Having divorced parents growing up sometimes really sucked. The reality was different for everyone – some kids’ parents merely drifted apart and amicably decided to go their separate ways with minimal drama or deeply angry feelings. Other times, the split was painful, traumatic, and remained a nightmare for entirely too long. This list is in no way meant to diminish the experiences of people who grew up in the middle of some sincerely terrible, dysfunctional family dynamic. It happens and it’s tragic and not a thing I would joke about.
But way more often than divorces being Lifetime movie drama-fests, they were usually just a different, but extremely common, family situation. And like any other kids, those of us who grew up with divorced parents found unique ways to make the situation work in our favor. We had our own special ways of enjoying something which the outside world viewed as inherently negative. And like all other terrible kids (that’s all kids), we mostly cared about getting our way, staying out of trouble, and playing our parents against each other to our advantage as often as possible – and having parents who lived apart sometimes made all of that so much easier.
Here are a few of the little joys known only to kids of divorced parents:
- There was usually the main house we lived at, and then there was the other parent’s house. That other house was basically our vacation house – we usually got to order pizza at least one night we were there, and rules about TV and computer time limits didn’t exist. Non-custodial parents didn’t have us there most of the time, so structures and rules kinda went out the window because they didn’t want to waste their diminished time with us being “bad cop”. In other words, weekends with our other parent were fantastic getaways where we could get away with a lot more shit.
- Secretly liking our step-parents, but letting them believe – just a little – that we hated them because it made them try extra hard to win our approval.
- You always had a place to escape to. If you had a serious fight with one parent, or a sibling, you could go chill out at your other parent’s house for a while and give everything time to calm down. During adolescence, when hormones are running high, this is such an incredibly valuable thing.
- Two Christmases = twice the presents. Parents who feel guilty about us “growing up in a broken home” = even more presents. Spoiler: As kids, we likely cared way more about presents than the fact that our parents didn’t live together.
- Our bedrooms at our regular home were probably gross kid rooms. At our other parent’s house, they were sparkly clean guest rooms. It’s really nice to get a break from your own filth every other weekend.
- Your other parent’s house, since not occupied by kids most of the time, tended to have more alcohol in it. As a teenager, it was very easy to steal this alcohol. As a teenager, you might’ve even shared a beer or two with your other parent because bonding.
- Serious fights between parents can definitely leave kids feeling awkwardly caught in the middle. But if there was no real beef between your parents, the subtle little passive-aggressive comments they made about each other were actually kinda funny to us. Like, “Yeah, I hate you guys too, LOL, we have so much in common right now.”
- There is nothing that can compare to the sublime comfort of grandparents who treat you like a poor little lamb from a broken home. Yesssss, Grandma, feed me many pies and tell me how precious I am.
- Real talk: Your parents were probably divorced for a reason. Divorced parents always feel so bad about “splitting up the family” and what psychological damage that would do to you, but the truth is, even as little kids, we could understand that “being apart and happy” is so much better than “being together and miserable”.
- Giving the parent we live with most of the time bad news – bad grades, fender bender, etc. – right as we were about to leave to go to our other parent’s house. “Oh, by the way, failing chemistry, KBYYYYYE!” It’s amazing how much less intense the backlash is when your mom has had 48 hours to cool off, and even if you had to tell your dad, he was usually like “Ok, well…really try and apply yourself, ya know? OK LET’S GO BOWLING!”
- If you knew your parents tried to avoid talking as much as possible, playing them against each other was almost too easy.
You: “Hey dad, let’s go see [R-rated movie]!”
Dad: “Umm, I don’t think your mother would like that.”
You: “Oh, I already asked her, it’s totally fine.”
*Dad briefly debates calling your mother and decides not to*
Dad: “Okay, look up movie times.”
And thus the story of how I saw Eyes Wide Shut when I was 12.