Sunday, January 6, 2013

To Be, Then No Longer To Be?

Divorce erases a mom or dad from the family portrait

In a July 2012 article in Christianity Today entitled, “Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence Into Question,” Andrew Root writes, “Just months before my own wedding, I sat with my mom in the living room of the home I had grown up in, as she explained that divorce was the next exit on the highway of our family's history.

"It had been several weeks since she had told me that her and my father's marriage was in serious trouble. Now, she told me more: They had gotten married way too young, noting that if she could do it all over again, she would have chosen another route for her life...

“I couldn't help feeling a shadow come over me,” he went on. “I looked at our family portrait hanging on the wall... and wondered if I might be disappearing... My parents' impending divorce made me feel thin, as if now that my parents' marriage was disappearing, ...and I too was disappearing.” “I existed only because my mother and father had become one, creating me out of the abundance of their covenant community,” he adds. “Now, standing amid the debris and shock of the collision that ended their marriage, all this felt up for grabs. If I was through their union, who could I be in their division? ... Could I be at all?”

Root's point is that divorce not only impacts children emotionally and economically, but ontologically--that is, it affects their very sense of being.

In the article he goes on to say that “every child is meant to be welcomed into the beauty of existence through the embrace of mother and father. Of course, when abuse and extreme neglect fester, the embrace is broken or becomes so contaminated that it wilts the humanity of everyone in it. Here, divorce may be a tragic necessity. But we should remember that such awful realities remain the minority among divorces in the US. Reportedly, about two-thirds of divorces end as low-conflict (i.e., no abuse or neglect) marriages, like that of my own parents.”

Such low conflict divorces, he believes, are especially devastating to the 40% of those under 21 today who are affected by it, in spite of all of the popular psychology today that says divorced and separated children will do just fine as long as they can be assured that none of this was their fault.

But all this ignores the fact that such children are unavoidably divided, Root adds, as in having one room at Mom's and another at Dad's, one schedule at Dad's and another at Mom's. “Their parents may be persuaded that they can undo the union they have created,” he writes, "but their children cannot undo themselves as persons who are inextricably connected with the once bonded pair that gave them birth."

What do you think?

For more of my reflections on divorce see
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