, I think it’s important for parents to be very careful how they talk about the other parent. Kids aren’t stupid, don’t paint someone as a villain if they aren’t.