Part 2: Out of the Mouths of Babes…. All Grown up Now
Katie – Age 6 – Divorce
I was introduced to Katie when she was 6 years old. Katie was a precious, well mannered, and polite little girl who loved creating art. Although quiet and reserved at first, Katie progressively allowed me to observe the depth of the emotional pain she was feeling through her artwork.
Katie’s parents were going through a divorce. Her mom was involved in an admitted affair, adamantly wanting out of the marriage. Dad did “not believe in divorce” and was fixated on proving his worthiness to his wife as well as condemning her actions with anger and rage. Katie found herself thrown in the middle of two parents who adored her, yet were very concerned about themselves: their loss, winning the divorce battle, justifying their actions, proving the others’ flaws, arguing over money and possessions, holding disdain and hatred for the other, and competing for who was the better parent.
Katie knew intimate details regarding the conflict between her parents. She exhibited this when creating her artwork: “mommy and her boyfriend” and “Daddy and I hiding in the car in the night, so we can catch mommy doing bad things”. She created her own masterpieces exhibiting the anger, fear, hatred, and resentment she witnessed from each of her parents. Her own feelings of fear, powerlessness, sadness, confusion, and insecurity were also included.
Children try desperately to comprehend why their parents will no longer be together. They will cling on to what they are told by one parent about the other parent and rarely forget what they are told. Katie was no different.
Katie’s parents (like so many people going through divorce) got caught up in the actions of the other, justifying their own actions and being hell bent on winning what they saw as a battle.
Precious Katie is now 22-years old. She remains infatuated with art: creating, viewing, studying, and learning different techniques. She is now attending the Art Institute in Dallas and thriving in her art as well as academics. Katie describes herself as “a smart artsy hermit” and gravitates to “bad boys” when it comes to relationships. Her self-esteem is wrapped up in how others view her and she wonders if she will ever be “good enough” to be in a healthy relationship. “I have no idea how to have a functional relationship and always feel like I can change the bad boys I date, but it never works.” Katie finds herself manipulating, justifying, and demeaning others and feels “this is what I was taught to do”.
“My parents hated each other so much and used me to get back at each other”, Katie recalls. Her mom’s “disgusting” behaviors and her dad “using me as his spy to get information for him against my mom” remains clear in her memories. Her parents have moved on and are in different relationships. Katie never accepted her mom’s boyfriend (now husband) nor did she approve of the constant “bad mouthing dad did about mom”. Katie feels both of her parents “played the victim card” and acted as if “it was a contest or competition between the two of them in parenting and material stuff”.
Katie feels her “parents stole my childhood from me, not by the divorce but making me always feel I needed to choose between my parents. I was embarrassed of both of my parents and learned at an early age I had to hide my home-life from my friends and teachers”. Katie didn’t know who to believe regarding her parents, leading her to “not trust anyone” even to this day. What children of separation and divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents , and to be shielded from their parents’ conflicts. When parents do not recognize this fact, the kids are the victims. The actions children witness are the actions that stay in their hearts forever….just ask Katie.