I opted not to consult what the internet says about the percentage of broken families here in the Philippines. All I need to do is talk to my circle of friends and I’ll get more information than the figures that might show up in the search results.
Is “broken families” a difficult topic of conversation? Maybe. We’ve all heard the stories of our friends and our friends’ friends whose parents split up when they were young, or the stories about the gradation of dysfunctionality of one family in comparison to another. This topic is no stranger to us anymore. It is not something considered by many as sensitive.
However, it is also a topic not given the scrutiny it deserves. Although it is widely discussed, we fail to consider the granularity of it – the kids.
It must be hard for the kids, we always say. How hard is hard? I am no expert but my experience might qualify me for a lead role in a story like this. So, for the purpose of giving parents an idea on what goes on inside their kids’ minds when going through a separation, let me give you a glimpse of my experience growing up.
Beneath the surface, there are cracks.
There were times when I’d wish I didn’t have vivid recollection of Family Days at school or social gatherings where we’d have to come as a family. Being a kid, it’s hard to put on smile and know that what other kids have will never be same with yours. They may not show it with full admission but deep in their minds they know a complete attendance doesn’t really patch up that thing that’s breaking apart. They are kids but they don’t always kid around.
Other than their personal pain, they feel yours too.
They may actually be more affected with your pain than their own. Maybe because of the fact that they don’t have a full understanding of their pain, they focus more on how they feel about how their parents are feeling.
A friend once told me a story about her daughter. She suddenly caught herself sobbing in the shower because her kid was so naughty and wouldn’t stop crying. She was surprised how her 2 year old look at her and stopped crying. No words were needed to pacify the kid, all it took was for her to see her mother’s pain.
It still surprises me how kids can be the most selfless beings.
Even if you think they do or even if they think they do, they don’t understand.
Let’s sit down and talk about this. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done this. Even if you see the receptiveness in them, no amount of words or bribery can ever make them understand.
It’s hard to break their concept of family.
You don’t have to be a mom to know how your kid’s first drawing will look like: a house, Mcdo birds, clouds, a sun with a distinct way of creating the rays, a fine day and… a happy family. They don’t understand why it has to happen. All their lives they were made to believe a family has to have a mom and a dad. Family is the epitome of their belongingness, their safety blanket, their rock.
Does this mean parents should play pretend? That would mean going back to the first item. Even if they already know it’s falling apart, there is no way of breaking it gently to them. All the more it’s difficult to make them accept that things will be different. Kids tend to look at the longevity of things. If their toy broke, they’d think they won’t have a toy forever.
Hard isn’t it? To take on the role of making sure everyone’s okay. Please know, mommah, that you can only do as much. It can take them forever to get to that level of understanding of things and you might not feel like what you’ve done is enough or it wasn’t your best card. But know that…
Deep in their hearts, they are grateful.
If there’s I’d spell out the color of blood that my heart pumps during those times, it would be HATE. I was so mad at my parents that a day or two would end without me uttering a word to them. I had so much hate in me before that I feel like talking about a totally different person right now. I still ponder if there was a conscious effort from myself to turn it all around. I wouldn’t say so.
Funny how I still feel a pinch in my heart as I write this. Maybe heartaches don’t ever really go away, you just get used to the feeling of it. Now that I’m way older, I can’t help but wonder how I’ve really grown from it. Or if I’ve ever really grown. Sometimes I feel like another life slipped in through the backdoor and that’s how I diverted my attention. But looking back, after taking the measure, I think despite the heartaches and bubus, life’s beauty is when we strive to give meaning to it every fighting day. And it took a while before I was able to connect the dots: from how I lived life before to how I see life now, from how I felt about my parents and the situation before to how I feel about it now.
It may not manifest right now. Their words and actions may appear otherwise. Kids will realize that not being able to make it work means that there wasn’t an effort to. And time will come when gratitude will surface over hatred in their hearts. For everything you did. For the love withstanding all those heartaches.
Please know that I am sharing this not to put burden on the shoulders of parents who are struggling with their marriage. If anything, this sharing is a way to clear the skies for you.
I write this not with an intent to appear like a cry baby nor with the intent to put stigma on people who have had similar experiences. Some people have the ability to rise above the occasion and turn out to be good or even better individuals considering their childhood stories. It is unfortunate that some find themselves beaten, defeated and overthrown by their nightmares and may need extended help, either internal or external, professional or not.
We’ve all had our sob stories and I believe the courageous route is to turn it all into a beautiful thing: to be able to find peace in war, belongingness in diversity, happiness in distress, love though undeserved, and forgiveness without reservations. It may take a while for others to find this, hence, this read. I hope people who are still living in their nightmares realize that the kind of family one has does not define a person, the kind of love given to them does. May they continue their way to finding the light in their darkness. Know that it is within. And outside? Is a beautiful life waiting.