They are, aren’t they? Kids can withstand so much; they’re just so resilient.
I hear this a lot when adults justify the decisions they make; I actually said it once to justify my own divorce. Kids are resilient; and she’s young! At five months old, she’ll never remember us together, so it’s not like she’ll miss having her mom and dad together. It will be her normal.
Lots of rationalizations, there. In retrospect, it wasn’t actually important that I end my marriage sooner because it wouldn’t actually be better for her. It would actually be better for me.
It hurts just to type that, y’all. To admit it, right there in black and white. Sometimes transparency is for the birds. I convinced myself that The Oldest One would be better if mama was happy. You know what didn’t occur to me, though? Making the best of the situation. Maybe not making it obvious that we were unhappy. Perhaps acting like a grown up. You know what kids don’t do? Analyze their parents to see if their happiness is at an adequate level. Kids are naturally kind of narcissistic, and I don’t think they really care if their parents are happy because I don’t think they notice, unless there is abuse.
What she needed was to not feel the gut wrenching pain of not being able to see her daddy every day when she was two years old, and then three, and then four, and so on; she needed to see her brother on a daily basis. What she needed was to feel loved and secure, and to have a predictable schedule. She needed to feel like she could speak freely about her love for both of us.
Many of us wake up every day at a time we don’t like and drive to a job we can’t stand because it’s the responsible thing to do for the season we are in. We call that responsible, mature, hard-working.
When we wake up one day in a marriage we can’t stand with a partner that makes us want to punch a face, we make the decision to leave or to stay. And if we leave, we call that strong and brave. And if we stay, we call it weak and stupid.
Yet both are responsibilities; commitments that we have made. Ones we honor because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s the only thing to do, or because we don’t have any other options. And somehow, leaving the spouse we hate seems more logical than leaving the job we hate.
We take a situation and say “I can’t do this anymore. They are awful to live with. I am slowly going crazy here. I deserve better than this.” And we leave, because even with all the coping mechanisms we have as adults, we can’t handle it anymore. And what results is a situation where the parent has escaped the madness, and the children, who don’t have the mental capacity to rationalize behavior, understand triggers, or build protective barriers, to deal with it. Alone. We need them to be resilient; more resilient than we are ourselves. We have to believe that this will be the best for them, because it’s the best for us.
Unfortunately, children aren’t resilient, they just don’t know how to express it. And if they do, they don’t want to add to the mounting emotional problems that they see their parent going through. And they do see it. They have very little coping mechanisms and what little they do will likely damage them as they carry them into adulthood. What they do not have is a group of friends that will bring them dinner and sit at the table and ask them how they’re handling things.
Kids aren’t resilient, they go into survival mode. They do what they can to survive, and they learn all new behaviors to cope with the changes in their lives; and not always good ones.
As an adult, I cannot fathom coming home one day and finding out I don’t live there anymore. I cannot fathom switching places that I live 3 days a week (ever noticed how draining business trips are?). I cannot fathom one day finding out that strangers live with me.
But kids are resilient. If you need proof of how children cope really well with traumatic situations in their childhood, watch Intervention.
There was no abuse in my first marriage, and I want to make that very, very clear. We were just not good together by any stretch of the imagination. This entry is not written as all-encompassing, and it is not written with regards to abuse.