Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Eclipsed & Angry: Standing in their Shadow

Parents don't owe their grown children an intact family of origin, that's fine. I'm not suggesting that anyone martyr themselves here; in fact, please don't. If things are chronically disrespectful and dysfunctional do us all a favor and have the courage one way or another to do something about it.

But what in the HELL does it look like when your parents split as you're getting married? Or birthing their first grandchild? I've seen enough examples at this point to say for sure that if there's a point in your adult life when you're more at risk of becoming an Adult Child of Divorce, you're either engaged, newlywed, or expecting a baby.

We're not supposed to take that personally? It doesn't have anything to do with us? Care to explain that to me?

I'm angry. Frankly I've been stuffing my anger all this time, and it's a major reason why despite being over 5 years in now I'm still so consumed by my parents' split. Nearly every time I write here I fear that  anyone reading who's new to their own ACOD journey will find my current position and lack of progress either pathetic or terrifying. I often feel I should be more "healed" than I am. That's the truth, but this is where I am.

I've mentioned it in passing I think, but I was knocked up when I discovered my dad's affair with the woman he would eventually marry.
And when I say "knocked up," I mean it: new relationship, unplanned pregnancy. I was also living at home after coming home from college, and I had just been laid off. I moved into my boyfriend's house when I was 7 months pregnant, and he was abruptly thrust into a breadwinner position, carrying the mortgage and all the bills without the help of roommates for the first time. Neither of us had been married or even lived with a significant other before, and we had two months until our baby came. All around tough situation, right? Right.

So how my dad - how any parent - could look at birth as a finish line is beyond me. But he must have, because our son was about 10 days old when my dad told my mom their marriage was over. Could have done it the year before, could have done it anytime in the 9 months leading up to his grandson's birth, but no: he basically chose the moment I became a mother. Gee, Dad, thanks for linking these two events together. Thanks for the support, how thoughtful.

***

I thought I knew what grief was when my grandmother died when I was 16.

Then I thought I knew what it was when I lost a love.

Now I pray that this is it, that this is as hardcore as grieving can get. Because the idea of losing more than this to grief completely overwhelms me.

I didn't really realize it until our daughter was born three and a half years later, but I remember almost nothing of our son's first year. That hurts. That is unbearably precious time with your child. And I don't even remember it slipping through my fingers. I wasn't even watching for that; I was eaten up by grief.

It was time that would have already been very challenging for my boyfriend and I. Looking back, I feel like the added difficulty of my parents' divorce could have knit us together in a very intimate way. But it didn't; it just compounded everything. As I wrote yesterday, watching someone grieve takes superhuman compassion. I'm guilty of impatience with my mother's sadness. It's a discipline that might come naturally to a few - I don't know - but for me it is hard earned and faltering in its acquisition.

To say that my grief placed a major burden on my new commitment to my son's father is an understatement of epic proportions. Six years later, I am still shocked that we didn't break up, particularly during that first year. I hurt to an extreme. And it came out of me in indirect, careless fits and spasms, multiplied by the exponential cofactor of baby-induced sleep deprivation. I was eradic and vengeful and lonely and wounded and hormonal and guilty and sad and disoriented. I was selfish. I was mean.

And I knew it.

But things just kept on collapsing anyway.

And I swore up and down that wasn't who I was, but he didn't know me well enough to know for himself for sure. Every time I hurt he got more and more scared of who I might be instead, and I got more and more angry at his lack of support. And in that way, we entered a kind of vortex, and we have yet to climb out of it. I think we have made it farther than most would given the situation. The terror of someday doing to our children what my parents did to me is heavy, but so far we have survived.

Our relationship would be infinitely easier if I could just get over the divorce, honestly. Here's to that.

6 comments:

  1. My mom announced their pretty much official breakup to me 15 days after my wedding. I hear ya.

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  2. Yes I want an answer to this fundamental question! My dad started the affair when I told them I was pregnant (almost to the day). My mom told me they were probably going to get a divorce when my daughter was 9 days old, and he was kicked out of the house when she was 6 weeks. I just cannot understand how they don't the link in our lives to what was supposed to be a joyous time. I am sure that I can't remember hardly anything about my daughter in the past year and that makes me want to die sometimes.

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  3. I really understand the guilt of that. I wish I could say that having another baby eased it, but really I've just compared the two experiences and felt more guilt. I guess the positive spin is that at least I know that's the monkey on my back, that I know its name. It gives me a clear problem to work away at. So much of navigating ACOD territory is unclear; sometimes just knowing what avenue to pursue improvement at is relieving.

    The other thing I wonder about is... my God, is parenting so exhausting that the relief of getting a kid through college, or married, or officially growing "their own" family so great that you can't help but quit everything at once? I don't know. My kids are 6.5 and 3. But it sure seems like that's a factor, and I begin to wonder if our parents raised us in a way that placed us above their marriage. I knew someone in college who told me his mom and dad snuggled on the couch every night after dinner, and that absolutely blew my mind. I'd never heard someone my age say anything even remotely like that about their parents, you know?

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am experinecing this right now with my parents divorce. I'm 34, but you will not believe how much it hurts and how unfair it feels. I am wondering if it will ever stop hurting. I'm not married and neither do I have kids,Ihope to get married and have kids of my own,but I can barely even focus on dating at this time. We also just had the first grandchild for my parents (my niece and sisters baby) in the family and we cannot even enjoy that at the moment. It's annoying and sooo overwhelming. I wish there was an end to it :-(

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  5. Hi, I am having a pretty tough time dealing with my parents' separation and I am turning 40 this year! I was 28 and just days before getting married myself when my Dad left my Mum. I thought at first it was a stage, he would go back home eventually but my son was 12 weeks when he introduced me to his new partner and started behaving like nothing was different, he didn't even acknowledge my emotional turmoil, which I tried to share with him. He accused me of being spiteful and making a fuss, not respecting his choice and denying him of happiness. Anyway, 10 years later, just after I had my 3rd child, he announced he was moving in with someone new. I had just come to terms with the situation as it was and I found myself torn apart again. My main problem is not him moving from one woman to another but the lack of relationship with my father I experience as a result. He treats me more like a peer, they seem happy to engage in intimate conversations in front of me as if I've known them as a couple a long time but none of them is related to me. I feel like I've lost my father and my memories of having one. My husband is very supportive but he doesn't seem to understand why I feel so emotionally hurt. I just don't feel like my father still thinks of me as his daughter.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, I am having a pretty tough time dealing with my parents' separation and I am turning 40 this year! I was 28 and just days before getting married myself when my Dad left my Mum. I thought at first it was a stage, he would go back home eventually but my son was 12 weeks when he introduced me to his new partner and started behaving like nothing was different, he didn't even acknowledge my emotional turmoil, which I tried to share with him. He accused me of being spiteful and making a fuss, not respecting his choice and denying him of happiness. Anyway, 10 years later, just after I had my 3rd child, he announced he was moving in with someone new. I had just come to terms with the situation as it was and I found myself torn apart again. My main problem is not him moving from one woman to another but the lack of relationship with my father I experience as a result. He treats me more like a peer, they seem happy to engage in intimate conversations in front of me as if I've known them as a couple a long time but none of them is related to me. I feel like I've lost my father and my memories of having one. My husband is very supportive but he doesn't seem to understand why I feel so emotionally hurt. I just don't feel like my father still thinks of me as his daughter.

    ReplyDelete