at_sign: The hero from the Quest for Glory series of computer games. (Default)
[personal profile] at_sign
When I was a wee one, I lost a very dear friend – my best friend at the time and since preschool – to her parents' divorce. They split, she began spending an increasing amount of time further away, being cared for by her grandmother, living more of the time with her father (who had moved away, his ex-wife remaining in their old house) and generally having less time to spend with me and my family. It was a huge blow. Some time later, I lost another friend, connected to through homeschooling events and the email list that was the heart of our homeschooling circle, when her father a) ditched his wife for another woman b) brought the other woman back to live with his wife and kids and c) divorced his wife and married the other woman, "got religion" and insisted his kids be put in a Catholic school immediately.

It's not like my own family life was devoid of the shadows of divorce, either. I mean, my mother still has barely any contact with her biological father and is ready to talk about how her parents' divorce, coming during her adolescent years, damaged her psychologically; I remember going to my older half-brother's ballgames and feeling a sickening wrongness hanging in the air between my parents and his other, closer family, a wrongness which probably fueled the gap between him and me. I still find it odd, looking back, that I cannot remember ever being at all struck by my friends with two moms, but I was terrified by households touched by divorce and the things I saw happening to my friends. I remember asking my friend whose dad made her start school if she liked it, doubtfully, and her diplomatic response of "I like being with my friends" sending chills through me. I remember what it was like to see my friends' lives torn apart and rearranged and then their disappearances from my life.

There's a family I know – I wish to be careful about their identities – that's been going through a messy divorce recently. It's a rather similar story to my friend the Catholic schoolgirl's; parents split, dad decides kids need to go to traditional school, court gives him full authority, mom is barely able to keep partial custody. She's been ordered to lie to her children and tell them she agrees that they should go to school – meanwhile, wife #2's kids are still homeschooled. I mean, this shit is fucked up, and the kids know it. And I'm terrified for the eldest, who is twelve years old, because he's been acting in ways that indicate he may self-harm or get involved in risky behavior and I'm afraid he'll do something that'll mess him up long-term, get him taken away from his mom, or worse, see him in the foster care system. I love this kid, as little contact as I have with him. I hate that he's so miserable.

I've known kids who were better off for their parents splitting – abusive households where the non-abusive parent got sole or primary custody – but there's an awful lot of this power-play stuff with kids as the victims, too, and it makes me sick. Anyone who'd hurt their kid to get at their ex needs a serious wakeup call, because the kid will always take the most damage and if you don't care about that then you don't deserve custody. And I wish the courts didn't seem quite so keen to a) favor the father whether he's in the right or not and b) make homeschooled kids go to school at the drop of a hat. :-/ We need a pro-child, pro-family approach to these matters, and what we've got simply isn't a lot of the time.
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