This is a picture of my [pretty much] step sister looking up at my Dad as he walks her down the isle on her wedding day. I'm the one who took this picture.
For so many reasons, I've never been more proud of a photo.
If you didn't know, I'm the child of divorced parents. I'm the child of a marriage that did not work. It happened when I was 12 years old and it was not easy. It wasn't easy to see my parents hurt. It wasn't easy the first time I saw each of them with another person. It wasn't easy to live out of a suitcase for the 12 years following. It wasn't easy to have two homes. It wasn't easy [& it still isn't] to split the holidays. In fact, it was one of the most difficult things I've experienced in life. It changed my view of relationships & commitments. It made it hard for me to let people in & even harder for me to let people go. Its the reason I can't just let things end. It's the reason when days go bad in my marriage, my mind can't help but think of the worst. It's the reason I hate divorce.
But, as hard as it was, I still joke and say I was the most blessed child of divorce there ever was.
I am blessed because despite everything my parents always put me first & I don't mean that in a selfish way. I mean they never let their problems interfere with continuing to raise me, together. I rarely ever saw my parents argue because they always made an effort to not do it in front of me. In fact, I never knew anything was wrong until the very end. For me, there was no custody battle, they let me decide where I wanted to go & when I wanted to go there. To this day, I still don't know the details of why things happened the way they did, because out of respect for me and each other they never talked about it in front of me. I never once heard either of them say bad things about one another. They never tried to manipulate me or put me in the middle. They never forced their new relationships on me. Even though they were divorced, they were always together as parents for me, making decisions together and finding ways to make ends meet for me, the child they had together.
I recognized at a young age that my broken family was different because my friends going through similar situations didn't have the same experiences as me. I was always thankful for how they were, because had they been different, divorce would have been even more traumatic and life altering. I would have resented my parents had one tried to keep me from the other, because as a child I loved them both and I needed them both, equally [& I still do].
The first place we ever learn about love is in our home & it is that impression that we carry with us forever. Although I didn't have the worlds greatest example of a marriage to go by, my parents still managed to teach me so much about what love is and what it means by how they loved me & how they continued to show love to me & to one another despite our circumstances.
My dad called me while my step sister was planning her wedding. I could tell he had something important to talk about. He asked me if I cared if he walked her down in the isle on her wedding day. The truth is, I had been expecting that question because I knew what my dad meant to her. Without hesitation, I said I didn't mind at all.
I was honored to capture this moment.
I am proud of the photo above for the story it tells.
I am proud because it speaks to lives rebuilt. I am proud because my father has loved his step children as his own. I am proud that my step sister loves & looks up to my father. I am proud that my step mother worked so hard to raise her children & witness this moment happen.
I am proud because what you don't see is my mother at the back of the isle helping me that day & my step mother sitting in the front row with a proud heart watching her daughter walk down the isle with my father.
I thought about the significance of this moment when it happened, but as I began to work on these photos it really sank in.
Two families who despite all odds taught their children love & still continue to do so. Three parents who recognize that their actions directly influence their children. Three parents who did what it took to ensure their children had the best lives they could give them.
I didn't ask to be a child of divorce and I know my parents didn't ask for it either, but I am thankful for everything they have shown me through it. It has only made me more grateful for who they are & what they have done.
I pray that more families can be like them. That more families can be civil through divorce. That more families can recognize that regardless of their situation they are still parents, together. That more families can know that the words they say & the things they do in front of their children are shaping their future & how they will someday love & treat those in their life. That more families can see that their marriage or situation doesn't have to be perfect to teach their children what unconditional love looks like.
I pray that more children can be as proud as I am-- that they can look back on the heartache and be grateful for the love still.