Divorce at home: it just wasn’t done, not in a good family. School sent me a completely different message about divorce from the one I got at home. Literally half the kids in the second grade had divorced parents.
At age 8, we were all too busy being 8 year olds to be concerned about the whole “broken home” aspect, and when our 2nd grade teacher tried to teach about divorce, she got a crash course in how generations don’t experience even traumatic events the same way. Careful inquiries were made as to what a child’s last name and what his/her parents’ last names were. On the first day of role call, each of us were asked whether to call mommy or daddy when we got sick. Looking back, that had to be the direct result of some teacher’s in-service.
I do think the kids of divorced parents were treated differently. By the time we all graduated, our class valedictorians and salutatorians all seemed to come from nuclear homes that either had money or kids from “good” homes that had strong connections to higher-ups in the school system. The one exception, KS, had phenomenal test scores and parents that held her captive in the name of God.
The teachers assumed an attitude towards children of divorced parents – unless divorced themselves.
But the kids themselves didn’t repeat those behaviors, at least not at the elementary school I went to. Notably, along with the divorce rate it also collected the lowest income students in the township.
“Yeah, my parents are divorced. They have been since I was 2. It’s really no big deal.” More than one kid said this about themselves. Not one mentioned any desire for Mommy and Daddy to get back together, although a few wished Mommy or Daddy would ditch the annoying boyfriend or girlfriend. I didn’t even hear someone make that wish until a friend’s parents divorced when we were 16.
The used in parental battles understood their parents machinations. Dad thought his life sucked because Mom took everything, and Mom still didn’t have enough money to raise the kids. The children of divorce knew neither parent benefited financially or socially from the divorce.
It seemed to me that children who saw their parents split up after they hit their teens took the split harder than the younger children. The Catholic-versus-Baptist influence tended to direct its claws most directly at teens; the prevalence of both judgmental religious views probably made the trauma worse.
The irony of this is that parents likely waited until their children were teens, assuming they could handle the divorce at that time with more ease. Perhaps some chose to wait until they no longer needed a partner for childcare. Some knew of their parents conflict – those who saw the fighting expressed relief when the divorce happened.
8 year olds didn’t take their parents’ divorce personally but teens did. I wasn’t privy to what other children hears in their own houses about divorce. All I saw was what they brought to school with them. Some, I knew, assumed I lived better because my parents did not divorce – and they couldn’t know what I went through any better than I knew what they went through.