Yesterday’s post on children and divorce hit a tender nerve for a lot of you, so I feel a few clarifications are in order.
Here’s what yesterday’s post WAS NOT:
–A rebuke of single parents. I know a lot of single parents who bust their ass and give their children a lot more love than some of the married couples I’ve met in my day.
–A plea for people in troubled marriages to stay together for the sake of the kids. Actually, as one reader correctly pointed out, it can be more damaging to a child if his/her parents hate each other but stay together anyway. If that’s not a recipe for addiction, abuse and a passing of demons to the next generation, I don’t know what is.
–A suggestion that you’re a lousy parent if you can’t keep your marriage together. It takes two people to make a marriage succeed or fail. And sometimes things beyond your control can damage a marriage. That doesn’t make you a less loving parent. And sometimes, you find someone else to marry who turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to the family. Bottom line: A bad marriage can’t go on. My parents were smart to divorce in 1980. A lot of bad things followed, but things surely would have been worse had they stayed together.
–A reminder that kids pick up on a troubled house immediately and they need constant love and reassurance.
–A big “fuck you” to parents who use their kids as pawns to hurt each other. Doing so just makes you mean, and your child is probably better off without you around.
I mentioned two troubled marriages yesterday, but I have to be honest and tell you that I was particularly fixated on the second case I mentioned.
I also need to admit — again — that I’m only seeing one side of the drama.
But since I’m keeping the names of the players anonymous, I’m just going to roll with the one-sided version of events and say a few things:
1.) It is NEVER, ever OK to tell the other parent you took the child one place for the weekend when you were actually someplace else. It’s one thing if you’re shielding the kid from someone abusive. It’s quite another thing if that parent is not abusive and you’re just doing it to be spiteful. Parents need to know where their kids are at all times because we live in a dangerous world. You lied about a child’s whereabouts, and that makes you a punk. And, contrary to what you may think, it does matter.
2.) When it comes to deciding who gets the child and when, it’s about what’s best for the kid, not you.
3.) Not living at home doesn’t free you of certain responsibilities, like helping to pay the bills. You may not live there anymore, but the kid still does. And like I said, it’s about the child, not you.
If this sounds like a rant that veers too close to a temper tantrum, I make no apologies. The scars from my childhood fueled an adulthood ripped apart by mental illness and addiction.
In the final analysis I made a lot of bad decisions and most of what I’ve been through can’t be blamed on everyone else.
And the difference is that in my case, everyone else did their best, even if some things took a sour turn.
When I see a parent who isn’t trying, I get angry. If a child is dragged through the mud when the parents are trying to do it right, just think of the damage done when the parents aren’t trying.
You’re not trying, my friend. And for now, I wish I had more middle fingers for you than the two God gave me.