My parents filed for divorce when I was approximately 10 years old. I remember the desperation and the sense of emptiness I had inside me for months after the announcement.
I also clearly remember the day I returned home from school and saw my dad packing his things into the car. I was close to my dad because he spent a lot of time with me while my mum was working all day, so when he left I felt very alone.
I was living with my mum and of course I was not alone, but I missed his jokes and how he defended me every time I had bad grades at school.
After he left home, the real battle started.
On paper they had a common consent divorce, but they were not able to handle their emotions. My dad left home because he had a new person in his life, and my mum couldn’t accept that at all.
My sister and I suffered through their arguments. She is younger than me, so in trying to protect her, I was at the front line of the battle. I had to protect and defend my mum because my dad was the “bad” guy. I had to hate my dad. I had to demand things from him. At the same time I had to help my mum get over the divorce and try to help her feel better.
The burden on my shoulders was really heavy, heavier than I could understand at the time. I was trying to mediate and please both of them and it simply was not impossible. It made me feel sad and alone. I never admitted my loneliness, not even to myself. I pretended I was strong and I didn’t care.
After a few years of being in the middle and trying to feel accepted by everyone, I was so tired that I finally did pick sides. I stopped seeing my dad. I would not be the mediator anymore. This cost me my relationship with my dad for more than 20 years.
As an adult I get angry that I felt forced to pick sides. It was not my role to be in the middle. It was not my role to know who makes more money or spends more on me. It was not my role to pick sides. It was not my role to hear that my dad abandoned his marriage because of a third person in his life. But I knew all these things and they poisoned my childhood.
It took me years and a lot of therapy to find a balance and recreate a relationship with myself first, and after that with both of my parents.
As a professional mediator now, I have encountered these same damaging behaviors from parents at the mediation table. I know that it’s not easy, and I do not blame these parents because I can understand how hard it is for them. However, I wanted to create a story that helps them realize what they are doing to their kids.
This is how the book Mum, Dad, Can you hear me? was born.
The first version of this book was actually written to my own parents. I wanted to communicate to them certain things that I never had the courage to say. Of course after the first draft, a lot of amendments were made with my editor to create the book as it is now.
The most important message of the book is for the parents to “see” divorce through the eyes of a kid and for kids to understand that they can communicate to their parents what they really need from them.
Irene, the protagonist of the story (her name means “peace” in Greek), asks her parents for 11 important things. Parents should take notice of them.
Naturally every divorce story is different, but it is important for parents to understand that kids feel voiceless in these situations. Their first reaction is often to try not to blame anyone, but to try to please both parents, to feel accepted by both of them, and to not lose them.
Children do not care why the marriage is broken (most of the time they are not able to understand it) and they do not want their parents to accuse each other.
Last, but not least, the kids do not have the option to leave home, so it is important not to make them feel trapped in their home. It is crucial for kids to feel safe to express themselves and feel accepted independently of what they are saying. It is important not to force them to pick sides.
Hopefully the book will give the opportunity to both children and parents to come closer, actively communicate, and recreate a balance.
About Despina Mavridou
My name is Despina Mavridou. I am an author, a mediator and a lawyer in Greece.
I experienced the negative effects of divorce due to my parents’ separation when I was ten years old. For many years I was in the middle of their fights, trying to find a balance. When I was approx. 17 years old, I decided that I didn’t want to see my dad anymore. This cost me my relationship with him for more than 20 years (we have reunited recently).
After many years working as a lawyer, in the last four years I discovered mediation and also my passion for writing. For this reason, I left my job as a lawyer to concentrate on my passion.
My first published book is titled Mum, Dad, Can you hear me? and it is partially based on my personal story. I always wanted to share certain things with my parents to make them understand how I was feeling about their divorce.
Moreover, working as a mediator in family dispute issues, I saw how difficult it is for parents to get in their kid’s shoes.
The specific book Mum, Dad Can you hear me? serves dual purpose.
On one hand I want to help children understand that divorce is not the end of the world and that they can have both parents in their lives.
On the other hand, I want to help parents see divorce through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl to better understand the thoughts, needs and feelings of children and how important it is for them to have both parents in their lives.