The following is a poem I wrote for kids of divorce.
Divorce Poem: Prayer for the Child of a Previous Marriage
You are not the child of divorce or my previous marriage. You are the child of my here and now.
You are not the child of a previous relationship. You are the child of my every day.
You were my child yesterday and you will be my child tomorrow, even as Paul has written, nothing can separate us from the Love of God that first brought you to me.
The divorce vernacular of every-other-year has never defined your coming or going. You are always in my heart, and never leave.
When it wasn’t my weekend, you were still my daughter. One Saturday night, I called and called and tried to reach you and for hours no one answered. So, I finally went out looking for you and when I found you, you were sleeping snug on the floor in a house of someone I hardly knew. You were seven.
Some derided me and called me crazy. But, what’s crazy is that anyone would think a mother was OK not knowing the whereabouts of her seven-year-old.
You are more than the minor child mentioned in a court decree. You are my flesh blood, the tiny baby for whom the natal intensive care unit prepared to receive. As it turns out, it was not necessary. You were born without incident into a room full of people.
Your eyes wide open, you were looking for my familiar voice. And when you found it the room cleared whether the people left or not.
Even though I remarried and had more children, there is only one you and you cannot be replaced. You are the child your stepfather fell in love with, the only one he was certain he would ever have. Parenting you was so awesome, we wanted more kids just like you.
Even now as we take your little brother and sister to play in the pool or to shop at the Farmer’s Market or sit in church on Sunday mornings, we embrace the sting of your absence.
I miss the way your smile moves across your braces.
You are a teenager now. During summer breaks, I keep the light on in your room at night. Sometimes, we set your plate at the dinner table. You don’t know these things and we don’t tell you. Half of me wants you to forget us while you are gone because I know how much the missing can hurt. Above all I want you to be happy and whole.
Every other weekend since well before you were two, you’ve been flying out from underneath my wing. This is not the way it was supposed to be and you must know something. Nothing – none of it – was your fault.
You hear a lot these days about blended families, and far too little about bonded families. In the future, no matter where life takes you, to the immediacy of every-other-weekends, the impending college years, someday marriage and children of your own, remember this: You were part of the family of five who lived in the green house on 20th Street. And you did more than you will ever know to make us a family.
In summers near or far, we ran through the sprinkler. And, during winters we giggled in a sled made of cardboard down a snow-drifted driveway. Through my shameful inadequacies and the sadness I could not push away, you belonged to all of us.
Once upon a time, I went to dinner with a friend from high school and she extolled the virtues of her perfect family. Five children and a ranch; European vacations and a car for Sunday driving. “We tell our kids other families aren’t like ours,” she said. “And, we tell them be careful marrying someone who is from a divorced family.”
Sadly, I heard she’d divorced a few years back. Now her children are the very people she once told them to avoid.
Never forget this. Run from people like her. Better yet, just walk away.
You are not from a divorced family. You are from Oklahoma. Your ancestors were from Killybegs in County Donegal, Ireland. They survived famines to sail to America to build a new life. They were defined by their dreams not by circumstances beyond their control. It will be the same for you.
And know this. You are the descendant of Susannah, a Cherokee medicine doctor and Bethel, who was born in a covered wagon in Indian Territory. She was forced to do the unimaginable. Give up her little boy. Many have gone before you and survived adversity. Your spirit has been flying over this prairie for centuries awaiting God’s appointment on earth. You are here now, so let nothing cloud your vision.
You are not the product of a broken home. You were the inspiration for a new family and you helped forge it more than you will ever know.
Copyright 2012- | Jennifer James McCollum | Oklahoma City
More about latchkey kids and children of divorce here.