A LETTER ON BEHALF OF CHILDREN FROM BROKEN FAMILIES
I come from a very broken family. And it has been in these adult years that I have come to fully realize how this has affected my life and how it does affect others as well. I am almost 40 years old and come from a long line of brokenness. My great grandparents were married their whole life and brought 4 children into the world. From those 4 children, only one of them had a solid marriage of one partner for their lifespan. The line I come from is particularly shattered and fragmented. My grandfather married my grandmother and they had 5 children together. Then they spilt. Next my grandfather brought another child into the world with a woman he was not married too. After that he married another woman and with her brought one more child into the world and they also adopted one. During this time my grandmother also brought two more children into the world (both have different fathers). She married again in my teen years but that marriage also ended in divorce. So I have 9 aunts and uncles and some of them are not even related to each other.
Now to move down the family tree, my mother had two children. My brother and I both have different fathers. And out of my aunts and uncles, none of them were successful in having a lasting marriage. And now to my generation of the family tree, some of us are doing our best to break this family “curse”. Myself, I have been married for 20 years (this coming July). My husband and I both come from broken families and early on in our relationship we declared that all of this chaos and brokenness stopped with us. I have a cousin who has also made this declaration in her own marriage. But our generation is all ready littered with chaos and brokenness as well.
So with that brief family history, I want to show how decisions we make as individuals have a ripple affect of people and relationships around us. Quite often when we do things and make choices we are only thinking about what is good for “me”. We don't take the time to consider how our so called personal decision might be affecting the people that we know and love. A husbands choice to pursue another woman is only thinking about how to alleviate the emptiness in his own life not about how this will affect the people around him.
Here are some of the situations that I have witnessed that now make difficult for those of us outside of the decisions that cause chaos and brokenness in relationships and family.
Holidays – how does the child or even the adult child ever have a peaceful and cohesive holiday ever again? They will never experience family togetherness for celebrations. “Do I invite mom or dad to this dinner? I guess I will have to do two birthday celebrations for my kid so that both mom and dad can be with them for their special day. How do I handle seating arrangements at the wedding reception, the toasts, and all the family moments that are suppose to be part of the special day?” And so on and so forth. Every family moment is effected by a person's choice to cause that brokenness.
“Are you my mommy?” --I have seen a situation where a little girl that every time she came up to see her dad, he was living in a new place and with a new girl. She had so many “mommies” and “brothers/sisters” because of this happening.
I remember two little boys many years ago, and it broke my heart that they didn't have a “home”. It was always, I am going to ____________ (dad's house, mom's house, grandma's house). You never ever heard them say, “I am going home.”
Kids are under pressure to not step on mom or dad's toes all the time. What I mean by this, the child cannot share their life experiences in a free way in a broken family. When they have a great time with dad, they can't really tell mom because it makes her upset. They feel like they constantly have to pick sides or hide part of themselves to appease the parent they are currently spending time with. They don't want to hurt mom or dad's feelings.
The “revolving aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa”. For example when grandkids go visit their grandma and they don't know if “Grandpa Joe” will be there this time or not or will it be a new grandpa figure that grandma has picked out.
Along with this idea above about the revolving mate, even for adults this can be hard. You start to wonder whether you should get close to this new person, open yourself up to them because they may or may not be part of future gatherings.
So that is a very small sampling of the effects of brokenness in family situations. We always think the decision we are making only affects us but in reality there is a large ripple affect on all the people around you to varying degrees.
Now as I was growing up, I did not know anything else. I loved my family and had strong family pride. All this fragmentation did not bother me because I did not know anything else. But now I am deeply saddened and troubled by the family situation I have inherited and it eats away at me with every family type situation that should bring happiness or comfort or joy or security. What I am left with is uncertainty, emptiness, chaos and a trail of relationship carcasses and haunting situations of people who were part of my life once upon a time but I am no longer able to be a part of.
And what completely crushes me is that we are living in a culture where all this brokenness is the norm. How do these children we are raising learn how to manage relationships in their lives when all they have been exposed to brokenness? I remember a few years ago my brother telling me that my marriage was only marriage that he knew of that was good and strong. That my husband and I were the only example of how a relationship should be like. Are there so few of us around anymore? It grieves me to think that.
So on behalf of all the children who have had to experience a broken family life, I ask you to always look beyond yourself when making your life choices. Each and every choice does have a ripple effect on those around you. No choice will ever affect just you. Choose what is good for the whole, not just you. We children pay for the choices our parents make. Please give us something good to pass on to future generations on behalf of you.