PORT MORESBY - Gender based violence is a big problem in Papua New Guinea and this includes what’s going on in the minds of this children when families are in conflict and there is separation or divorce.
For most children, family is all that matters. When families split, all these children want is the happy and normal life they used to have.
For me, life was going well when my mom and dad were together. Having fun and going out, taking pictures together and travelling.
Sometimes I would go to my dad’s office – he’s headmaster of a school - and spend the rest of the day there. Mom was a nurse and other days I’d spend with her.
Since I was the only child in the family, mom and dad gave me everything I wanted. Spending time with them was the best thing I could do in my life – as well as playing with my best friends.
Everything seemed to be going well until I started seeing mom and dad arguing about small things. I was only eight years old and it didn’t bother me.
Then it reached a point when I’d get back home after school and my cousins would tell me that mom and dad had been arguing again. From then on, everything got serious.
At dinner time, mom and dad would pretend in front of me that nothing bad was going on between them. Things got worse when dad started drinking a lot and come home and argue with mom.
Sometimes when he got angry he would destroy things in the house. No one could stop him when he did that. Not even my uncle. I was the one they would put in front of him and when he saw me, he calmed down.
I began to be afraid that something bad might happen to mom and dad. I wondered what to do next.
One morning my dad told me he was going to leave for a while. I felt so weak when I heard him tell me that. I wanted to go with him but he refused. I said goodbye to him, he hugged me and left.
I was crying while watching him go. Mom and I spent the day by ourselves. It was so odd that day. I didn’t stop asking mom when dad will be home. She just ignored me.
Every day, I woke up missing dad and hoping he would come home. It just didn’t happen. Every day I felt hopeless and wondered why he wouldn’t come to see me.
Mom just moved on with her life. I can’t remember one single time seeing my mom worry about dad.
One afternoon, I was playing with my sisters and mom came and told me to go to the house and wait for dinner. I left my sisters and did as she told me.
We had dinner together in silence and I felt like she was going to say something.
After dinner, she sat me down in front of her and she said, “I have something very important to tell you. Your dad is going out with another lady and I think he’s going to marry her.”
I was already in tears.
Mom continued, “You know that I can’t take care of you by myself so I’m going to need someone to help me raise you.” I understand what she was saying. I was running out of breath while sobbing. She hugged me so tight and I fell motionless under her arms.
The next morning I woke up and realized that I fell asleep last night while sobbing under my mom’s arms. My head was filled with all kind of questions. I still didn’t understand why my dad would do such a thing.
And my mom too.
I asked myself why mom and dad were doing this to me. Why is this happening? Why are things ganging up on me?
I tried to live my normal life when mom and dad wanted to get marry to their so-called new husband and wife. It just didn’t feel the same, the place I always called home was never the same like it used to be.
Sadness and grief always appear in front of me when I see mom and her new husband together.
Mom was so different. She never spent much time with me like she used to when dad was around. She was so brain washed by the new husband.
My aunties tried their best to be good mothers to me, but it didn’t change how I felt.
I had heard stories about single parents and how their children felt so hopeless without their mothers or fathers close to them. Now I felt like that.
I tried to live in the same lane with them but it didn’t suit me at all.
Every day seeing a family having fun together made me feel so sad and I just wished everything would return to normal. I asked myself why they would divorce. They don’t have any idea how I feel when seeing other children living with their family.
Parents don’t realise how it feels to live with a mom and a dad being separated or divorced. It hurts so much that parents need to know this.
I’m grateful for my friends and the people I can call family because they are so supportive, encouraging and loving.
Writing this story as a 15 year old sucks when I think back.
I’m so grateful I was strong and brave enough to overcome it, even if it triggered at a very young age.
As a 15 year old, I want to encourage young people to make a wise decision to choose a good partner in life.
It might happen that in the middle of your relationship you might do the same thing my parents did to me.
You have to think about your child and what he or she’s going to face if you make the mistake my parents did.
Please parents, you don’t have to be so selfish and think about yourselves but your poor children and what they might go through.
Please be cautious because you might end up hurting your own child and affect their lives too.
Liceanne Utah (pictured) is from Bougainville and is in Grade 8 at New Erima Primary School. This story is part of a school writing project initiated by PNG writer and author Betty Wakia to promote literature. If you want to support this initiative or donate any used books to the school, email Betty on firstname.lastname@example.org