I was at my parents' house this weekend. At some point before I got there, my parents had had a disagreement of sorts, and at some time after I arrived they had an honest fight. Now, this doesn't really surprise me, in one sense. In fact, it's perfectly reasonable that any two people will at times have misunderstandings and arguments, that feelings can be hurt and tempers can raise. I've seen it first-, second-, and third-hand for years.
When I heard mom and dad fighting, though... I didn't know how to deal with it. I felt like a scared little boy. I went up to the guest room, closed the door, and tried to read but I simply couldn't concentrate. I wanted nothing more than to curl up and cry.
It passed, mom and dad came to an understanding and before dinner everything was back to normal. I was struck by how deeply it had affected me, though. Even then it felt like how I imagine a small mid-west town feels after a tornado strikes, and house later I still wasn't quite back to my equilibrium. The very foundations of my world had been shaken. And like I said, I'm not some child; I'm a grown man who understands that his parents are real people. And even at that I was cut to the quick.
I think, maybe, I've never really experienced my parents fighting. If they fought when I was younger (which I'm sure they must have, to some extent), they either kept it to themselves, behind closed doors, or I simply succeeded in completely forgetting the incidents. Judging by how I was affected by it at my age and with my experience, it's no wonder that little children can be so traumatized by what, to their parents, is "only a little fight."