Thursday, September 4, 2014
Piece of Advice #114: Stay together for the children
This sounds really great; the problem is, it's just sheer crap. I think by now we all know it because the people who are of childbearing age now have seen so much of the insecurity, sadness, loneliness, anger, violence and abuse that are the results of broken families.
It's hard to even type that phrase, "broken families," because I've had so much negative reinforcement and reeducation of the "every family type is unique and valuable" kind. "No family is broken, we're all just making different choices, etc., etc."
So last week I found out that a woman I know, have known for several decades, who comes from a good intact family of loving but strict and religious parents, who was homeschooled as a girl and has been homeschooling her many children, has decided to Eat Pray Love and dump her, by all accounts, kind, decent looking, good provider, good dad husband so she can find herself. Or whatever. I should have known this was going down by the large increase in Facebook preening selfies (a number of them on horseback) being posted on her timeline, but I guess I wasn't paying enough attention. I really didn't pick up on the fact that she was getting divorced until she changed her last name back to her maiden name and her status to divorced.
She has many children. And, yes, she's held together well. She's still really attractive, and she's fun and creative and energetic, but what a nightmare. At least one of her daughters is taking being separated from her daddy really hard. And looking even a short distance into the future, her economic prospects are fairly grim. She's not particularly educated, and her job training isn't in a lucrative field. I don't know what she's thinking. There is no way that she's ever going to do better than her now ex-husband.
She says her children are doing really well, but "well" is a pretty relative term.
My son spent a lot of time this summer playing with a friend whose parents got divorced two years ago. It was an "amicable" split up, and they were both very discreet on the reasons for it. Their son had anger issues then, and I remember thinking, "This isn't going to make him less angry." He spent this last summer terrorizing his family, including both sets of grandparents who were helping to take care of him. Apparently the only time he was easy to be around was when he had friends over, so out of pity, I let my son play there more than I was comfortable with because I know his grandmother, have known her for years, and I was dismayed to hear her say in astonishment how good he was when my son was over.
The last week of the summer his mother locked herself in the bathroom with her daughter because he was so out of control. Her father had to come over and get this boy talked down. Another total nightmare.
While I think this boy could seriously benefit from the establishment of some strict parental boundaries, the longer the summer wore on, the more I realized he was punishing everyone because he was angry and because he couldn't do anything about the divorce two years ago, but he sure could now. So he did. He made everyone in his family as miserable as he could.
In the last six year since my son went to school we've seen numerous families split up, and a number of my son's classmates have really floundered. They've been angry. They've hit kids on the playground, they've gotten thin and ghostlike, and their grades have seriously suffered in school. I've had to inform my son's school of abuse, and I've testified in court. And this is a private, middle class Catholic school, not the inner city.
Their parents have suffered too. They don't know how to handle escalating misbehavior. They don't have time to do enough intervention. They don't have any money. They've married and divorced again, or not married and just had serial relationships. Or posted a lot on Facebook about how strong and independent they are when it was obvious that they were just hanging on by a thread.
I don't know what was going on behind closed doors in most of these situations, but divorce didn't make any of these people better parents or happier. Yes, it's still the short term, but there has been so much collateral damage.
Marriage is hard. It's not always happy. Sometimes there are long spells of sadness, disappointment, health problems, money problems, or incompatibility that must be weathered. Children add complications and stress. Individual wants or even needs often must be put off. But the sheer act of keeping on keeping on in the face of difficulties is an education for kids, and the long term benefits of growing up in a house with both biological (or adoptive) parents are of immeasurable. An inheritance richer than pearls or diamonds.
If that's a gift you can give your children, why wouldn't you do everything you can to provide it?