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Transitioning to Adulthood

February 21, 2022 | 528 words | Personal History

Every stage of life comes with its own set of problems that need to be figured out.  But going from adolescence to early adulthood is particularly tricky, especially for a sensitive young person.  

I have four children who are currently navigating this transition, each of whom can be accurately described as sensitive.  While this term is sometimes pejoratively thought of as code for “highly emotional,” and viewed almost as a character flaw, I don’t see it that way.  I have always found this temperament to be a rewarding way to engage the larger world.  Though it does help when such sensitivity can be coupled with a native intelligence that is active and alert.  Diligently applying this intelligence over the years has enabled me to center my sometimes-run-away emotions, and put them to good use.

The fact their mother and I just got divorced is throwing a new wrench into the works. When people say they are staying together for the sake of the children, I always assumed that was limited to little kids.  Since mine range in age from 22 to 30, and since I thought they saw this divorce coming from a mile away, it never occurred to me the reality would be much of a problem for them, once it finally got here.

Boy, was I ever wrong about that.  Each of them is now wrestling with a variety of thorny issues related to my deciding to call it quits and go my separate way.  The whole thing is proving to be very disconcerting from their perspective.  I’m embarrassed to admit I was too caught up in my own pain and hurt to see what a hurdle this divorce would be for these bright young adults who are so dear to my heart.


No matter how many good books I read, or how many fabulous movies I see, there is nothing quite like experiencing a thing firsthand.  It turns out the classic problem you always hear about when it comes to children of divorce applies here:  Grappling with which parent should be blamed for the break-up, and which one deserves sympathy and support.  It’s just a natural part of the process.  Though I think each of my kids is mature beyond their years, they are not able to completely avoid this visceral and thoroughly understandable reaction.

All four are having a hard time putting the pieces back together.  But my one and only daughter, who turned 23 last month, may be having the hardest time of all.  She recently sent me a blistering text that left me feeling as if she might never speak to me again.  This was an especially painful message to receive.  I believed, up to now, that she and I have gotten along famously.


I hope and pray this startling emotional breach with my daughter will one day be repaired, since I sorely miss her company, and miss hearing about what’s going on in her life. I pray she and I will receive the grace needed to resume our once-close relationship. And I invoke that same grace as I try to strengthen my relationship with each of my three my sons.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr

February 21, 2022

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