The Comfort in Books

So my life has taken a turn recently.
My husband and I have decided to divorce after 16 years together. He is moving out January 1st.
It is as amicable as we can make it but of course we are both concerned about our kids who are 9 and 4.
The 4 year old doesn’t really understand it all. I think she will find it hardest living in two different places each week, and not always being able to snuggle in with me at 3 in the morning.
My 9 year old does understand although of course until something theoretical becomes a reality, you can’t really know how you feel about it.
I’ve been watching them both anxiously, looking for changes in behavior, regression, anxiety, acting out, and I haven’t seen anything worrying yet.
Lucy is the same rascal she always is, and Milo is Milo.
In fact I am quite surprised by my son’s equanimity. He is a solid, confident kind of person. A weird and cool mix of introspection and happiness being on his own, and a social, outgoing, joker side. He astounds me actually because he has the same outsider, loner qualities I exhibited as a child with none of the shyness and social ineptitude. He is so solid in how he is that it never occurs to him to wonder if he’s not cool. Or if other kids think he’s a dork or odd or any of the other things kids decide about other kids who run outside the pack.
I pray this lasts throughout school.
I think that nothing will enrage the mother wolf in me so much as him succumbing to pressure to be like everyone else, or to be ‘average.’
Anyway, he is handling our separation well but I started wondering if part of it was because he is such a voracious reader that he is familiar with different kinds of families already. None of his close friends have divorced parents. (We live in a small town).
But in a way he has been exposed to all kinds of situations outside his realm of experience through books.
Harry Potter introduced him to a boy whose parents were dead and whose guardians were cruel.
Percy Jackson introduced him to a single parent family.
My first book exposed him to a household where the parents fought all the time.
Lyra Bellacqua’s parents were uncaring and absent.
And in the next few years he can vicariously experience first love, having his heart broken, intense fear, pain, magic, death, sacrifice, faith, sex, addiction, depression, war, acceptance, racial bigotry, complete happiness, abuse. EVERYTHING in the human experience, including divorce and growing up in a single parent household.
Of course there are many things I’d prefer him to know nothing about but that is an impossibility.
Books offer a safe experience and the time to take it in at his own pace and decide how he feels about it, and they open lines of communication.
I was grateful for books as a child and I am even more grateful for them now.

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12 Responses to The Comfort in Books

  1. Lindsay Mead says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your divorce. My parents divorced when I was 16 and it came as a relief to me. The fighting had been loud, constant, and sometimes scary. Maybe it was because I was older, but I wouldn’t say that the divorce affected me or my siblings negatively. I would say what impacted me more was how my parents took care of themselves before and after the separation. One parent in particular showed a complete inability to survive on their own without a relationship or the aid of alcohol. This caused a huge strain in my relationship with that parent and I moved out a year later. It took a very long time for things to be ok between us again. A child needs to be able to have faith in their parents. They need to know that whether single or married, they are going to be ok. A parent needs to be a rock of certainty for a child. I hated worrying about whether my parents could take care of themselves and when it was revealed that one of them barely could, it was almost too much of a load to bare. I reacted negatively toward it and I pulled away, both emotionally and physically. So that was my experience with divorce. I may not know you personally, but I think your children are going to be ok. Their mother seems to have herself together as far as I can see. I think that rather than having a mother that they’ll need to worry about, they have one that they can have faith in. If they can believe that you’re going to be ok, then they can focus on themselves being ok as well.

    • Jo says:

      Lindsay, thanks so much for commenting and sorry that your parent’s divorce and the aftermath was so hard on you.
      Both my husband and I are putting our kids first. Absolutely. It is the one point on which we are both immovable. Nothing matters as much to us as their welfare. I think they will be OK in the long term. They are loved as much as any kid can be loved.

  2. Donna says:

    I’m so very sorry to hear this, Jo. My best wishes to the whole family as you go through this transition.

  3. Lynn says:

    So sorry to hear this, Jo.
    This is one of the hardest things to go through – especially with children. It’s fortunate that you and your husband can both put the kids first. Not everyone can do that under these circumstances.
    My parents split up when I was young, and I’m the step-mum of two great kids who are now in their 20’s and all I can say is that kids are incredibly resilient, especially when they have the support and love which yours are certainly getting.
    It’s beautiful what you’ve written about finding comfort in books. It is so, so true and underlines the importance of stories in our lives – especially when we’re young and trying to figure out this crazy world.
    Best wishes to you and your family.

  4. Jo says:

    Thanks Lynn! I remember how much comfort and also how many answers I found in books during my own childhood, and I’m thankful my son has that too, as well as love from us.

  5. Oh, HONEY! I missed this before!

    I’m so sorry. And geez, both you and another friend of mine are going through the same thing.

    I’m sending HUGE LOVE RAYS to you right now. <3

    • Jo says:

      Yeah, hard times but it’ll be OK! I will accept your love rays and revel in them (also your posts which make my heart happy!). xx

  6. Elaine says:

    You both can be better parents if you’re happier. And kids are amazing. If they have food, shelter, support and, most of all, love…they will grow up right.

    Hugs. Always here if you need to chat. 🙂