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Lesson 6

                             How It Feels When Parents Divorce

                                            Text A

Ari, age fourteen
    When my parents were married, I hardly ever saw my Dad
becausc he was always busy working. Now that they're divorced , I've gotten to know him more because I'm with him everu weckend. And I really look forward to the weekends because it's kind of like a break-it's like going to Disncyland because thcre's no set schedule, no "Be home by five-thirty" kind of stuff. It's open. It's free. And my father is always buying me presents.

    My Mom got remarried and divorced again, so I've gone through two divorces so far. And my father's also gotten remarricd-to someone I don't get along with all that well. It's all rnade me fcel that people shouldn't get married-they should just livc together and make their own agreement. Then, if things get bad , they don't have to get divorced and hire lawyers and sue each other. And. even more important, they don't have to end up hating each other.

    I'd say that the worst part of the divorce is the money problem. It's been hard on mv Mom because lots of times she can't pay her bills, and it makes her angry when I stay with my fatherand he buys me things. She gets mad and says things like "If he can buy you things like this , then he should be able to pay me. " And I feel caught in the middle for two reasons; 

first, I can't really enjoy whatever my Dad does get for me, and second, I don't know who to believe. My Dad's saying, "I don't really owe her any money," and my Mom's saying he does. Sometimes I fight for my Mom and sometimes I fight for my Dad, but I wish they'd leave me out of it completely.

    In a lot of ways I wish my Mom would get remarried, because then she wouldn't have to worry so much about finances. But I'm sorry that my Dad got remarried, because I feel left out a lot of times. And one thing I really worry about is that I think they want to have a baby, and I know that if they do, it will be just like a replacement for me. 

That's because I only see my Dad on weekends, and since he would see the baby more than he'd see me, he'd probably grow to like it more than he likes me. It could be a lot like what happened with my dog Spunkur. 

I've had him for about six years and I've always said I'll never love any dog as much as I love him. Well, a year ago I picked up a little black Labrador puppy from the pound, and now I find I'm not as friendly with Spunkur as I used to be. And I think Spunkur feels jealous , just like I would if my Dad and my stepmother had a baby.

 My Dad said it wouldn't be that way, that we'd be a whole family and I'd have a little brother or sister, which would be a lot of fun, but I told him, "Look, by the time the kid is old ehougli to talk, I'll be out of college. I'm not going to have anything to do with a baby. You know that it's just a replacement for me ! "


    If I lived'full-time with my Dad, it would probably be easier for me to accept a haby because we'd be on an equal footing, but I'd rather stay with my Mom, where life is normal-where we
live like most people live, with breakfast at breakfast time and dinner at d;nner time. I do my homework, play with my friends-it's all the way life should be. If I lived with my Dad, it might be more fun at times, but I would go crazy. I wouldn't want to be brought up that way.

                                             Text B

                                  Sara, age twelve

    I guess the main reason I was mad at Daddy was because it all made my mother so unhapp.y, and I ended up feeling sorry for both of them-my mother because she was struggling to make ends meet, and my Dad because he couldn't really do much about it.

    Even though my parents separated more than three years ago, it's still very vivid in my mind and I doubt if I'll ever forget the way I felt at the time. Yet, as awful as it was, I never hoped they'd get back together. And now I think I'd die if they did, because it would be so awkward for rne. 

I think they're both much happier now,. and it's obvious to me that they both lead totally different lives. Since the breakup I've been able to see my parents' true colors' especially my mother's. I've seen a side of her that I never saw before. When she was married, she and Daddy were the perfect couple, always quiet, talking about dignified things, and they would never laugh or anything. 

Nowadays my mother is always happy and ggy. Another way she's changed is that she always used to hide her problems from me but now she's more apt to discuss things. I think she's more relaxed-and so's my Dad.

    Both of my parents started dating other people right away, and I think they'll both get remarried eventually, which is fine with me. They don't discuss their love lives with me all that much, but of course I'm not blind. For example, one night I had a sleep-over at a friend's house and the next morning I came home earlier than I'd planned to.

 Well, I just stormed into my mother's bedroom, and there was this guy in her bed-she was somewhere else, in another room. I started crying and everything, and my mother tried to convince me she had slept on the couch. Now that I look back, it was pretty hilarious, and of course I don't care-I mean, I understand about those kind of arrangements. 

In the beginning, when my father had a girlfriend sleep over, he didn't know how to tell me-he just sort of said, "Oh , you're sleeping on the couch tonight , " because at that point I didn't have my own room at his house and shared the bedroom.

 It's still hard for my Dad to level with me about this part of his life, but he's getting better. Anyhow, neither of them should worry about my getting upset, because I'm old enough to understand that grown-ups are allowed to have private lives, which includes other people. But if someone's going to spend the night, I think it's better and less awkward if I know about it beforehand, so I'm not taken by surprise.

    I still want to get married and have kids , but I have a lot of friends who don't want to. I was discussing marriage with one boy I know, and he said, "I'm never ever getting married. " He took his parents' divorce really badly because his mother and father weren't friends afterwards-they were enemies, screaming on the phone to each other. I'm glad my parents are good friends, having lunch together and stufi. I think it's so much easier for the child if the parents are friendly. If they aren't, it's really difficuit because there's always a right side and a wrong side and the kids are just caught in the middle.

    I think I've grown up a little faster because of rny parents' divorce. It's made me realize more about the problems of life and helped me to understand my parents-and appreciate them as individuals. It's just too bad they couldn't have been as happy and productive as a couple as they've been since they've been on their own. And I also wish that the next time my mother has tickets for a Rolling Stonesl8 concert, she takes me instead of her boyfriend, which is what she did the last time!

                                Additional Information

                                 Heather, age eleven

    So we have to switch back and forth, doing it on a weekly basis seems to work the best. I'll try to make one room my real room and have the otherone Iike camping out. I can't buy two of everytlring, so I might as well have one good room that's really mine.

    Another aspect of josnt custody that's difficult is that my parents have very different rules and philosophies about life. For example, my Dad's attitude is that he lets us learn by our mistakes , and my mother does exactly the opposite-she tells us how to act before we make the mistake. And my Dad says we can watch TV for a while after school , and my Mom says we can'tthat we have to sel'ect our programs verv carefully. 

At my Dad's house Matthew has to do his homework right away, but he gets to stay up until nine and watch The A I'eam because that's his favorite show. Mom doesn't want him to when we're at her house but she feels she has to give in because Matthew says, "Well, Daddy lets me do that at his house. " He's learning to play them against each other at a very early age. I don't do that, but I have to admit there are times when I secretly wish I was at whichever house I'm not at.

    It would be nice if there could be a special house for divorced families. It would be like two houses, side by side, with a place in the middle where the kids could live. Then when parents had arguments they could each go to their own place and get away from each other and think things out by themselves. 

That way, they could realize how dumb they were behaving and get back together again. I know it's too late for that kind of arrangement with my parents-and as I look back I see that they're both.happier being apart. My father's become a different person, you know, and it's unbelievable. 

I like the person he is now because he doesn't get angry as fast as he used to. And my mother's much happier because she doesn't have to worry about getting Daddy mad. Another good thing that's happened is that my father's turned into a terrific cook, and it makes me feel proud to be one of the only

, people in my class whose father cooks and does things like' taking me to hockey practice and to sewing. And it's great to see how my Mom doesn't have to rely on Daddy to pay the bills and throw out the garbage. She's working now and that's helped her feel important. Neither of them has to rely on the other one in dumb ways, the way they used to, and I thinkthey're both much better off as a result. I know that neither of them will ever be able to forget all the anger, but I think that as time gdes on they'll sort of come to their senses and be pretty good friends. That's what I hope for more than anything in the world!