Monday, September 12, 2011

Get Real on Divorce's Damage to Kids

Courtesy of Katie Martinson

Blogger's take: The real point of the remarks below is not the damage to kids, but the damage done to parents as people called to intimate relations. The solution is not scientific civility seeking rationalized solutions, but whatever messiness it takes to stay in relation. The kids will then turn out just fine.


In "The Child-Focused Divorce" (Personal Journal, Sept. 6) you imagine a world where divorced parents cooperate with an abundance of civility, mutual respect and charity, and you offer advice from experts who liken raising children of divorce to a kind of "business venture." You encourage attention to details, planning, coordination and even a kind of professional respect between the parents.

As a child of divorce, I found this almost laughable. If divorced parents were capable of cooperating like this, they would still be married. Living in a post-divorce atmosphere of civility and respect would send a clear message to the children, not that they are loved, but that their reasonable and accommodating parents apparently couldn't be bothered to put as much hard work into saving their family.

This is, in some ways, a more painful message than the one my siblings and I got in the 1970s after the divorce of our thoroughly unreasonable and uncooperative parents. Amid all the hardship and conflict, we kids were clear on one thing: Our family was too important, too elemental to be negotiated into some other arrangement by nice people with professionalism and tact. It could only be blown up, utterly rent asunder with great sound and fury by forces that our parents were powerless to resist.

If that isn't what happened, if it wasn't a disaster, then maybe our family wasn't much of a family after all. Maybe we kids were just another detail to be discussed, with inside voices, over bad coffee in some beige conference room. As it is, our parents don't want to be in the same room with each other even 40 years later and, honestly, that feels about right to me these days. It's a kind of silent tribute to what's been lost.

So, please, if we have to have divorce (and I'm not saying we do), let's keep it messy—for the children.

John Mulcahy

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