Due to the divorce of her parents while she was young, Hannah Harper learns how to deal with the initial shocker as she progresses through UAHS and the rest of her future.
By Katie Hosket
With warm tears beginning to run down her cheeks, she gives in, trying to take in her mother’s comforting words. Yet, barely hearing them over the sound of her own deep, shallow breaths. With her siblings too young to understand, Hannah is left alone—unsure how to deal with the life changing news she has just received. Despite her mother’s continual attempts to comfort her, Hannah finds little consolation in what she has to say. While her friends are outside playing, Hannah will be staying inside; her summer going is looking less-and-less cheerful, with her parents filing for divorce.
Sophomore Hannah Harper had experienced the worst news of her life. Hannah is one of millions of teenagers nationwide who find their picture-perfect childhoods suddenly halted by the split of their parents.
At first, Hannah refused to admit the reality of the conversation. Being old enough to understand what was going to come about the deplorable news, she said her mind denied any negative thoughts, trying to block them out; even though she silently knew the truth.
“All I thought [when I heard the news] was ‘this isn’t real’ and I remember my body going numb,” she said. “I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare I was living and go back outside.”
Unfortunately, Hannah’s horrid day turned worse when the actuality was that the chilling dream she was in existence with, would be there to stay– for the rest of her life. After realizing the extent of the information her mother provided her,
Hannah retreated back outside, still trying to come to grips with the situation. Contempt the support of her family– particularly her grandparents and attempt from her mother– she could not find peace with the apprehension of her soon-to-be new life. “It was disappointing to know that my typical, wonderful childhood would never be the same from that day forward,” Harper said.
After a restless night sleep, which Hannah still remembers today, she went to school the next day. Her normal second grade school day at Barrington Elementary School had never been more difficult. Lacking focus and shedding few tears, Hannah sat quietly at school that day–her teacher informed about the situation thanks to a phone call from her mom that morning. With only a few more days of school until summer, Hannah knew that she had to pick herself up, and suffer through the pain until she could wind down during the summer of 2003.
That summer was Hannah’s worst summer of her lifetime she says. Her high hopes of her happiness improving diminished when she realized there was no hope for her parents to get back together. With her mother and father being separated that summer, Hannah slowly adjusted to a new lifestyle of separated parents.
A Disappointing Reality
Sadly, Hannah is not alone in her quandary. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, approximately 50% of children will go through their parents having a divorce from the start of the millennium to 2020. And among the millions of children who have seen their parents divorce, one of every 10 will also live through three or more parental marriage breakups.
“Probably half, to, to-thirds of my friends’ parents are divorced. It really isn’t that uncommon anymore for someone to say their parents are splitting up, sophomore Chloe Capuano said. “It’s sad that divorce is becoming such a normal part of our society. Not only is a relationship being broken up, an entire family is.”
Jacqueline J. Kirby, former Assistant Professor and Extension State Parenting Specialist and Katherine Dean, major in Human Development and Family Science whom both work for The Ohio State University believe that children of divorced parents experience more problems in adjustment than children who grow up in intact families. Much of their research suggests that children of divorce are more likely to have difficulties in school, be more sexually active, more aggressive, more anxious, more withdrawn, less pro-social, more depressed, and more likely to abuse substances and participate in delinquent acts than their peers from intact families. Overall, divorce’s impacts on teens are negative.
As a active participant in athletics, sports, and extra-curricular activities, Hannah could not afford the risks of possible dangers some teens experience with divorce. As an eight-year old, she matured more than she ever had– learning how to cope with the pain, knowing it was necessary for herself and her siblings.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. It wasn’t a celebrated accomplishment like riding a bike or learning the alphabet,” Harper said. “I had to learn how to mature and get past something I would have never thought I would go through in my lifetime; especially not at age eight.”
The Big Move
Due to her parents split, Hannah knew that one day she would have to move out of her beloved large, historic home in South Arlington she had grown up in. After the end of her parents’ marriage, her father moved out. She lived in the home with her mother and two younger siblings. Four years after the break-up, her childhood home went on the market.
“Moving out my beloved home was tough,” she said. “All I remember is waving
back goodbye to it. For some reason, I felt like I’d be back for it later– I’ve been back once and the current owner completely trashed everything my family and I had built.”
After the house was sold, Hannah had two new homes to live in. Her father owned a house in North UA after moving out many years before. Whereas, her mother quickly shifted life to a smaller home near Jones Middle School. For Hannah, it never seemed to phase her that not only would her family be separated, but her belongings and social life as well.
“I used to always be with my friends. They were a walk down the street away. My mom’s was near my friends but when I was
at my dad’s, I didn’t see them as frequent because I wasn’t close anymore.”
Present Day: Life After Divorce
Hannah finished elementary school at Barrington and started at Jones MS in 2006. At her first year in middle school, she says her outlook changed entirely on divorce. She realized that more fellow classmates parents’ were divorced than she had ever perceived. She said it got easier as the year went by– yet, still difficult.
Today, Hannah calls herself a “pro” when it comes to handling her situation and says she owes a lot of her ableness to get over the initial shock to her friends and family.
“My friends are so supportive,” Harper says. “Everyone is supportive. Yes, if my life were a perfect world, my parents would still be together. However, they are not. I’m used to it. It’s been seven years since the split and at this point in my life I have better things to do than worry about putting my family back together. Even though she wishes her family could be reunited, she believes they have found a peaceful system that works for everyone. Monday through Thursday she is at her Mom’s, Friday her Dad’s and her weekends rotate every week.
Holidays switch as well. For Hannah’s sophomore year, Christmas was spent with her Mom and Easter with her father. Her junior year will be the opposite. Lucy, her younger sister followed in Hannah’s statement.
“Everything we do pretty much makes sense,” Lucy said. “Even if we’re not staying with one parent for that holiday, we get to go to the others’ for a few hours to celebrate. It all works out.”
After suffering her first catastrophic event, Hannah said her experiences have helped her gain a new perspective on the ugly side of marriage.
“I never thought it would happen to me,” she said. “When I saw on TV about divorces, I tended to think nothing of it and no thoughts ever came to me that it was a real thing in life. It happened to me and I know now that’s it’s very real.”
She also has realized through her devastating years of separation, she is not alone, and how many other kids in Upper Arlington and across the nation have.
“It really can happen to anyone,” she added. “I never thought divorce would hit my family and I, but it did.”