Monday, September 19, 2011

Keep it messy for the kids

The WSJ had an article on
The Child-Focused Divorce,
and it drew
this Sept. 10 letter:

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 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 1970 s 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 Mucahy
The letter is a refreshing response to the silly psychobabble advice on how to do a divorce.

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