I’m currently sitting in the airport after getting dropped off by a friend. It’s too early to actually check in, so I’m people watching – a favorite pastime of mine. An hour ago a precocious and highly overweight 12-year-old sat down next to me with her messy ponytail and bright pink backpack. She proceeded to strike up a conversation about my professional work, my city of birth and the difference in temperature between Denver, Colorado and Phoenix, Arizona.
I answered her questions in awe. At that age I was still hiding behind my mother or father and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to hold a conversation with a stranger about professional occupations. After the pleasantries were exchanged and we ran out of weather-related conversation she launched into an explanation of her living conditions. Her parents are divorced. Her mother lived in Colorado. Her father moved in with his girlfriend in Arizona. Because she is getting to the age where she needs both her parents, she and her mother moved to Arizona to be closer to her father. I’m smiling at her thinking ‘gee what a life.’
She is now traveling with her father and his girlfriend. They’ll fly back giving her enough time to do her own laundry and repack her things to see her mom for a day. She will then repack a bag to spend a couple days with her dad school supply shopping and then back to her mother’s house by the end of the week. She pushed her glasses back up her nose and sighed. “It’s really tiring. I’d just like a break, a moment to rest,” she told me. “But I don’t get that with the way my custody is worked out.”
If I was the crying type, I’m sure I would have been in tears with that comment. She was so used to be passed between her parents that she talked about herself as if she were a commodity – ‘her custody.’ How sad. She got up and left a minute later saying it was nice to meet me and good luck with my job. I watched her chubby form walk away and realized people don’t talk enough about what divorce does to the children involved. This 12-year old was basically an adult already. She could hold a conversation with me because she was already used to being on her own. She did her laundry, packed up her things, kept track of her own schedule.
I’ve spent the last hour sitting here wondering how many different ways this little girl has been impacted by her parents’ divorce. Is she overweight as a result? Does no one have the time to watch her eating habits or promote healthy living? Where does she call home? Does she have her own bedroom in each house? Does she have friends? Do kids at school make fun of her for going home with a different parent every other night? Is she lonely?