Throughout my life, especially now during high school, my parents have been bombarding my brain with the same three things: work hard, give one-hundred and ten percent, and don’t give up. Believe me, they never fail to let me know every time I’m practicing guitar, going to debate tournaments, or working on a school project. Yet their advice often falls short, when they gave up on the biggest commitment anyone can ever make.
People talk about the novelty of a nuclear family, until it blows up. They won’t mention how the initial blast exerts enough force to knock its victims off their feet, and leave entire households unstable. They won’t mention how the radiation left behind will impair improvement and growth and success. The nuclear family is a nuclear bomb. It is powerful, mighty, and vigorous. But it is also dangerous, delicate, and sensitive. And it must be treated as such.
In the last few decades, Americans have become increasingly lazy and apathetic, but when did we start treating marriages like high school relationships? We live in a society where the love conveyed in our wedding vows is as meaningful as the short-lived crushes declared on the school playground, crushes that are easily disposable, replaceable, and forgotten.
Yet, still we wince at the word divorce. As if we aren’t the ones signing the papers. As if we aren’t the ones going to court to negotiate custody. As if we aren’t the ones producing the equation that causes fifty percent of American marriages to end, shattering stable families. It is cruel and unfair and terrible, yet we have only one group to blame: ourselves.
My generation is being raised off the crumbling foundations of split homes, split families, and split marriages. We sacrifice childhood experiences in ways that most of our parents can never, and will never, understand. In elementary school, we make a special Christmas card for our parents, yet we find guilt in deciding who to write it to because we know there is one card and two houses. And while we are only elementary students, we can do the math. In middle school, we discover drama when we invite both of our parents to our concert, yet they sit on opposite sides of the auditorium. However, in high school, we start to learn.
We learn that switching houses every week is not an inconvenience but a routine. We learn that while being stretched thin across two houses kind of sucks, having two Christmases is kind of sweet. We learn that being grounded at mom’s doesn’t necessarily mean being grounded at dad’s.
So, we decide we can learn to cope.
But beating around the bush can only get us so far. Sure, we allow ourselves to perceive the situation as ‘normal’, and repeatedly tell ourselves that divorce is okay. We can handle divorce. However, the more we remind ourselves, the blurrier our vision gets as the hunger that is divorce slowly eats away at our perception of marriage. We teach ourselves to accept that divorce has earned its place in society. Like a circus act, we attempt to juggle our ability to conquer divorce, as well as cope with it, and land flat on our faces.
In a way, moving on is paradoxical. In order to progress, you must reflect: you can’t go forward without first going backward—a task nearly impossible when handling divorce. As a young, innocent child directly affected by the split marriage of your parents, it is often hard to conceptualize what your complete family looked like. You may find yourself spending your whole childhood contemplating why your parents would break a bond that wasn't meant to be broken, yet no matter how rational the answer becomes, it doesn't change the fact that you are still a small powerless piece sitting on the sidelines of a much larger game. Life just seems blatantly unfair. Which could arguably be a good life lesson, but I am compelled to believe there are far better methods of teaching it. Your childhood, the most impressionable time of your life, should be full of joy and ease and excitement. It should not be plagued with the cruel and twisted hand of divorce.
As I begin my descent into the final years of high school, I contemplate what routes my childhood has taken, and how it molded me into the person I am today. I consider all the events, good and bad, and play them back like an old movie reel. I replace the face of my father with my own, my mother with my wife, and mine with a child of my own. I replay this movie over and over in my head, in an attempt to not only remind myself of the poisonous touch of divorce, but also the pure beauty of family.
Everyday in our environments, whether it be school, work, activities, or home, we are writing our own script. In my script, I will remind my children to do three things: work hard, give one-hundred and ten percent, and don’t give up. I will remind them every time they are practicing a hobby, participating in an activity, or achieving excellence in school. And I will make sure to follow through on the biggest commitment I ever make.