Unlike many children, when my parents divorced, I was happy and relieved. They fought often and I was always afraid of when the next fight would occur. While they are both beautiful people, they never found a way to get along in their marriage.
After the separation, my mom and I moved in with my grandparents. As a single parent, she spent a lot of time with me. If you saw her most of the time, I was not far behind. For several years, it was just the two of us.
Then, when I turned 8 years old, my mom introduced me to her new friend, Darrell. He was always kind towards me. Anytime he visited, he brought me a gift. He often took me and my mom out for banana splits and shrimp fried rice, my two favorite childhood treats. I was happy, and my mom was happy. Life was good.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but one day I realized the amount of time my mom spent with Darrell, and everything changed. No matter how many gifts he brought or outings we had, he was the enemy. In reality, she spent the same amount of quality time with me that she always had. But in my young mind, he was stealing my mom away from me, and I had to fight to keep her.
The shift in my attitude was so sudden that my mom asked if he had done something inappropriate to me. The only violation he’d made was loving my mother.
Anytime I could do something to disrupt their quality time, I did it. We now laugh about one time in particular. I was in the living room with Darrell’s children while he and my mom were in a nearby room. I sat angrily trying to come up with a plan. Finally, I had an idea! I went into the kitchen, took a spoonful of shrimp fried rice, smashed it and placed it on the floor. I poured milk over it, then yelled for them to come quickly. I complained that I had a stomach ache, and I had the vomit to prove it. But my complaint was discredited because I’d forgotten to smash all the peas and carrots. Busted!
My mom always addressed my behavior by assuring me that the love she felt for Darrell was different than the love she felt for me. She insisted that no one and nothing could ever change her love towards me, not even my poor behavior. She told me that she would continue to see Darrell. She explained that in time, I would want more independence and less time with her. She added that when that time came, she wanted to have a life of her own, a life that included Darrell.
Those conversations, along with my aunt’s neutral support, helped me accept and eventually appreciate the man who has been a rock in my life.
This year they celebrated 27 years of marriage. Some men might have ended the relationship due to the other person’s child. I respect Darrell more because he loved my mom enough to stay through it. And I admire my mother for making her happiness a priority. She could have easily folded to the wants of her only child but she understood what I did not. She understood that Darrell was a heaven-sent gift to her— and to me.