Caught in the Middle

Life in the midst of divorce and confusing custody arrangements

In 2010, when my brother wasn’t even three, and I was five, my parents’ divorce was finalized. My mom, my brother and I moved in with our grandparents and I started seeing my dad during the days on weekends. Not long after, my brother and I were introduced to our now-step-mom, and we began to spend Saturday nights with the two of them.

Living in a split household nearly all of my life has contributed to a number of things. My parents’ separation having happened so early is something I’ve found both difficulty and ease in. Most times, when I find myself in conversation with a peer who has experienced their parents’ separation, I find myself unable to relate to most things they want to discuss. When I explain that I’ve lived over a fourth of my life with my parents divorced, I’m often informed of my incredible luck for not having to remember the trials that come along with the messiness of divorce.

Despite the many times I’ve heard this speech, I’ve never quite agreed. No, I didn’t actively live through the complications of my parents splitting up mid-school year, leaving me debilitated and a wreck, but rather, I’ve lived my life amidst the constant chaos and conflict of what comes after.

When I was in fifth grade, and my younger brother, Alex, in second, the custody settlement between my parents was changed, and we were completely blindsided. Before this readjustment, my brother and I were spending every other weekend with our father and step-mom. The rest of our time was spent living with our mother, but with the coming of this colossal change, we would begin to spend almost a week at a time at either house.

The new schedule went like this: Five days with our mom, starting Friday night and ending Wednesday morning, then five days with our dad, from Wednesday night to Monday morning, and then two days with our mom from Monday night to that same Wednesday morning, and finally, back to our dad’s house from Wednesday night to Friday morning. This schedule was more than complicated to adjust to on its own, but there was another problem, the proverbial elephant in the room: human emotion.

My mother, in a fit of rage coming home from the final meeting with my father where the new custody arrangement would be established, flung both my brother and I into an ocean of confusion and anger and sadness, and my father got the brunt of that scalding emotion. It took me months to really be comfortable with my mother or my father, I felt as though I couldn’t trust anyone, anymore. They both had their own sides to the story, just as equally doused with emotion as firewood is gasoline, and it stopped anyone involved from seeing the situation at hand in anything that might be confused for an objective light.

I was angry for a long time with most, if not all of my immediate family. I didn’t get along with my step-siblings, my dad had just seemingly uprooted my life, and I couldn’t seem to get a straight answer from any of the three adults involved as to what quite happened.

Finally, almost a year later, my brother and I grew into the ‘new’ arrangement. We’d gotten closer to our older step-siblings, and any remaining conflict I had  found with our parents was either addressed and done with, or shoved so deep into the darker places of my mind, it would take too long and too much emotional effort to really get into it.

After starting therapy, a practice I’ve kept up with for five years, now, the first thing that was addressed was the split of my parents and the subsequent. The subjects of change, adversity, and readjustment were the main focus and there were three main conclusions: one, not everything is within the bounds of your control, two, adversity, while it brings pain, can also build you up into a better and stronger person, and three, change, no matter how drastic or difficult, will always make you better because it provides new opportunities to learn about yourself and improve.

Altogether, the conflict between my parents has been the cause of a lot of change and pain and joy for my family, and, despite its difficulties, we’ve come to understand that the change is not only constant, but necessary.