A Message From a Divorced Kid.
November 27, 2010 1 Comment
Recently, I heard a story about a family. This family, you see, is on the verge of splitting. The couple is teetering on the edge of separation and divorce. Alcohol, separate sleeping arrangements, and fighting are part and parcel of their family life. Caught in the middle of this situation are two teenagers. Hearing this family’s story is eerily like my own. While I felt compassion for the couple, my thoughts throughout the telling of this story were with the teenagers.
Throughout divorce proceedings, you always hear about everyone’s concern for the kids. Frankly, I say bullshit and poppycock. It’s not about the kids. It’s about the parents, the property, the he said, she said, the money, parental rights, visitation rights, custody, child support, and a number of other things, but it’s not about the kids, no matter how much the adults involved pontificate about it.
The kids are stuck. They’re not adults. They have no rights. They have no choice. No choices, but to go along with whatever their parents decide. Or the judge. Or the lawyers. Or a therapist, or social services worker. Unlike the adults in this situation, they can’t just say “screw this,” drive off, and start anew. What should be their safe haven, their home, becomes little more than a prison.
No matter how much they speak out, rebel, or fight for their rights, their wants, their needs, someone else always knows better. “It’s what’s best for the child.” Let me tell you, as a divorced kid, that phrase makes me see red. The behavior of every adult involved with a divorce makes me see red.
In this story, and in mine, we weren’t children. We saw everything, no matter how many doors you closed in our faces. We heard everything, no matter how many ceilings you put in between us. We know what this means. We brace ourselves for the next week, the next day, the next minute, because we never know what’s coming next. We see the anger, the frustration, the hate, and feel afraid for what former lovers might do to the other in revenge.
We aren’t children. And our parents took advantage of it—using their children to vent frustration, to pass along messages, and to poison the mind of the child against the other parent. We know. We know the other didn’t throw a vase at you last night, so to speak, because we could hear it all. We know you didn’t refuse the screaming match, because we could hear you over our stereo, our TV, and the hands covering our ears.
When parents divorce, they don’t treat their children as people, with their own thoughts, feelings, desires, and humanity. We are a prize, the ultimate victory over the ex, mere possessions. Divorced parents everywhere pretend they are the one exception—you’re not. And us kids? We can see that, too.
This isn’t a tirade against divorce, let me make that clear. My family would have been a lot better off had my parents divorced a lot sooner. From what I know, the same is true of the family I spoke of earlier. No, this is a tirade against the way divorce often plays out, and the way that children are treated. No matter how much adults think they’re shielding the children in the middle, they’re not. We are people, and people in the middle, at that. We see, we hear, we feel, and we hurt. We dream, we pursue, we want, and we need. Remember that.