Writing to My Past Self: A 19 Year Old Child of Divorced Parents (Pt 1)
In Part 1 of a two-part series, Sharon writes to her 19-year-old self, reflecting on the bittersweet aftermath of her parents’ unexpected divorce.
Dear 19-year-old me,
There have not been many moments in your life up till then where a single sentence would change your life in an instant. When had Mummy uttered, “Papa is having an affair” tearfully, it was as if your heart was made of glass and it had just been shattered into a million pieces. What is a family now? Your understanding of it for 19 years had ceased to ring true from that point on.
15 years have gone by since Papa and Mummy went their separate ways, and oh, 19-year-old-me, so much has happened. I will tell you now the things that you will learn:
Impact on your life, school, and relationships:
The one year that followed their divorce was tense and difficult as Papa and Mummy continued to live under one roof. Relatives from both sides of the family turned up in hoards unannounced, confronting Papa. Explosive arguments at home were difficult to witness, but it was really the silence and unspoken tension every single day that were even harder to bear. You learnt to shut off from the things that happened at home, including when Papa blatantly spoke to his girlfriend on the phone at the dining table every night. At that time, it seemed easier to ignore what was going on than to confront the turbulent thoughts and feelings you experienced.
Remember when you topped your cohort and won Student of the Year at the end of your ‘A’ Levels? What should have been the proudest day of your life became a logistical nightmare as you juggled between attending to Papa and Mummy waiting at opposite ends of the hall while forcing yourself to smile at the stream of congratulatory remarks from friends and teachers.
The latter half of 2015 ushered in the move to a new home with Mummy and Didi (meaning ‘younger brother’ in Chinese). As a freshman at university, you were eager to move on and did your best to adjust to a new normal as a family of three. You constantly worried about Papa living alone in his new but sparsely furnished flat, wondering if he was coping well financially after all the costs associated with the divorce. You and Didi had to learn how to maintain a relationship with him in a different way from then on. You would look back with gratefulness that Mummy had never discouraged you and Didi from meeting Papa whenever you wished.
Importance of support from extended family
Many well-intentioned people would come forward to show support in different ways. Unfortunately, some would make comments that are difficult for you to receive. However, you need not feel obliged to agree with people who commented that it was “easier” for you to cope with Papa and Mummy’s divorce, just because you were already a young adult when it happened. In actual fact, it was an entirely different kind of pain, presenting a different set of challenges compared to being a younger child. You grew up with your parents’ marriage as a constant for 19 years. When something seemingly stable crumbles, the fallout can be overwhelming–, and it is okay to acknowledge that and mull over your feelings.
On the other hand, you will come to learn how much support Papa and Mummy received in those difficult times that had made all the difference – aunts and uncles from both sides of the family who would lend money, who will accompany Papa and Mummy to the lawyers’ office and make countless phone calls to support them emotionally. You will learn that they love you and will be there for you even if they do not say it out loud. They certainly showed it by coming over more often, by buying your favourite food, and giving gifts. You and Didi also realised the amount of red packet money during the following Chinese New Year was triple the usual amount. All these actions would lead you to appreciate and cherish your extended family even more…