I have great parents.
Don’t tell them I told you so. They would never believe I said it.
Maybe that’s why I feel tense (maybe even a little defensive) anytime I can feel someone judging them.
My parents divorced when I was in eighth grade, so I am “one of those” who is part of a statistic.
I literally still remember one of my friends in high school quoting statistics to me about how “kids with divorced parents are 99% more likely to get divorced themselves.” (Okay, I don’t remember the percentage. I just remember how it was said and it might as well have been a forgone conclusion).
Just this past week I sat next to two college-age girls on the plane and listened as it happened to someone else. One girl was asking the other a series of questions related to her parent’s divorce:
So how do you think your parent’s divorce has affected how you view relationships?
Do you think you have a hard time trusting people?
Do you believe you will find love?
It was all a well-intentioned conversation. There’s certainly some truth to everything the friend was saying.
The truth is, divorce is hard. No one who has been through one or had one affect their family would tell you differently. It’s not what anyone plans for. No one stands at the altar in front of friends and family hoping that someday this will all end.
But here’s the truth the friend didn’t acknowledge, every family is broken. In one way or another, we all have some mess. There are some of us whose mess is more public than others. Marriage is hard. Family is hard. Relationships take a lot of work.
I know this won’t relate to every parent out there, but from time to time, I want to write to parents who are navigating a separation or a divorce. Maybe it’s because I won’t interrupt the conversations on the plane and this feels like a more appropriate place to say what I’m thinking in those moments.
The number one thing I wish I could tell divorced or divorcing parents:
Your family has what it takes to be a great family.
You are no less qualified to be a great parent. Your kids will probably turn out to be great people; well… they’ve got as good a chance as any.
My parents were and still are great parents. And it’s because of them, not in spite of them, that I have learned some powerful lessons.
When their marriage ended, I didn’t lose the ability to fight for relationships when things got harder. In fact, I think I discovered how to work harder to preserve them in the middle of the mess.
When their marriage ended, I didn’t lose the ability to trust people. I discovered that every person has a beautiful and complicated story, and that trust is something you choose to give, not something someone earns.
When their marriage ended, I didn’t give up on love. But I did realize that people are fragile, so love has to be tough.
When their marriage ended, I didn’t lose my faith in God. Instead, God became the rock I clung to when my faith was tested by the unpredictability of life.
My parents didn’t do everything right, and neither will you. But sometimes when love walks through the fire it comes out stronger on the other side. I come from a broken family, but I’m a whole person. When a marriage ends, it introduces a lifetime of challenges for a child. But those challenges can also be the groundwork for an authentic and resilient life when you choose to parent through the messiness.