I am so thankful I have the privilege to call you my mom and dad. Over my 25 years of life, there have been many circumstances that have constructed my perceptions of marriage, divorce, life and you.
Your divorce has given me a unique and positive outlook and a tremendous amount of insight that I’m grateful to carry with me each day. I owe all of my thanks to you.
1. Thank you for always being honest and open.
Honesty is the best policy, even when it means speaking about difficult things. I learned this at the ripe age of 4, when I heard the God-forbidden "D" word for the very first time. But from that day, the divorce has been an open-ended and ever-evolving conversation.
I'm almost positive it's one of the hardest things to reveal to your children, as most people would shut off. They would be scared, become distant and cower away.
But of course they would. No one wants to confront the uncomfortable or dive deep into the great unknown. No one will run the risk of disappointing his or her loved ones, or even him- or herself, right?
Right. But on that day and for all the days ahead, my well-being was more important than your comfort. You saw past your fears, and you did what was right for me and my brother.
Mom and dad, you were brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Not only that, but you have also allowed that conversation to progress and evolve as needed.
Because of you, I am not afraid to open my soul and bare my heart fearlessly. Because of you, I am able to identify with a higher level of thinking. I am who I am because of you.
2. Thank you for never speaking badly about one another.
Instead of bashing, you uplifted. Instead of insulting, you complimented. Instead of degrading, you valued.
Instead of belittling, you flattered. Instead of discrediting, you gave credit where credit was due. In addition, if you didn't have anything nice to say, you didn't bother saying anything at all.
In return, instead of damaging me, you protected me. Instead of cultivating anger, you cultivated love. Instead of upsetting me, you comforted me.
Instead of guilting me, you supported me. Instead of misguiding me, you directed me. Instead of hindering me, you benefitted me. Instead of weakening me, you strengthened me.
3. Thank you for splitting everything 50-50.
They say money is king. Money creates greed, hate, jealousy, anger and stress. Money is the reason people get divorced in the first place. It is the root of all evil, but not in our family.
Whether it was paying for my dance classes, my braces, my cheerleading uniform or my casual BA in Sociology (cheers), money was never a topic worthy of time or despair. You have always wanted what was best for me, despite any monetary value.
You did whatever it took to make sure I was able to learn, participate and grow. As a kid, money was never something I heard of or worried about. This allowed me to be, well, a kid.
4. Thank you for letting me be a kid.
Think about that for a second: Children laugh and play. They live with innocence and freedom.
They dance, explore and create. They build and imagine. Their cares are fleeting and momentary.
They care about how high the highest droplet of water reaches in the summertime air after they cannon ball into the deep end. They care about the color of the sidewalk chalk they should use next in their mile-long hopscotch creations.
They care about whether they should get Cheez-Its or Doritos with their grilled cheeses for lunch. They care about their next tricks.
When the crisp, green grass hits the bottoms of their feet, their cares don’t lie in the dark green masses staining them for the rest of the week. No, their cares lie in the sun that's setting and the neighborhood game of manhunt that has yet to begin.
5. Thank you for loving each other.
It's 8:45 am on November 11, 2015. Today is my birthday, and I'm 25 years old. I slowly start waking up, opening my eyes easily and groggily.
I roll over, unplug my phone and nestle myself back under my covers as I hear the rain drizzling down my window. I scroll through my "Happy Birthday" texts and the notifications from all my friends and family.
"This day is amazing, and I am so loved," I think to myself, with a big, thankful smile on my face. I walk down the stairs, only to be greeted by a hug from my mom that's as warm as the cup of coffee she has placed in front of me on the kitchen counter.
"Happy birthday, honey," she says to me. As I take the first, blissful sip of my coffee, she says, "Look at this sweet text I just got from dad." It reads, "Thank you for being the mother to my wonderful daughter. 143, Rick."
My heart sank into this delightful, beautiful and wonderful place. Their love was spilling over me, and it made me realize that even though they’re not in love anymore, they still undoubtedly love one another. Their love is a reflection of their appreciation for their beautiful creations.
6. Thank you for choosing amazing future stepparents.
As soon as I met her, I knew she was the one. She was tall, blonde, beautiful and so much fun. We would dance around the house to Shania Twain in our red, self-made belly shirts.
We would take her super cool, super red Jeep to the beach and then out to dinner on the weekends. As a little girl, my dad's girlfriend couldn't have been more awesome. To this day, I still cherish my princess crowns from the fair and my jewelry box with the fairy on top.
Also to this day, she still loves him and he loves her. She compliments him and keeps him safe. She is my stepmom.
He is strong and fair, level-headed and caring. He took my brother and I in as his own, and he has cared and provided for us ever since (without a hesitation or doubt, nonetheless). He operates on a notion of kindness, hard work and morality.
He comes from a rather large family, and they are loving, accepting, warm and welcoming. He has given me the privilege to know and love so many people as an extension of our family.
He is a God-loving man and my mom's faith-filled counterpart. He fills his marriage with love that never wavers. He is my stepdad.
Mom and Dad, thank you for making the choice to love people who chose to love me, even when they didn't have to.
7. Lastly, thank you for always choosing me.
The rest of the world tells me this doesn't happen often. This is rare. Too many times during a divorce, kids are forced to grow up too quickly.
They are forced to take sides. They see too much, hear too much and know too much. Too many times, kids are used as chess pieces in nasty games, played only to take the other side out and deplete the opponent of every ounce of power or strength he or she has left.
When a divorce is handled in such tumultuous, anger-ridden funnels of absolute chaos, it's the kids who suffer the most. They are automatically stripped of the sweet innocence and freedom of being children.
Instead, they are thrust into a whirlwind of adult problems, where all that seems to matter is creating a living hell for the other parent. So thank you.
Thank you for not allowing this to be my reality. Thank you for not making this my experience, and thank you for not burdening me with such a petty (yet heavy) weight on my shoulders.
Instead doing what most people do in this situation, you chose me. You decided to make your decisions with me at the forefront of your heart and mind. You made the choice to be selfless, rather than selfish.
You chose to put your pride behind while placing your priorities directly in front of you. I don't think for a second that my best interest ever came second. You chose me over everything.
My lesson from this? Every day, life provides us with a choice. Thank you for teaching me to choose peace, forgiveness and love.