Colin Patrick Catman – Pembroke Pines, Fl
Mr. Catman wrote a winning essay for the 2014 Ayo and Iken Scholarship. The purpose of our scholarship is to recognize families that overcame the difficulties presented by a divided household. As custody and divorce attorneys we routinely see parents acting in destructive ways to their children. We applaud examples such as this and sincerely hope it can provide a positive example to other families. We also express appreciation to Mr. Catman for sharing his story and wish him success in college.
The day will forever be etched in my mind. I was in first grade, and a very traumatic thing had occurred one day when I came home from school. As usual, my mother was at the bus stop waiting for me. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We walked home, had our routine conversation about how school had gone that day, and then she hit me with the news that she and my father were getting a divorce. My father was out of town at the time. Now, at such a young age I had no idea what divorce even meant, so my childlike question was “mom what’s a divorce?” When she told me what it meant, I broke into tears: hysterical, uncontrollable tears. I don’t think I had ever cried that hard before in my entire life. It was dreadful. To think that my parents were never going to be together again was extremely difficult for me to fathom. I instantly begged and pleaded for them to stay together but to no avail. At that age I thought that when parents got divorced they were never going to speak again, let alone communicate with one another. That was a hard pill for me to swallow, but my mother and father promised me they were still going to be friends and everything was going to be all right. To their credit, 12 and a half years later everything has worked out more than perfectly.
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Soon thereafter, their divorce was final. My father moved out of our house and into a 2-bedroom condo. Ideally, it was just minutes away from where mom and I lived. I could actually ride my bike over to his place, it was that close! My mom and dad came up with a plan that they thought would be the best for me. I would live with my mom during the week due to the fact that she was the more school savvy one and could facilitate my needs in whatever subject I needed help. Being a singer and musician, my mom’s job required her to work weekends; therefore, I would stay with my dad. It worked out really well and he was available to spend every waking moment with me doing what ever it was that we needed or wanted to do. I always looked forward to my time with my dad because it was always filled with fun. I really give my parents a lot of credit for the incredible job they did in not letting the divorce get in the way of my everyday life. Other than having two different homes and having to keep track of all of my things, it has probably made me a bit more responsible otherwise. Sure there were some hiccups, and there were obstacles to overcome, but compared to other divorced families I was incredibly lucky to have the situation I did. My Mom and Dad made it a point not to make their-divorce “My Problem”.
In divorced families, there can be many different opinions being thrown at the child or children. Sometimes there are conflicting interests thus leading to uncertainty and doubt. This can be quite confusing for a young child. As for me, I had very clear and consistent opinions coming from my parents on the things that were most important: ie.. Honesty, character and how I was to lead my life and what kind of person I should be. Thankfully I never had to hear any insults coming from one parent about the other; they knew there was no utility in that kind of behavior and never subjected me to it. It would have obviously made me very uncomfortable and they spared me from the useless negativity. I guess ultimately my parents were still a pretty good team!
I know what the other/ugly side of divorce is like because after I had been given the bad news, f hadn’t taken it well at all to say the least. My parents were looking for answers as to how I could do a better in job coping. My mom found out there was a club at my elementary school that offered group support for divorced children. I didn’t really know how to react to the group and really had no expectations for it, as I was still lost in my sorrow. But as fate would have it, it turned out to be a great success. Being ina group of kids my age that had all experienced the same hard truth as I did was comforting and healing. We were a tight knit group; we were all open about our problems with the divorce and we all found a way to get through it together. I ended up meeting two of my best friends” in this group and we are still great friends to this day! Ironically our parents have become good friends as well!
As stated earlier in the essay, my parents had to figure out a schedule that would be beneficial for all. In my opinion, this was their biggest sacrifice for me. Ina perfect world they would’ve both gotten equal time to see me but that would involve a number of moving parts and variables. So in essence, they both knew they were going to have to give up time and also activities for my benefit. My mom would have me Monday through Friday, but I would only see her for an hour or so on Friday until my dad came over to pick me up to stay at his house for the weekend. In all honesty, this would be the only schedule that would’ve worked and it did! My mom was a terrific student in school and she wished the same thing for me. Any time I needed help, she was there and ready to assist me. All of her hard work and dedication can be reflected in my success in school from kindergarten to my senior year of high school. I have been accepted to three different Colleges/Universities and am in the process of making one of the most important decisions of my life! Although mom saw me Monday through Friday, most of my time was spent going to school. If you factor that in I only got to see and be with her for about five hours before I went to sleep and a greater part of that time was spent doing homework and projects. Not only that, but we could never do any fun things during the school week, like going to the movies or the beach. Sure we would have our fun but nothing like you could do on the weekends!
Weekends were spent with dad. He was available to help me with my athletic career in whatever sport I was playing. He was an excellent athlete in high school and he shared his love, passion and knowledge of sports with me. He was and still is my toughest coach but also my biggest fan. He can push me like no other but also will be the first to complement me on my accomplishments. But just like my mom, he had to sacrifice time to better suit me. He knew my mom was more adept to handle all the schoolwork and responsibilities. He knew he would be able to maximize his time on the weekends to either help me train or take me to my games. He even coached my flag football teams for a couple of years! My mom would attend my events as much as she could when she wasn’t working, and on most occasions they would sit together cheering me on to victory or to also be there to console me through the losses. Together they attended every function; whether it was sports, or honor roll breakfasts or meetings with teachers. Every holiday, birthday, and major event has been shared together. They never alternated these things, as they still believed it was most important to share in them together. I cannot tell you how terrific this made and makes me feel. Yet another subtle way in which my parents put their personal differences aside and did what was best for me. They were and still are a united front! It’s amazing as I look back and realize how hard they worked to keep the peace, always collaborating together to make sure that I was happy, well adjusted and most importantly; loved beyond measure.
The next hurdle that I had to overcome was when my mom remarried. I was still fairly young when this occurred so it was a little strange imagining my mother being with someone other than my father. I guess you could say I was still holding out hope that my parents would get back together. When my mother asked me if I would be okay with her marrying my step dad to be Jim, of course I said yes, but mentally I was not completely sold on the idea yet. I think my mom knew this too, because she would always ask if I was ok and she would also assure me everything was going to work out just fine. I had always heard stories that the dad and step dad never got along and that didn’t sit too well with me. Everything seemed to be going smoothly with my mom and dad being divorced, no fights, arguments, friction, things of that nature, so I was somewhat leery for someone to enter into our new life and to possibly jeopardize the harmony that was present. I believed in my moms promise to me that everything would work out with Jim. I liked Jim a lot. My dad and I also believed in Jim and his good character. He was a military man with morals, values and ethics and he always treated me really well.
I am an only child. My life though, has been surrounded by a very large family of Aunts, Uncles, Nieces and Nephews, along with my Grandparents on my fathers side, and we are all very close. My mother’s parents passed away 25 years ago. There have always been family gatherings and family reunions, and yes both my mom and dad share in these events together. Family is family and they should be together. This has always been the motto. There are no bad vibes and or issues between anyone at all and this again makes me feel ‘complete. My parents have kept me involved in the community and I have continuously been active in sports. I have played ice hockey for over ten years and have made countless friends and lifelong connections with my “hockey family.” So again, in being an only child, I’ve never felt alone or lonely because I was always surrounded by friendship and love.
Flash forward 11 years and things couldn’t have gone any smoother. After some time getting to know each other my dad and Jim are good friends. The three of them, my mom, dad and Jim usually sit together when they watch my hockey games and they’re always cracking jokes with one another, having a great time! Heck, they even spend Fathers Day together! There are countless times when people do not even realize that my parents are divorced because of how well they get along! Not only have Jim and my father gotten along just fine, but to be honest, Jim couldn’t have been a better step dad for me. He has always treated me like I’m one of his own, a son, which is a great feeling to say the least.
This essay topic has really opened up my eyes into how much my parents and Jim cared for my wellbeing. I couldn’t be anymore thankful and lucky to have them all there for me in my corner. My parents will now be going on into the next chapter and phase of life with me. In fall I will be leaving home for college. I know that they will continue to support me and to make selfless decisions on my behalf. Knowing some of the bad stories of divorced parents, I was beyond blessed to have parents who only wanted the best for me. They put their wants and needs aside and concerned themselves with choices that would ultimately be in my best interest. Divorce can be traumatic and life changing, but with the way my parents handled things, it was a mere bump in the road. Writing this essay has been a bit of a revelation to and for me in that, I realize more now than ever, how loving and generous these 3 people, my” parents, have been in their dedication to raising me. I can honestly say I am a happy, well-adjusted young man, and I am eternally grateful to them for all they have done and given to me. I will continue to make them proud, to hold fast to all that they have taught me, and hopefully one day be able to somehow repay them for all of their constant and unfailing dedication and love. To say that I love them is a gross understatement.