When people you know go through a divorce, much is made over who gets what and who loses what. The ex-wife gets the house. The ex-husband gets full custody of the kids. But here’s a constant that’s most upsetting: The kids almost always get the shaft.
Parents don’t usually mean for this to happen. They start out determined to shower the children with love and shield them from the ugly stuff as much as possible.
Then, as the proceedings drag on, the parents look for ways to hurt each other. What better way to do that than by using the children as pawns?
They got joint custody. We stayed with Dad during the week and Mom on weekends. In the summers that arrangement was reversed. Dad got the house.
As the years went on, my mother grew increasingly bitter toward my father. This is understandable to a point. Her oldest son died. How can a parent be expected to think clearly when that happens? But she blamed my father. Actually, she blamed my stepmother: some baseless bullshit about my step-mother not inserting the adrenaline needle properly during my brother’s final and fatal asthma attack.
After that, if my father stared at her the wrong way, she threatened to get full custody from him. She did this on a weekly basis. I don’t think it hurt my father as intended. He held all the legal cards. But it sure as hell hurt me. I would constantly worry about never seeing my father again.
Looking in the rear-view mirror as an adult, I hold no bitterness about it. Not anymore, anyway. I realized I would never move on until I forgave them. We all fail. I have too many times to count. I also realize she was just venting most of the time.
But when I see kids caught in the middle of a marriage in trouble today, I always return to the scars of childhood, real and imagined (when you’re a kid you imagine things, and if you grow up to be a head case like me, you REALLY imagine things).
I bring all this up because I know of a couple troubled marriages right now where children are involved.
In one case the parents are working hard to be honest with the kids and make sure they know they are loved. I don’t know what will happen to that marriage in the end, but I give the parents credit for trying to keep the emotional scars off their kids. If the marriage fails scarring will be inevitable. But the parents can do a lot to soften the blow.
Then there’s the other case. One parents tries to hurt the other by deciding not to babysit when scheduled. Of course, in this case it’s not babysitting. It’s parenting.
Then one parent has the child for the weekend and lies to the other about where they’ve been.
It’s not for me to get into who is right or wrong. I’m biased because I’m only getting one side of the story.
All I know is that it makes me sad. I can only pray that this child escapes with as little damage as possible.
Nobody likes it when someone’s marriage hits the wall. And when lawyers are brought in, you can expect ugliness to ensue because the lawyer’s job is to make sure his or her client wins.
Of course, in these situations, nobody wins. Some marriages need to end because it happened for the wrong reasons to start with or there was abuse. And sometimes people just change and what happens happens.
I just hope the kids make out OK at the other end of these dramas.