I divorced in June 2006. I never thought I would be the one to have this experience.
But I did, and I became the single mother of three young children — a fifth-grader, a second-grader, and a kindergartner at the time.
When I decided to divorce and became separated in September 2005, the first thing that came to my mind was: “I need to protect my children, but how?”
I Discovered I Wasn’t Alone
Fortunately, my three children were all in the same elementary school. I went there to seek advice and support. The counselor was very helpful in guiding not just mine, but all of the children who need to adapt to the same situation. There were almost 10 children, including mine, who were facing the same problem of their parents divorcing.
She created a special class for them to make them understand that whatever happened to Mom and Dad, you are loved and cared for. The message was: We are all together. Nothing changes.
My children do not remember those times much, but I remember very well because they brought home little trinkets — an ornament, a painted rock — and would tell me what they were told or had learned.
I Learned the Kindness of Strangers
In December 2005, I had to travel to Singapore with one of my students who was attending a competition. I was so afraid how my children were going to survive even though there was a father who could take care of them.
I was more fortunate than expected. The school counselor asked me for a list of what my kids liked and what they needed or wanted. She prepared Christmas gifts for my three kids! On the last day of school, she asked me to pick up three huge, huge black 50-gallon garbage bags full of stuff.
My kids were so thrilled to open them up and find so many gifts: clothes, jackets, blankets, stuffed animals, school supplies, toys, etc. They did not need all of these, but I really appreciated their thoughtfulness because I could not provide anything. Besides that, they also sent us two huge boxes of perishable food. It was overwhelming.
I Made a Promise
And this event taught me that, one day, I will give back to support other families and kids who really need help. I never asked for their generosity, but they shared their love and made me and my kids feel loved and cared for.
Life is very unpredictable. My parents did not divorce. I never thought I would become a single mother in a foreign country.
I received all of these kindnesses when there was so much difficulty in my life — in a foreign country without my parents’ support. My kids’ school counselor filled the emptiness in my heart and calmed my guilt over the divorce.
There Are People Who Really Care
When I started to teach in 2001, I rarely saw divorce in my students’ families. Recently, unfortunately, I have seen it often. Very thoughtful and trusting parents have shared with me their tragedies. I really do appreciate this because I care about my students, their children.
There is a reason why these things happen. I would never judge the parents about why or how these things happened to them. Why? Because I never wanted others to know what I was going through. I was ashamed and embarrassed.
But I believe it is important for divorcing parents to tell their kids’ schoolteachers or other caretakers because they are the ones who watch and care about the children almost the same as the parents. I learned this from my own experience.
It’s About the Children
Children deserve to be loved and cared for regardless whatever happened to their parents. Teachers and counselors know this.
When I married, I never thought I would divorce, especially after I had three children.
Time and time again, I am ashamed and regret that I could have done better. But no matter what I do, I can never bring back my past and do my life over.
If you are divorcing, I counsel you to accept what happened and appreciate what you are receiving from others and cherish each moment as you raise your children.
Seven years ago, when my eldest daughter was 17 and a high school senior about to graduate, I asked her, “What was the best thing that happened in your life so far?”
She said, “VA hospital internship. That sure changed my gameplan and is a highlight of the 17 years of my life.”
“OK,” I said. “Then what was the worst thing that happened to you?”
When I asked, I never even thought what she was going to say, but I just said it because I had asked about her “best thing.” So, I asked about her “worst thing.”
She said, “Well, divorce.”
It was silent. I did not even know how to reply.
Then she said, “Mama, don’t worry. You did the right thing.”
I said, “What? Why?”
She said, “Well, I would not be who I am if you did not divorce. Look. I became much stronger and more confident. You made me. I appreciate it.”
Every day I am learning from my students, my own children. I made so many mistakes in my life. I will still make mistakes, but I can keep trying to learn from them and do better.
I will teach my students and my children to do the same.
This is my life and I would like to share with you all so I can close this chapter and move on to the next.
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