You never hear how divorce effects children from the second family. There is a lot of information on how divorce effects the children of the divorced family but what about the new family? Does anyone realize that the effects of the first divorce are far-reaching and continue to affect families affiliated with the children whose parents are divorced? I learned first hand how my divorce from my daughter‘s father was still effecting my family and it wasn’t my daughter who was struggling but my son who was from a new relationship.
When my ex-husband and I divorced, my daughter was 20 months old. While initially, she was affected by our divorce, as she got older, her memories of us being a family faded and her memories of her father and I have always been as divorced parents. When she was six, I got pregnant with my son and while his father and I chose not to marry, we’ve lived together since he was born so all he has ever known was a two parent home. As he got older and became more aware of our family dynamic, I noticed early how he was effected by his sister leaving for her weekend and summer visits to her fathers home.
The first time he noticeably reacted to her absence was when he was a year old and she’d been gone for her summer visit. He was very mobile so we kept her bedroom door shut but what no one realized is that by keeping her room closed, he thought she was locked in the room and one night he walked by her room and knocked on the door. We laughed and told him she wasn’t there but of course he didn’t understand . As he learned to talk and understand that “Sissy” was leaving for the weekend, he would question where she was and try and understand this every other weekend phenomena of his sister leaving him but it was a struggle.
By age three, he reacted to her leaving by crying and constantly asking–“Where’s Sissy?” or confirming what we told him about her whereabouts by saying– “Sissy’s at Renzo’s?” (his name for her father). There was constant discussion of where his sister was because he just didn’t understand. He didn’t understand that I used to be married to another man and he was confused that he and his sister had different fathers. It was at this point that I really started to understand how my actions were affecting not only the child of divorce but the child who loved the child of divorce.
When he turned four it was obvious that he had abandonment issues. He had anxiety about her leaving and he would leave the room so that we couldn’t see the tears in his eyes. Talking to her on the phone made him sad and when she left for her six week visit with her father, he acquired an eating disorder. Yes I said a four year old had an eating disorder and the disorder was he wouldn’t eat! Everyone told me that it was a phase he was going through and that it would blow over but no matter how they tried to convince me that everything would be alright, the stress of trying to make him eat anything other than cereal was wearing on the entire family.
I even had a breakdown when he was crying about his sister being gone and I flashed and told him to basically “suck it up!” I got so upset I started to cry and it was at that moment that I saw how the fallout from my divorce had reached all the way to my new family. It hadn’t crossed my mind to worry about how he might feel because honestly, my focus was on my daughter. She was the one whose family had been broken up and she had never complained so him having such visible reactions to my daughter’s situation was alarming.
I began to recognize that his “eating disorder”was his way of maintaining some semblance of control in his life. I had watched my 20 month old daughter have a similar reaction when she and I moved and she had to start staying with her great-grandparents while I worked but she transitioned easier than he did. He was and still is very adverse to change and it wasn’t until he went to pre-school and began to have his own life outside of the home that he finally calmed down.
Being around other children helped him and slowly he let go of his “eating disorder”. By the time his sister went away for her summer visit, he was so engulfed in his pre-school “social life” and his impending year as a Kindergartner that he was able to let go and have fun. One year later, he has made great strides in overcoming his abandonment issues and he has taken control of his own social calendar by setting up outings with his grandparents by and for himself.
Raising my son has taught me that the effects of divorce are continuous no matter the affiliation the child has with the divorcing parents. I have learned that a broken family is a broken family and it is paramount that people realize that decisions made today will most certainly effect the generations of tomorrow.
Living through your child has been called a mistake and yesterday, as my friend and I met for a celebratory breakfast to celebrate the return of our children to their educational babysitters (it was the first day of school), we discussed the plans for the school year. We began to talk about the plans we’d had for our children when they were younger and how those plans have had to change as the kids, now between the ages of 13-18, have become people and started to come into their own. They have discovered their likes and dislikes and have no problem voicing those opinions and said opinions don’t always go with the plan we envisioned for them when they were five and six years old.
When my daughter was in the 2nd grade, I found a Performing Arts Middle/High School that I felt would be perfect for the little musician I’d created. She’d been playing the piano for three years by then and knowing how important music had been to me in school (it was the only thing that kept me there) I wanted to make sure that she had every opportunity to not only perfect her skills as a musician, but also have a more positive experience with school than I’d had. We talked about it all the time. I took her on a virtual tour of the campus via their website to generate excitement and she’d even gone to summer camp at the school so by 6th grade, she decided that she would like to go there for high school…I was so happy!
The plan was on track and by the time 7th grade rolled around, we began to look at the admission and audition requirements. She seemed really focused and talked about what she’d like to do when she got there and then something happened…she started to think for herself and her thoughts were no longer in line with the plan I’d (I mean we’d) been working on since she was 8 years old.
Our conversations slowly changed from music to boys and wanting to become a cheerleader and once she got on the kick of wanting to become a cheerleader…it was over. My child is very persistent and once she decides she wants to do something, she stalks you and (insert activity), so all I heard about was cheer, how to get involved and when I balked at the cost, she informed me about the ability to fundraise to bring the final cost down. She was passionate and prepared!
My initial response was “No.” No because cheer isn’t in the plan. No because you need to stay focused on your music and getting in to the performing arts school. Just no! But she wasn’t willing to accept my no and I started to realize that if I didn’t allow her to figure out who she was and wanted to be, I would be guilty of forcing her to live the life I wanted her to live, the life I wished I’d lived and not the life she was living.
Is it wrong that you want to give them the opportunities you wished you’d had? The whole point in parenting is you take the good and the bad from your own experiences so that you can more effectively teach your child but when you don’t allow them to have a say in what they want to do, you are indeed, encroaching on their ability to grow into a well-rounded adult with the ability to make sound decisions.
I gave in and allowed my daughter to cheer for the community youth cheer squad. I’ve begun to reevaluate my approach and I’ve begun to look at other options for high school in case she decides that the performing arts school isn’t the route she wants to take. Allowing her to have input on her life has made her feel more empowered and she is happy which is leading to success in school and in the end, that is all any parent really wants.
When I was pregnant with my son, his father asked me if I was nervous about anything? I think he questioned me because he was nervous (this was his first child and my second) but what I hadn’t verbalized to anyone, until then, was how scared I was to take on the responsibility of raising a black boy. Not because I was nervous about having a son, again, this was my second child, but because I had a duty to see him through his childhood…alive! Knowing what “our little boys” face at every stage of life (think Trayvon Martin) and having seen how my mother and father had to fight for my brother, I knew what I was up against and add to that the stress of just being pregnant…inwardly, I was a mess.
I remember, very vividly, how my brother was treated by adults who were supposed to be in charge of helping mold him into a responsible young man and instead tried to tear him down. There were teachers, church members, family friends, and neighbors who all had a hand in operation “Try to ruin a little black boy”. Thankfully, my brother didn’t listen to what adults were saying or care how they felt about him. God gave him the unique ability to tune out nay sayers (this is the nice way of saying, “He didn’t give a BLEEP!) and gave him a set of parents who were supportive, willing and able to fight for him at every turn. It worked and he went on to be very successful.
So for me, having seen how these adults systematically tried to break his spirits, the reality that the torch was being passed to me and I was now the one in charge of training and fighting the known and unknown forces that await every little black boy, was somewhat daunting. As my son grew, any fears I had (which were mostly due to my being pregnant) disappeared and it was time to get into mommy mode but in the back of my mind, the thought of what he was soon to face was always there.
My son was watched by my mother from birth and the best thing that came from her watching him, aside from the obvious, was that she was a retired Principal and when he turned two years old, they started to go to “Granny School” for fun. Soon, he was learning to read words and his numbers…it was brilliant! She made learning a game as opposed to something he had to do so when he wanted to stop, they stopped and when he wanted to learn, they learned. This went on until he turned four and then it was time for him to move on to a more difficult, structured program.
My daughter had been going to Kumon for math support and since they were there waiting for her, my mother looked into enrolling him into their reading program. He was excited to be receiving a “blue bag and homework like sissy” so he dived right in and really began to learn how to read. By the time he was five and ready for Kindergarten, I began to realize that if I put him in the public school system near us, we may run into the problem of them telling us they were “unable to teach him” because he was advanced and already reading and writing at a 1st grade level. Instead of teaching the other children to the level of the most advanced child, they will hold the most advanced child back so that the others can catch up. This is a trick reserved for “children of color” and one that was tried on me when I was in 3rd grade. Not mine!
So now the task of finding a school with a program that would push my son as opposed to hold him back began and after talking to some customers that worked at a private school near my job, I found one that did everything I wanted and expected from a school. They continued where my mother left off and they complemented what he was already doing in Kumon. Success!
As we revise the blueprint created by my parents and take control of his education, we’ve ensured that any adult who attempts to interfere with his learning process is unsuccessful and we’ve eliminated one major obstacle my son was sure to face… giving ourselves a little breathing room to prepare for the next obstacle, which is inevitably coming his way.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I do believe in that statement however, sometimes it just takes you. For the past 15 months, I have been unemployed and re-learning how to be a “Stay at Home Mom“. I say re-learning because staying at home with your children full-time takes a completely different mindset and I had to learn how to do simple things like, pick your kid up after school (I forgot the early pick-up day more than once…don’t judge me) and making sure the youngest one had a lunch, you know easy stuff. It’s funny I seemed to be more organized when I was working than when I was at home with nothing but time to think about but them!
When I was working, I had a great village to help me raise my kid(s). When my ex-husband and I first split, I hadn’t worked since my daughter was born 18 months prior so when I had to make the switch from SAHM to Working Mom, I was fortunate enough to have her great-grandparents takeover for me during the day and my mother pick her up for me after she finished her workday. This set up went on for a year and a half and then she went on to pre-school and then school and my mother continued to facilitate the pick-up.
When my son was born, my mother had just retired (she was not expecting to become the SAHGranny) and she took over for me when I had to go back to work. She handled certain Doctor appointments and she kept my daughter when she was sick and unable to go to school. She worked full-time and I worked full-time and then came home and continued to work my parenting job. I always felt bad about the amount of time that I spent away from them and at times, they looked to my mother more than they did me but there was nothing that could be done…we had to eat!
When I found myself unemployed for the first time in 10 years, the adjustment period was interesting. They had to get used to me and I had to get used to them and there were times when we all wanted to run away from each other. As we all became adjusted to being around each other… all the time, I realized how wonderful it had been for them to have the time they had with their grandparents, but me losing my job came right on time because what they really needed was me.
As we learned how to interact with each other on a full-time basis, I learned how important it is to just have your parents be there for you and just be parents. Growing up, my mother was a teacher so summers were free and we had her for two months straight. While it probably drove her crazy, we benefited from having her be there and do simple things like make our lunches or just spend time going to the Library together. Until you’ve missed out on something as simple as making dinner for your kids, you don’t know how inadequate one can feel as a parent and since I hadn’t had the opportunity to just be a parent since 2001, in some respects, my kids suffered.
This time off has given my family the opportunity to really be a family. My son now knows what it is like to have your mother be your primary caregiver and my daughter can be involved in extra-curricular activities and have me be her chauffer/cheerleader. None of this would have happened if I was giving my everything to a company rather than my children and I now have the ability to say I have raised my children instead of relying completely on the village.
I think we have all heard of or witnessed an adult throwing a temper tantrum. Some of us may have been the person that threw the temper tantrum. Your emotions get the best of you and the next thing you know, you are flying off the handle and letting the person or persons you feel have threatened you, have it! Hopefully this doesn’t happen too often, but if you have ever witnessed an adult throw a temper tantrum, I’m sure you will agree that it is one of the most unsettling events to watch happen.
I am a reality show junkie and pretty much any show that Bravo or the Style Network produce, I am usually watching! So when a show comes on that I cannot physically sit and watch in one sitting, there is a problem. My problem show is Chicagolicious. I so want to like this show and all of the elements are there for me to officially call myself a fan but there is one person who, when she gets started, I just want to shake her and without fail, I have to change the station!
Valencia…really? Over 40, insecure to the hilt and always crying and yelling about feeling left out…again, at 40+! This is a woman who is obviously a very accomplished hairstylist but her insecurities completely overshadow her accomplishments and all I see is a grown woman whose maturity level looks to be that of an 8 year old. When has it ever been appropriate for anyone to act an outright fool in public and especially at work?
The first time I saw her in action, I was in such disbelief that she not only threw tantrums at work but in front of the clientele, the manager in me wanted to know why her behavior wasn’t shut down immediately and why she still had a job? The owner of the salon does eventually take her aside…almost every episode, but in my opinion the damage has been done and it is too little too late. She has embarrassed the brand and more importantly, herself.
When I first saw the show, I gave the managerial staff the benefit of the doubt as to their response to her behavior because when an adult flashes on you for no reason, you are usually stuck in such disbelief that there aren’t even words to respond the nonsense you are witnessing.
As a former bank manager, I have witnessed the adult tantrum both from employees and customers but the difference between me and the owner and managerial staff of Chicagolicious is that I shut that mess down as soon as it reared its ugly head. There is no way that I would ever allow anyone to think that they can act the way they do at home, in a professional environment and if there is one thing I hate, it is watching a grown person completely lose control and respond in a childish manner. It is embarrassing and it shows a complete lack of self-respect.
I realize that this is t.v. and the whole point of television is to entertain, but for me, this show would still be entertaining minus the resident adult child. I’m interested in watching “Reality t.v.” but I can’t condone child-like behavior so if Valencia can’t not “keep it real” to the point where there is absolutely no control or filter, I will help her recognize what home training looks like and turn the channel.
But it doesn’t say anything about stepparents. I bring this up because of a recent conversation my significant other had with his father about his wife. They have been married for 5 years and the jury is still out on her where the family is concerned. She is a woman who means well, but is someone who does not think before she speaks or acts and when you are around people who have only known you for a short period of time, loose lips can sink possible relationships with new family members.
The discussion was about the concerns the adult children had with certain encounters they’ve had with her and what got me thinking was their fathers response. He wondered if everyone felt this way, to which the response was, “yes”, and then he said, “Man, so if I’m not here anymore, there won’t be a relationship.” Wait…what? Were we supposed to add her to our list of parents we may have to take care of in their golden years? Now maybe I interpreted his statement incorrectly. He could have simply meant a relationship as in remaining in contact with each other but it got me to thinking and I immediately began to feel a little guilt. You know, the kind of guilt only a parent can make you feel?
Not having even thought about the stepparent dynamic because I don’t come from a divorced family, I looked around on the internet to see what the etiquette for caring for a stepparent was and I came upon an article called, Uncertain Obligations by Jo Cavallo (http://www.curetoday.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/article.PrintArticle/article_id/1311) where “non-traditional” family relationships were looked at with regards to an ailing parent or stepparent. While there wasn’t any one way discussed, what I took from the article was that there was a direct correlation between how blended the family was in respect to the decision to care for the stepparent. So while the obligation was still uncertain, there may be an obligation.
I was raised to respect my elders and I’ve always known that I would assume responsibility for my parents should they need me and I would expect the same from my significant other, however, we lost his mother 6 years ago so his father is the surviving parent. I think the guilt bothered me because my daughter comes from a divorced family that now includes the stepparent dynamic and while the relationships are more established than the relationship between my significant other and his stepmother, taking care or looking after one of her stepparents may be in her future and I have an obligation to give her the tools to make an informed decision.
The relationship between my significant other and his stepmother is still fairly new and it is still uncertain how their relationship will progress, however, the dialogue has been established and one can only hope that it will lead to a more open and blended stepparent/stepchild dynamic.