Parental divorce, or divorcing from one’s parents, is an extreme measure and shouldn’t be done lightly, casually, or flippantly. There should be great thought and consideration behind it, and there should be conditions in place (even if only in your head)—or a map, if you will—that leads back to you when (and if) one’s parents are ready to engage productively (or at least sincerely attempting so) in a healthy relationship with you.
One of the things that weighs heavily on my mind is the extent to which this course of action is consistent with Christlikeness, or a Christian way of living. The Bible is clear about “honoring” one’s mother and father and about caring for them and being benevolent towards them. The Bible is clear about forgiveness and unconditional love. And the Bible is clear about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and how we reap what we sow.
So the way that I have reconciled the two in my mind—parental divorce and reflecting Jesus in my life—is this: it’s a given that I love my parents. It’s a given that I want to please God. It’s a given that I want to make my parents happy and help them to look good. But here is what has not been very much a given: What about me? I know that sounds selfish on its face (and many a Bible teacher have trademarked the phrase). But at this place in my personal development and growth as a healthy (or trying to be) adult, I cannot allow, in good conscience, anyone to skip over me anymore and act like I don’t exist or don’t matter.
A huge part of my problem has been that I have never counted myself in. Ever. Are parents deserving of this kind of blame? Maybe somewhat. After all, parents are the main influence over a child’s life of 18 years. If parents are interested in doing what is in the best interest of their children, then they will need to eventually look at all sides of their child and not just the side that makes the parent look good.
So this means that child-friendly parents are going to make sure that their children matter, too. And they are going to help their children advocate for themselves and choose for themselves and speak for themselves. They are going to be responsive to their children and treat them like unique individuals. They are going to listen to their children and also give loving guidance to their children. They will show their children grace while they tell them the truth. They will help their children to find balance in their lives.
None of this is easy, and no parent can be all things to all of their children. But we can try, in the small ways that we can, to meet our children where they are (at any age) and to continue to build trust with them throughout their lives. It’s cool that our parents fed us and changed all of our diapers and put a roof over our heads all of those years (because none of that is necessarily easy, as any parent of young children can attest to). But just because we aren’t literal babies anymore doesn’t mean that our parents’ job is done. Perhaps legally. But if our parents are going to be that way, then they cannot expect us to continue to fawn over them every time they want something. We want something, too. And it’s called a real relationship with our real parents. What parent wouldn’t want that?