Magical words are common in myths and fantasies. They, unfortunately, carry little effect in reality.
Wave a magic wand, utter the phrase, and hmmmm….nothing happens in the world. What I am coming to realize, though, is that parents who divorce often stand on the periphery of the reality of the situation of post-divorce life for their children.
Want to know what the magic word is, so repeatedly uttered in my home with stepchildren? The magic word for parents who divorce is “Fine”. Sorry, I wish it were something exciting and engaging like “Abracadabra”, but it’s not. It’s just sad, old, typical, middle of the road, “Fine”.
You know, the word we all utter when we have little investment or engagement in the issues at hand. Someone asks you, “How are you?” …”Fine”….Nice, non-commital, but still a great way to wrap up the issue and not move further.
Despite my stepchildren displaying obvious emotional and behavioral signs of struggling, the number one thing I have heard from the parents is -you guessed it- “The kids are fine.” “The kids handled the divorce- fine.” “I don’t notice any problems, they are just kids, and they are fine.” “We have always been fine.” “Our divorce is fine” “We have always gotten along fine” “The kids are fine with divorce” “The kids are fine with living in two homes” “The children did fine after the divorce…”
I have sometimes wanted to scream (although I tend not to swear)- “If everything is and was so F***ing fine, why in the hell did you get divorced?”
But, that would be me not believing in the fantasy, wouldn’t it? The fanatasy has always been and always will be that children and divorce exist in one way, “fine”. For to admit otherwise, to acknowledge the fact that divorce is not a temporary crisis for children, and that by the act of the divorce, two parents decided to create an act and situation that has in all likelihood harmed their children and made their children’s life more difficult, is way, way too much to handle for people invested in feeling just “fine”.
I realize this may sound a bit harsh and judgmental of those who divorce,and I have always said, I realize there are very, very sound reasons to divorce. However, no matter how sound the reason for the divorce, to put children through this situation and to only support and prepare them with a wing, prayer, and a hearty “you are fine” is insane. Divorce is not a temporary crisis for a child- it is a truly LIFE-LONG way of being, and being children, they need help and guidance, not pat, ridiculous platitiudes.
From now on the only time I want to hear “fine” in my home is in the following way- “We, as parents, are hoping with our time, commitment, and dedication that our children, the ones we so dearly love, will grow to feel protected and secure and ‘fine’ in this situation of divorce that we, the parents, created”.