I grew up in a home where my parents didn’t love each other. When I was 15 they finally got a divorce, but before that I was stuck in a very hostile home. I guess I wanted to tell any parents who might be in a bad situation with their partner what my experience was as the child.
We know more than you think. I think a lot of parents try to pretend we didn’t hear them arguing or we didn’t see the dirty looks or the passive aggressive remarks. Maybe as kids we pretend not to notice or remember, but we do. We notice when you start smiling at your phone. We notice when you go out more. We know what a lot of things are that you probably don’t want us to know. We can read between the lines.
I’m not a “kid” anymore, but I still vividly remember things that I know my parents have no idea I knew about. I remember them trying to hide certain things.
It made me uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable in my own home sometimes, but that’s all I knew. I don’t remember a time when my parents got along.
I don’t blame one of my parents more than the other, and I know that sometimes one parent really tries to keep the peace. I also understand it’s personal, but when there’s a kid involved it’s important to try to keep the peace on both sides. I get that it’s hard when one parent is trying and the other one isn’t. There isn’t much you can do if that’s the case, if you’re the parent trying to keep the peace just keep trying.
To be fair, I don’t think either of my parents tried to keep the peace, maybe sometimes my mom did. I think they forgot how to not hate each other for me. I think they forgot I noticed everything. I love my parents and I forgive them, but I still live with the trauma they caused, they don’t. Your kid will still remember that feeling of living in a home that didn’t feel safe. They’ll remember that feeling of living in a home where they felt they couldn’t be themselves, where they had to walk on eggshells to try and keep the peace.
I always wished they got divorced sooner, but that wasn’t always an option financially, I guess. I think it was a norm for me to have parents on opposite sides of the house. I understand why they had anger towards each other. I get that, but things became spiteful. Things started to happen out of spite. Arguments that didn’t need to be had or started were, out of spite. Comments that didn’t need to be made were, out of spite. Actions that didn’t have to happen did, out of spite.
Parents, we see it all.
I remember my mom crying when I was little. She would cry after a screaming match that in my memory lasted hours. I remember the final spiteful moves when they were finally getting divorced. I remember the hostile energy while we packed the truck to move stuff into my dad’s house because I would be living wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. I didn’t have a schedule, I could go back and forth as I pleased and that was nice. I remember the looks my mom would give my dad when she didn’t agree with something and how that made me feel, like when he would ask me to grab him a beer from the fridge. I felt like I had to please both parents, but that was impossible. I felt like if I did what my dad asked I would be disappointing my mom and I felt like if I did what my mom wanted my dad would make remarks about it. I felt like I was the pawn in their little game. I was the weapon. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to choose a side” they would both say, but then act otherwise. How horrible it felt to be that child that was used to get back at the other person. Using the child to get back at the parent that they also loved. I loved them both. But that home, that hostile environment made me see them less as parents and more as friends. My friends. Not my parents. My friends that I knew didn’t like each other, but I just wanted to keep the peace. I was way too young to be in that position, but it was all I knew.
I had to keep secrets so the other parent wouldn’t know things so there wouldn’t be an argument. Sometimes that secret benefitted my siblings and I get it, they weren’t big secrets, but I was too young to be doing that and it hurt me and it changed how I saw my protectors. My siblings and my parents. They were supposed to be my protectors, but I often felt alone. I often felt more protected by my dogs than my family. The secrets weren’t dangerous or anything. I’ll give an example, some times we didn’t tell my mom things. It was never something dangerous that was done, I’m sure she would’ve been fine with it if it was after the divorce because she was more calm after. But when my parents were together if she knew that my dad allowed some things she would’ve been mad at us, but also it would’ve caused an argument between my parents. But if the same thing happened after they divorced, there would be no problems. My parents would simply be mad because of the fact that the other parent allowed it, not that it was bad, because it wasn’t, just that they despised the other parent so much that they would be mad. None of us wanted my parents to argue and it was horrible when they did. When they argued I felt like I wasn’t allowed to leave my own room. That was never said, it’s just how I felt.
Therefore, because that was all I knew the divorce hurt me. It caused stress on me because now I had to decide who’s house I was staying at. They would say it wouldn’t hurt their feelings but I was trained to be aware of their feelings. I felt like if I stayed at my moms I was hurting my dad and if I stayed at my dad’s I was choosing him over my mom. No matter what they told me I felt it ingrained in my brain.
Ultimately, because they didn’t like each other I wanted so badly to make sure that they liked me. I wanted to make sure I was still loved even if I did things with the other parent. I know my siblings tried to defend me, but there was too much anger for my parents to see clearly. They moved on after the divorce. They could live their lives separately, but still felt the affects of 15 years of hostility. I still heard the remarks because divorce and separation doesn’t mean the nasty remarks stopped.
Your kid knows so much more than you think. I’m sure your kid sees how often you go out. I’m sure they see you on your phone. We can read our parents. Sometimes kids ask questions they already know the answer to. It might hurt you to think that your kid knows more than they told you, but they do. I think it’s important for parents to recognize that their kid might know more than they think because as a kid I wish my parents knew that I saw them. I wish they would’ve just sat me down and talked to me.
If you are that kid or that adult who is struggling from living in an environment similar to mine, please feel free to reach out. I never want someone to feel as alone as I did. My email and social medias are on my “contact me” page!