Casualty of Divorce
I looked out my window a few minutes ago.
There is a little boy, around 8, playing with his friend, a little girl in a red sun hat. They are bare legged and laughing, kicking at weeds and dust and walking along the road. His head is shaven and he is all arms and legs. He looks at my house several times as they go by, and his friend has to call his name twice before he looks away.
He was in my class for two years when I taught. His parents had recently separated when I started teaching, and two years later it was a mess. Therapy, angry letters, court, custody battles. I was in the middle months after leaving the school, showing up at court hearing with paperwork and my testimony. He became a mess over it all.
I watched him change from a timid, sweet little boy to an angry, frustrated, overwhelmed child. I found myself wanting to shake his parents and scream at them, “Don’t you see what you’re doing to him? Shut up, stop talking about each other in front of him. You made this happen, you deal with it. Leave him alone!” But when you hate someone that much, and have to deal with them in regards to your child, it must be so hard to let it go.
So he bore the brunt of it.
In class, he used to curl up on my lap during quiet time and cry, then fight it back and tell me through his hands, “I’m not crying.” He would play house with the other kids and yell, “I’m not the dad, I don’t want to be him, I’m the stepdad!” They had no idea how to play that role alongside him. He would burst into sobs at the slightest insult from someone, and be inconsolable for hours. I would hold him to me and my heart would break. He talked horrible about his father and yet loved him to pieces. He was always switching between homes and parents picking him up, although they did they best they could to keep it stable, no situation works for kids after a divorce.
I’m sure he’s not supposed to see me anymore after what I said in court at his custody hearing. He lives not to far from us. The last time I talked to him, I was 7 months pregnant. I had ended the school year almost 4 months so he knew I was having a baby. I was so sick that I used to lay my head on my desk and wish for sweet death. He wrote me a note that said, “Mrs. –, I so sorre for you,” with an unhappy face at the bottom.
He came to my back door and I hugged him and made him promise he’d come back to see Bella once she was born. I’ve only seen him briefly through my window since.
As much as I see what it did to him, I tried not to judge his parents. I saw a lot of what went on, but not the full story. I have no idea what they tried to do at home, I only saw how they destroyed each other everywhere else. Sometimes divorce is the answer. I believe that. But there is a choice on how it’s handled.
It’s tough to watch a child change and know with just a few things different in his life it would be a safe place for him to be innocent again. I know they love him, I just think they hate each other more.
He was one of those children that crawls into your heart and never lets go. A little boy I’ll never forget. A reminder that when love goes wrong, it’s often the children who take the full impact of what happens after that. He’s the reason we go to marriage counseling, we lower our voices when we argue, and we try so, so hard now to talk to each other about everything.
I hope one day, his parent’s divorce has the same impact on his marriage it had on ours.
And next time he comes by, I’m going to open the door and see what happens.