No wonder the NYT is cleaning house.
In a NYT piece by KATIE CROUCH The Grandchildren of Divorce she discusses the impact on her parents divorce- she is in her 40s at the time of their divorce. Somehow, she advances that the divorce would have been easier on her had she been nine years old like many of her friends at the time their parent’s divorced. I doubt she seriously believes that.
Crouch describes her childhood friends’ divorces as something good. “To have your mother and father fight for you in court, now that seemed cool. And the guilt presents! As my girlfriends with divorced parents got older, the spoils became more desirable. Bags of new clothing from Esprit. Tickets to unchaperoned Jefferson Starship concerts. I remember one of my friends receiving a new Honda wrapped in a bow. And certainly there was nowhere sexier to be in eighth grade than at a sleepover in a friend’s divorced-dad condo, where the “Porky’s” movies looped unchecked, and for breakfast one might be served pizza and warm New Coke.” Seriously?
The following comments to Crouch’s piece says it all:
Really, “pining” for a family break up as a child, and thinking that the idea of parents fighting over custody was “cool” and that somehow, “guilt presents” made up for the loss of an entire family structure? Wow. I agree with the other children of divorce commenting here, that the author clearly has no idea what the impact of a childhood divorce is, nor that the impact can last well into your 40s and beyond. And I’m not trying to be disparaging. Merely suggesting that the highly romanticized view presented here of what is emotionally traumatic at any age is at the very least, naive, and pretty insensitive to the people who’ve actually experienced it.
I sure don’t recognize the “children of divorce” you describe in your own childhood. What about all those children who haven’t seen or talked to their father for months/years? What about those who forget birthdays/Christmas? What about those who marry someone who does not want them in her/his home? And then there is the inadequate or no child support – refusal to help with college. Divorce, for children, is not just a never-ending bag of goodies – it’s a huge loss that, no matter how well-adjusted they are, they live with forever.
In many ways, it gets more difficult. Which parent is invited for holidays? Feeling guilty about the parent one didn’t invite! How to include both parents in family special events – christenings/graduations/confirmations etc? Schools don’t hold two graduations so feuding divorced parents can each attend without the other being there.
Grandchildren of divorce? “All the spoils, none of the pain”? Are you kidding? The first thing most children ask when they find out either that their grandparents are getting divorced or reach the age of realizing that mommy’s mommy and daddy don’t live together, is the worry that their own parents will get divorced.
There is no “win” in a divorce. One exchanges one set of problems for another. Most children would like their parents to stay together and love (or at least act respectful of) one another.
Just as a practical matter, divorce at such a late age is crazy. When matters of custody and spousal support are in question (as they often are when 40-somethings divorce), there’s a reason to go into court and have a legal agreement. But in your 70’s?
At that age you face two crucial legal questions: who will make end-of-life decisions and how your property will be divided. Both of these are needlessly complicated by a legal divorce. Not to mention benefits like spousal pension and healthcare eligibility and social security.
My wife and I have both had to navigate this thicket with extended stepfamilies when our parents died. Divorce is the gift that keeps on giving.
I would urge anyone who gets that phone call from a 70-something parent regarding a divorce to help them in any way you can to simply separate. Unless you’re facing a really unique situation (like criminal liability or gambling addiction), the only benefit to a legal divorce is that it allows your elderly parent to remarry. And that’s the last thing you want.