The kids and I recently found a baby bird lying on the side of my parents’ driveway. It was probably old enough to fly, at least a little bit, but it wasn’t moving very much. I didn’t say it to my children, but I thought it was dying. A few hours later when we were leaving, the bird was gone. “It flew away!” the boys exclaimed.
I’ll never know whether my mother moved the bird so they would think that, but I didn’t ask her. I wanted to believe it flew away too. I still wanted my mom to take care of me. When you get married, you feel like such a grownup. When you get divorced, you need your mommy again.
All the things I did when I got married made me feel like an adult. Referring to “my husband,” signing the papers to buy a house, giving our first dinner party – I believed I had crossed some threshold into adulthood, never to return to dependence on my parents.
But when Drew left, I suddenly felt like a little girl again. Getting up to make breakfast for my kids, I felt like a fraud – like I was trying on my mom’s makeup and heels – even though I had made them breakfast a thousand times before. When I made an appointment with an attorney to represent me in the divorce, I wanted to bring my parents with me. I realized that wouldn’t look very mature, and I reluctantly went alone.
A spouse fills so many spaces left open by parents. My husband gave me reassurance that I was loved, like my dad. He told me my outfit was perfect on the first day of my new job, like my mom. He let me be the baby sometimes when life seemed too much and I wanted to stay in bed rather than get up and fulfill my adult responsibilities.
When you’re suddenly the only parent in the house, it can be scary. I have to pay all the bills. I have to decide who to call when the pipe bursts. I have to tell my kids, no, they can’t watch that movie that “everyone else” saw. The worst is those late nights when one of your children is sick. No, the worst is those late nights when you’re sick AND your kids are sick.
The fact is, getting divorced made me grow up much more than getting married ever did. Getting married meant going from the support system of my parents to that of my husband. Getting divorced meant I was finally going to have to figure it out on my own. Luckily, my parents are only an hour away, and my mom still lets me be a kid sometimes, even if it’s just preserving the fantasy that nothing bad happens to baby birds.