31 January 2005

Single...With Children: We Might Be A Little Bent, But Our Home Isn't "Broken"!

Single-parent homes aren't always 'broken'

Single with Children

Publication Date: 05/09/01

"Mom, are we broke?'' my daughter inquired the other day.

I thought perhaps she was testing the waters for a trip to the mall and needed some cash.

"Well, I think we'll be fine for the rest of the month as long as we can avoid a major appliance meltdown,'' I replied, hoping to illustrate both the fact that we weren't exactly scraping the bottom of the barrel and that we probably shouldn't schedule a shopping spree either!

"No, that's not what I meant. I'm not talking about money at all. The other day one of my instructors was talking about kids whose parents are divorced, and I guess I'd never noticed that apparently we are considered a 'broken' family. The funny thing is, I have never thought of our family as broken at all. Why in the world do they call divorced families that?''

As so often happens in my life, I was about to find enlightenment at the hands of my kids. As I thought about her question and comments, I began to realize that the old adage stating that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me'' is anything but true. I honestly can't remember ever sustaining an injury from a rock, but I've been bruised quite a few times by intangible, though nonetheless lethal, words.

Of course, I would be less than honest not to admit lobbing a few abrasive ones myself. I must admit that I had never particularly paid attention to the term "broken family'' until Katie brought it to my attention. I knew what the phrase was meant to define, but I never personally paid attention to the real connotation. Then again, my skin is predictably thicker, given that I'm 23 years older than my daughter.

Age has a way of doing that.

I asked Katie exactly what her feelings were on being a member of a family that society tends to label "broken''?

My 17-year-old daughter is never at a loss for words and her strongly held opinions always interest me, and I was fairly certain what I was about to hear would be no exception.

Though I may not always agree with what she has to say, I always admire the depth of her belief, the sturdy way she backs up any debate and, most of all, I love how Katie feels so passionately about things.

One could say part of it is youth, but I have this feeling that when Katie is 80, she still will be fiercely voicing and defending her particular take on any given issue.

Just as I predicted, Katie shared with me how members of a family that happen to be divorced are generally no more whole or broken than families who happen to have both parents living in the same home.

She related how in visiting a few of her friends' homes with resident mothers and fathers, things have felt a lot more fractured, which led to the question, in order to qualify as a "broken''home, is divorce a pre-requisite?

While I am absolutely no proponent of divorce and maintain the highest level of respect for marriage, I will admit that our own home, and even I, at times felt very much in pieces before my divorce.

My kids and I and yes, no doubt their father, probably have done a great deal of healing in the ensuing years. In fact, on further reflection, I had to agree with Katie that I didn't feel that we were "broken'' at all.

We spoke more about this concept and shared what we thought had helped to steer us toward "whole.'' We both agreed that our faith was a huge factor, as well as mutual love and respect, consideration, patience with ourselves and each other and the essential elements of humor and time.

Of course, all of this had to be wrapped in the "super glue'' of forgiveness between the principals. I think I had to admit to my own faults and shortcomings, because rarely is the cause of divorce a one-way street.

To that end, I couldn't expect to receive forgiveness and not be willing to grant it. I had to learn how to do that as well, and really mean it.

So Katie and I decided that the term "broken family'' doesn't necessarily denote a divorced family and that a "whole'' family isn't always the one where Mom and Dad live in the same home.

Perhaps the best kind of family to be a member of, and aspire to, can be quite accurately and simply described as...a happy one.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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