Based on the novel The Light Within
Mom came home from work grouchy, so we went upstairs. When Dad got home, she yelled at him too. Their fights had become part of life. I didn’t look forward to seeing Mom after work anymore. No wonder Dad was seldom home. I’m Jamie, thirteen year old daughter of Judy and Rich Parker. Peter’s my younger brother. I don’t know what happened that night after Mom stormed out, but something definitely changed. Months later, the difference was obvious. It used to be easy to bug her until we got what we wanted. Now that I wanted a huge birthday party, she’d figured out how to say no calmly and stick to it.
After Christmas, she stopped working full time. Though we missed our babysitter, I looked forward to seeing Mom at the bus stop. She was much nicer now. She even encouraged us to do things that we wanted. I got to enroll in dance class! I was surprised the day we came home to a tidy house. As long as I’d remembered, piles of stuff were everywhere. I was excited and asked if my bedroom could be moved around. She told me to go ahead. Me? I was able to change something? It was awesome! I was nearly done when Mom knocked on my door. That knock made me feel great, like she respected me.
The next day Mom didn’t feel good and stayed in her bedroom. I figured she was tired from the housework, but she didn’t cheer up. I overheard her crying many times. She started snapping at us again. Peter and I kept to ourselves more. We hung out in my bedroom to steer clear. Weeks later, Mom was happy again. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. We were surprised when she suggested an end of school year party. After school, after we’d told our friends, Mom got us treats and took us to the lake for a talk.
My parents had split up. I was furious! First at Dad and then at Mom. I knew it’d been her fault. She’d always been mean. Though she’d changed, it was too late. Peter defended her. They both made me mad. She told us about God changing her and for us to trust Him like she did. What a joke! Trust in God? Our lives were falling apart! Then she told us we were going to visit Dad’s new apartment after the party. That was it. I couldn’t listen any more.
By the time our party came, I believed the divorce would make my life miserable. I shared my fears with my friend Stephanie. There was so much I was worrying about, and I was dreading going to Dad’s. We’d never spent time alone together. It’d be awkward. Stephanie understood. Her family was really screwed up too.
After that, we made regular visits to Dad’s. I couldn’t stand my parents’ or their expectations. They wouldn’t give me any freedom. Stephanie and I had enough and snuck out one night from Mom’s house. It was exciting breaking the rules, not caring if I got caught or in trouble. I needed to live a little. I needed a break from the stupid problems my parents had created.
When summer was coming to a close, I was afraid; high school freshman, new school, and lots of kids I wouldn’t know. As mad as I’d been, I found comfort in my mother that morning and was excited to see her when school ended. After dinner, Mom invited me to join her and Peter in her bedroom where she’d been painting pictures, a new hobby. I joined them, feeling funny. I’d avoided her for so long.
When my parents’ divorce was final, I realized that not much would change for me. I felt badly for having frustrated them, and now, hanging with Stephanie and her older friends had gotten me in more trouble. I’d been with them when they knocked the books out of a freshman’s hands. Papers flew everywhere. When he scrambled to pick them up, Jim held him to the ground. Everyone laughed. I was mortified but didn’t try to stop it. They rushed away when a teacher came. I didn’t. Mrs. Hayes sent me to the office. I got suspended but received a “lighter sentence” for ratting out my friends.
I was ready to separate from them. I was determined not to let peer pressure drive me anymore. Something good would come of this. I had no idea how bad life would get once my “friends” were back though. I wasn’t well liked. Stephanie even turned on me. I was now an outcast. I lay awake crying and very afraid. Mom came in and comforted me as I shared what was going on. She talked about God, about looking at my enemy differently, putting a face on them. It’s Satan. He’ll use anything to deny us the joy of Christ, even people we care about, she’d said. Once we realize who the enemy is, we can have compassion on the victims Satan uses. People bully because they’re hurting, she’d said too. That made sense. I realized that Mom was the example I needed to follow. She’d been mean and changed. She’d been through tough times and found peace. She was right!
God and these revelations gave me the strength to talk with my principal and guidance counselor about starting a group to help students feel more confident and secure in school. We needed to reduce the reign of intimidation. I believed this group could even help the very bullies that ruled. My group, the Steadfast United, met to educate about tolerance and get to know and accept one another, regardless of differences. I expected that support would help kids ignore and avoid peer pressure, allowing them to simply be. It turned out to be very successful, and the bullies ultimately were helped.