Whetheyou’reur going through a divorce or your children are experience their parent’s divorce. Our emotional wires become crossed and it may take a child to teach you how to become untangled and focused on everyone’s healing.
How we’re each wired is what makes life an interesting, frustrating and awesome journey. What makes me both sane and crazy is my internal programming, that of others, and the social influences shaping my views around it.
As the divorced mother of three girls, I see a whole lot of wires and influences, sometimes more than I want to! My oldest turning 18 has made me reflect on the idea of how she is wired and how being a parent for 18 years has defined mine.
Her dreams are big like mine were at that age. But unlike me at her age, she’s actually chasing her dreams. She’s headed to a college four-plus hours from home (I went 45 minutes away). She’s living free, never having a serious boyfriend (I was practically engaged at 18). She’s surviving split parents, toting her stuff between two houses (a challenge I never had to tackle). She may not feel like it, but I think she knows her wiring better than I did at 18!
But my daughter hasn’t always had her wires in check. And I felt like it was because I got divorced.
She fired up the “oldest kid handles the stress best” super hero act when my ex and I told the kids we were divorcing. She put her 14 year-old-arm around her middle sister and said: “We have lots of friends with divorced parents and they are OK.” Even if she didn’t believe it, she acted it to be strong for her sister. She told herself it was fine not to cry or be sad, but it really wasn’t. Her wires got crossed and she made some bad choices.
She learned pictures she shouldn’t have sent in the first place didn’t stay with the person she thought they would. She found out bad choices at parties don’t end well. She learned sneaking out with a boy she thought she loved would leave her broken hearted. Badly broken hearted. She faced tough consequences and lost privileges for those choices. She was sad, lonely, and mad. So was I. Her wires were stressed, the insulation stripped. I sent her to counseling, I cried every day, and I felt like I pushed her to this acting out because I got divorced.
I didn’t handle her actions very well. My emotions were rapid. My scale of feelings was all over. I couldn’t tell if what she was doing was the product of being a teenager or my fault because of what I was putting her through. I bounced from “I did this to her” guilt, to “I’m ready to send her to a convent” anger, to “I feel so bad because kids are mean” sympathy. I yelled fiercely at a heart and ears that didn’t even care I was talking. I ignored her thinking it would just go away. And worse yet, I’d over talk and over ask “Why don’t you just tell me what’s wrong?” I’d check her phone, pouring through texts I thought I needed to ask about so I could control her choices. I was nuts and so was she!
I yelled fiercely at a heart and ears that didn’t even care I was talking. I ignored her, thinking it would just go away. And worse yet, I’d over talk and over ask “Why don’t you just tell me what’s wrong?” I’d check her phone, pouring through texts I thought I needed to ask about so I could control her choices. I was nuts and so was she!
I had to take a serious look in the mirror at my wiring and think about my daughter’s.
Wiring is sometimes about bad choices and mistakes. It’s how she and I work through the rewrite that makes us who we are.
Regardless of what age a person is or, whether they are married or divorced, getting worked up about making mistakes or avoiding them all together does absolutely no good. Once I got used to that – notice I don’t use the word “accepted” but “got used to” – I began to see my daughter and myself for who we are.
We are strong women and we are strong because of our choices and mistakes. She is a newly labeled adult convinced lovey dovey crap doesn’t exist and I am a hopeless romantic despite a disappointing divorce. She stays firm to what she believes in and teaches me to stay grounded in what’s important to me. I push her to think differently by offering another angle to see a bad situation. We’ve learned from our choices to take the easy path of coping with bad habits and to face reality by working through pain. We both lost friends, some we needed to anyway, and gained others by apologizing and making things right.
Does our ability to look back mean my daughter and I would have done things differently?
Maybe, but probably not. I have my three daughters because I married my ex and I wouldn’t change that for the world. She’s a stronger person for working through her bad choices at a young age. Does it mean our wires won’t get crossed again? Absolutely not! Being a divorced mom has pushed me to fix wiring I didn’t think I could ever untangle.
My oldest daughter has helped me accept and work through her choices and mine head on – good and bad – not ignore them. Her strength to cope with her choices and consequences in the last three years since my divorce has been an example for me to accept how she’s wired and how I’m wired. And, that my divorced wiring can stand up just as steady as married, single or otherwise as long as I keep my choices and actions true to me and own them.
Children of divorced parents make just as many bad choices as children of married, single or otherwise parents. Our wiring is unique and needs to be embraced not judged. Accepting this has been huge to understanding me and my kids and made me a better person and mom along the way.