After the Divorce This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 13, 2012
Sometimes you just know. Hearing the fighting that goes on for hours after you've gone to bed, that gets to you, and you just know. So when you're called into your parents' bedroom to “talk,” you're not surprised to hear that they are splitting up. Yet you still cry. Thoughts run through your head about what will happen next, and you ask yourself how your life will change, amazing yourself with how upset you actually are.

For hours you refuse to speak to your parents, locking yourself in your room. Being the older sibling doesn't help either. You're expected to be a role model and do everything perfectly. You're forced to be the strong one who doesn't break down and cry, but it's incredibly hard. Before you know it, you're helping your dad pack up and move out.

Spending every other weekend in a small apartment makes you hate what's happening even more. It's a boatload of change that is suddenly thrown at you without much warning.

The first year is the hardest. You're going through everything for the first time. Celebrating every holiday and birthday twice is extremely strange at first, but eventually you warm up to it. Finally you reach the end of the first year, and going back and forth between houses and doing almost everything twice seems almost normal. You definitely don't miss the fighting and the tension at home. You don't cry as much now, and you feel happy with how things worked out. Your parents don't hate each other. They are able to see each other without fighting. You can tell they are trying hard to get along to make it easier for you and your sister.

Then, boom. It's been a year and a half, which to you feels extremely short, and your mom is inviting her new boyfriend over to meet you and your sister. You're furious. How could she be replacing your father already? How could she have moved on so fast? You don't even want to try to like this new man who is being thrown into the crazy mix that's called your life. It's the typical feelings that kids in the movies have about their parent's new boyfriend or girlfriend. Before you've even met him you hate him.

He is tall. He's got dark hair that's gray on the sides. Even though his hair is gray, when you look into his eyes you see energy. You can tell he is trying to impress you, which just makes you madder. You try to be polite, but most of the time you avoid talking to him. You don't want to tell him anything about yourself and just wish he would leave. Of course, you realize now how rude and mean you acted.

You come to know this man as Jim. You swear to yourself he is a child stuck in an older man's body. He is all about having fun and he doesn't follow the “norms” of society. And that's why everyone seems to love him, except you, of course. Even your younger sister begins to love him. Growing up with a dad who was strict and closely followed society's rules, it's hard to get used to the way your mom and Jim live. All your life you were taught that you should be in for the night by 9 p.m., that you must act proper in public, that bedtime is early except for special occasions, and so many other rules that you somehow had driven into your head. But after a couple of months with your mom and Jim, you begin to ease up. They are still adults with responsibilities, but they find ways to have fun. You began to live that way too.

Your favorite thing about Jim is that he never stops trying to impress you. “Go with the flow” is his favorite line. Soon, it's your motto too. Things get better and better with Jim. When he's around, you can't help but relax and laugh at his jokes. With each day it becomes harder and harder to hate him, even though sometimes you want to but you just can't anymore. He ends up becoming your best friend – someone you can talk to about anything. He's always got your back. Without you even realizing it, Jim teaches you so much.

Jim teaches you to relax, to be yourself no matter who is around, to live your life because you only get one chance, to be loud, to smile because there is nothing in life that is so horrible it should take your smile away. But in all of this, to be mature, responsible, and to make good decisions. Looking back on the first couple of months around Jim, you can't help but kick yourself. He tried so hard to make you happy, and still does.

After your parents split up, you had to learn to be open to new ideas, new customs, and new ways of life. You didn't even realize you needed to change, but you have. You're glad you embraced change. The journey you took to get where you are now was hard and incredibly great all at the same time. Life is insane that way, but hold on for the ride because it only gets better.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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