Jolene had been my best friend since fifth grade. I was a transferee back then and found it challenging to connect with my classmates, but Jolene befriended me immediately. While we were the exact opposite of each other – she was tall and funny; I was stout and silent – it somehow didn’t deter us from liking each other’s company.
Whenever we ate lunch and did our assignments together, Jolene would always crack jokes and make things light. (That’s especially true when we’re doing math – our least favorite subject.) She was charming and nice to my parents, too, to the extent that Mom often allowed us to have slumber parties. If you ever met my best friend, you would think that Jolene only experienced sunshine and daisies throughout her childhood.
Unfortunately, the reality was far from that. The reason is that Jolene turned out to be a product of divorce. At first, I did not realize it because her parents always took turns driving her to and from school. On all the occasions that I met them, I never saw my best friend sulk or roll her eyes while either parent wasn’t looking. I only thought of asking when I read Jolene’s permission slip for our field trip and saw that her mother used a different surname.
I asked, “Oh, did your mom keep her maiden name after getting married?”
Jolene simply replied, “No, she started using it again after her divorce with dad was finalized.”
I was quick to apologize, hoping my question did not offend her, but Jolene waved her hand and laughed. She said, “Hey, it’s okay! It’s not like I was hiding or ashamed of being a product of divorce.”
I stood there, dumbfounded. The last kid I met at my old school whose parents went through the same thing became a rebel overnight. He vandalized the lockers, caused a commotion in the public library, and did everything else that his mom and dad told him not to do. When a teacher yelled, “Stop! Why are you doing this?!” he yelled back, “My parents said they would never split, but they did, and I hate everyone for it!” And here, my best friend was, seemingly unaffected by her folks’ divorce.
I asked out loud, “How can your mental health be unaffected by all this change?”
Jolene gave me a few reasons that got stuck in my head even decades after hearing them.
There Was No Longer Fighting At Home
My best friend’s primary reason was that her mom and dad used to fight a lot when they were still together. It apparently started with which plates they would use for a family dinner and came to a point where they fought about a slight wrinkle on the bedsheets. Even from a young age, Jolene realized her parents were merely looking for ways to spite each other.
When the divorce proceedings took place, though, Jolene’s parents still had to go through marriage counseling. That’s when it came to light that the soon-to-be-ex couple forgot how to communicate and lost their romantic love somewhere along the way. But this news helped them become best friends later, so it’s all good.
They Became Better Parents Post-Divorce
Since Jolene’s mom and dad were busy pinpointing each other’s misgivings, they turned into neglectful parents for a little while. My best friend said that there were days when she would go to school without ironed clothes or lunch because her mother forgot to help her dress up in the morning. Then, she walked a few blocks to get home because her father started a yelling match with her mom and didn’t see that it was time to pick up Jolene.
I couldn’t imagine those instances ever happening because of how devoted Jolene’s parents seemed to her. She said, “Yes, they have leveled up at co-parenting since the divorce, so I have no complaints. Perhaps it’s because they no longer live under the same roof, so their time doesn’t get wasted antagonizing each other, and they can focus on me now.”
They Deserve To Find Happiness
According to Jolene, she had been encouraging her mom and dad to reenter the dating scene. Again, it took me by surprise because I had never met any child of divorce who was this open to letting their parents find new love. If my folks broke up (knock on wood), I don’t think I could do that.
But Jolene reasoned that her parents had been unhappy for years in each other’s arms, so they deserved to look for their own happiness. “I would be selfish to ask them otherwise,” she uttered.
I’ll have you know that Jolene’s parents ended up remarrying each other after a decade of being divorced. They had relationships with other people before it happened, and my best friend was cool with it. Still, she was the happiest girl in the world when she found out that her parents were tying the knot again.
At the reception, Jolene told me, “See, if I acted up years ago and didn’t support my parents’ decision, they would have stayed together unhappily. But now they chose to be together without any prompting from me, and I know that this marriage would last this time.”