Dealing with divorce

Feb. 17, 2004, midnight | By Yicong Liu | 16 years, 11 months ago

Senior Brittany Parker's parents first got divorced when she was two. Sixteen years later, Parker experienced the painful breakup between her mother and stepfather. When she thought another divorce could not possibly happen again, in March of 2003, her father and stepmother split up.

"My life is like a soap opera," she says in her southern accent, proof of her days in Georgia, when her birthparents were still together. Her persistent smile, though, says it all—Parker could never be happier with her life. Although she is one of the roughly ten percent of children in this country with divorced parents, Parker has endured the trauma and now has a greater hope for her future.

The broken knot

At the time of her parents' first divorce, Parker was too young to feel the effects. Her parents were high-school sweethearts who had married and divorced within a couple of years. Parker spent the majority of her childhood living under the care of her mother and stepfather, a marriage bond she relished and believed would last forever. But in the spring of her sophomore year, Parker had to face what she feared most, the divorce between the two. "Growing up, I had a picture perfect image of a family and then it was destroyed," she says.

Before the official separation, the news of imminent divorce between her mother and stepfather hung about the house. Parker tried desperately to get away. In middle school, she joined the drama club, the cheerleading team, the student council, the softball team and the debate team, hoping to avoid the complications at home.

She struggled with the idea of parents' divorce. "I felt sad because I felt like they had been married for so long and it just was over," she says.
In high school, she was hungering for attention because her parents were caught up in their own strife. "I had always been a good kid, and I went through a very rebellious stage sophomore to junior year," says Parker. "…I got sent to the police station, [and] even like dating this kid that was barely out of jail…," she recalls.

Embracing the new schedule

Junior Mike Forbes was also shocked when his parents finally broke up in the spring of his sixth-grade year. "It kind of rocked my world, I guess, [but] not in a good way," he says. "I honestly don't remember [much]. The only thing I do remember is that I didn't think it [the divorce] happened for two days."

For Forbes, life after the divorce is a constant reminder of his parents' separation. He lives under a mutual custody, spending half the time at his mother's house and the other half with his father. "Every Saturday night I have to pack my life into four suitcases," he says. In addition to having two houses, Forbes also has two rooms and two sets of clothes.

Upon returning to school, Forbes gained a heightened sense of organization. "I have to kind of know where everything is," he says. "Unfortunately I have lots of books and text books, and I have to know where my homework is going to be so I can bring the proper book."
Parker suffered a more dramatic change in her environment. In spring of 2002, Parker left her hometown in Georgia and moved to Maryland, a relocation she initially resented. "When I first moved here, about the first few weeks I wouldn't talk to anybody," she says. "I was really bitter and mean. About halfway through March, I met a girl whose dad worked at the funeral home with my dad and instantly bonded with her. I guess I just realized: why couldn't I have fun? By being bitter and mean, by staying in my room, I was just punishing myself."

"It's for life"

Despite having weathered two divorces, Parker says the separation between her father and stepmother that started last April caught her off-guard. She attests to the unpredictability of every divorce. "You really don't know what to expect," explains Parker. "Each case is different, but at the same time, you can kind of guess what will happen."

At one point, Parker thought she could return to how life was before the divorce. A visit to her relatives and old friends last Christmas gave her a sense of reality. "Once I got there [to Georgia], I realized that I had a whole different life, and I was a whole different person because of the fact that I didn't live in the area. It was nice to see everyone, but I feel like I didn't fit there anymore. I feel like they had grown into a new life, as did I."

In spite of these distant feelings between her and her relatives, Parker believes she has benefited in some ways. Relocating numerous times because of these divorces provided Parker with valuable opportunities. She now has more challenging goals for the future. "Most of the people I had grown up with," she explains, "they basically just wanted to go to one of the close schools. They were all mediocre schools and they just wanted to go to college and come back and run their parents' businesses. And I think I would have done something very similar to that, but now I have my own aspirations. "

Parker is determined to enter law school and proceed to an independent future. She says, "I want to do well for myself and be able to do it on my own."

Through their experiences, both Forbes and Parker have learned to cherish the institution of marriage. "I do believe that if I ever have a marriage, I'd put everything into it," says Forbes. "Marriage isn't something you do that has a possibility of breaking up—it's for life."

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Yicong Liu. Yicong Liu is a junior in the magnet program at Blair high school. She enjoys the many (I mean many) wonderful things in life, but mostly the fundamentals: food, sleep and fun. During the hectic school week, Yicong can be found staring at her computer … More »

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