I was sixteen years old when I knew for sure my parents were getting divorced.
I'd heard it thrown around in the house, but it always seemed like chatter. We were on our way out the door to dinner for my sixteenth birthday. I remember this moment in my life so vividly, I can recall what I was wearing sixteen years ago: my favorite BeBe outfit — a black and white striped top with the Bebe logo in silver glitter, my black Bebe pants with the logo down the leg, and my favorite pair of black Sam and Libby wedges.
As I was walking down the stairs to meet my mom, dad, and sister in the kitchen — I could hear them arguing. Now, this was nothing new, and to be honest, my teenage brain knew that our family was breaking up. A few weeks later, I came home to find all of my clothes (which meant a lot to me at the time), beauty products, and everything I loved cleared out of the room I'd grown up in, and I was given an ultimatum. Either I'd come to our new home with my mom with all of my stuff or I could stay with my dad at the only home I'd known.
I went with my stuff. Looking back, I felt like I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. That day changed everything in my life. It changed my relationship with my dad, my mom, and how I navigated my emotions. For years, I felt the need to choose between my parents. As I got older, I thought things would get easier, but holidays, special events, birthdays, etc. are always difficult.
I now hate holidays and special occasions.
I still feel like that sixteen-year-old girl that wishes she could split herself into two so that my mom and dad never feel neglected. Now, that I've moved cross-country to California, coming home to Atlanta gives me a heightened level of anxiety. Like I did in my teenage years, I'm shuffling my suitcase back and forth between each house even though they are just six miles apart. I even make sure to leave things at each home so that they know I'm coming back. I know it probably seems a little silly, but being a child of divorce makes you do these things.
The holidays are hard for many people, and it's a scientific fact that depression tends to increase during the holidays due to an increase in demands, family issues, and being unable to manage expectations that come with the holiday season. I've debated opting to start to make my own holiday traditions so that I can take the pressure off of coming home each year, and feeling like a human pretzel.
But, even though the holidays have come to be a sore spot for me, I still love seeing my mom's house filled with four trees (yes, four), decked with ornaments from my childhood, and sitting by the fire watching a football game with my dad while asking if we can watch something else. I've realized that I have to give up the guilt of not spending the same amount of time with both of my parents each visit.
I now set boundaries and timelines that work for me.
Before I land at Hartsfield-Jackson, I give both parents my itinerary and let them know when I'm staying at each house, so that there are no questions (and boundaries are in place). I am one daughter doing the best she can, and I hope that my parents feel that.
Being the child of divorce isn't easy, but if I've learned nothing else it's that setting boundaries is the best way to keep your sanity while getting a chance to spend quality time with those you love. If you find the holidays to be difficult and struggle with trying to please everyone, breathe sis, it'll balance out soon. Do your best to honor yourself in the process.
Featured image by Getty Images.