The Unbearable Weight of Being “Fine” – Children of Divorce

The Unbearable Weight of Being Fine

The Unbearable Weight of Being Fine

It’s funny how we process and create things. For some time now, I have been doing pieces of art work that to me represent what children go through in a divorce.

How would I know what children go through? I live with two such children 1/2 of the time.

How much do the say about what it is like to be a child in a divorce? Very little, if anything at all.

You see, they are too busy and committed to living the fantasy of every divorced parent- the children are “fine”. Finer than fine, actually.

There has never been a group doing more “fine”, from what I observe, than children living through a divorce.

It’s not that I disagree with divorce. I don’t.

I think there are significant and profound reasons to divorce.

The divorce, itself, may not be the problem at all. The problem is that the children live through the divorce the rest of their lives, often symbolically (and sometimes literally) alone.

The parents move on. They remain single, or not. They remarry, or not. They cohabitate, or not.

The parents, in whatever way they choose, begin to FILL IN the space after the divorce, put it behind themselves, and look afresh and anew creating a different “after” when “happily ever after” falls apart.

The children do not have this luxury. Shifting between homes, shifting between loyalties, shifting belongings, shifting as the “belonging” between the parties, as mandated by the court.

Shifting, shifting, shifting, but really never filling.
When I created this piece, I did it because I see how my stepchildren get worn down. That, in and of itself, is a part of their life, but what disheartens me is neither parent really asks them how they are doing or acknowledges how hard all of this may be on a child- year after year after year.

I was not going to post these images or my thoughts, but I read a blog by the runner I had posted about earlier, Jenny Labaw.

She posted her final blog about running across the state of Colorado. And within that amazing journey I read her words about her parents.

I don’t know Jenny that well and I don’t know her complete story, yet, on the final day of her run, she wrote about what it was like seeing her parents in the same vehicle, something she had not witnessed for 22 years. She hadn’t known the desire to see her parents together was still buried deep inside of her (her words).

And, I thought, I will write what I observe today. Divorce with a children is a legacy, a legacy of a lifetime. How nice it would be if the children living this legacy had a space to be understood.


17 thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Being “Fine” – Children of Divorce

  1. This hit home with me as a child of divorce and now as a parent raising three kids who go back and forth weekly between parents. Thanks for the reminder to really check in with them and see how they are doing. I will use this in my relationship coaching as well when I work with couples going through marriage dissolution.

    • I am so glad this prompted you to check in with the kids. I think kids continue to process divorce year after year as they change and grow and see things differently. It’s so important to hear what they are thinking. thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. This really resonated and gave me goosebumps. My kids still move from myself to my ex in the way of loyalty. I think they still feel torn although their father and I have ‘moved on’ it lingers for them (hell, it lingers for me too, I won’t lie.) Thank you for this reminder.

    • Oh, i so appreciate this comment. It means a lot to me, as I am just a witness to so much of this. The fact it resonated with you shows me that I am not crazy in what I observe.
      I see the loyalty shifts all the time with my stepkids. So trying to do their best 🙂

  3. You are very right Kimberly. It is not easy to be a divorced kid, but worse if the parents don’t talk nice about the other parent. Kids love both of their parents, no matter how they are treated. They are so loyal, too loyal.

  4. “The children do not have this luxury […] shifting as the “belonging” between the parties, as mandated by the court.”

    This is exactly right, that is child/ren as possession/belonging. It is exactly no different than a coffee cup or a pet, the child is seen a as property. I cannot be more clear about how there is no meaningful conception of the ‘welfare of the child/ren’ when it comes to divorce, it is something that people have to observe and either get it or choose to ignore through denying reality in whatever way befits them.

    I cannot find it to be anything but exceedingly rare that two people divorce for amicable reasons, that they simply fell out of love with one another and together. Both of these things must obtain for divorce to actually be amicable, but this is not representative of reality. Divorce sees people become tend toward the worst possible version of themselves and, solipsistic as their nature becomes, everything is then about themselves and everything related to their happiness or misery.

    It is the case that children are demanded to navigate the war zone that becomes their lives and nevermind that war zone being passive-aggressive, cold and silent, or aggressive. Children do not have the equipment to handle that -fuck, ADULTS barely have the equipment to handle that- and yet these demands are placed upon them along with the expectation that they be more fine than fine and all that that means.

    I’m angry and I’m going to stop writing now.

    • I agree, as I wrote, that children are treated as if they are an item sometimes. As in, each parent has a “right” to his or her time whether it benefits the child or not. One of my next posting is going to be about the fact children do not have ADULT skills or resources to navigate this mess (which, as you point out, most adults don’t navigate all that well either).
      Also, one more thing, I am glad you mentioned that very few divorces are amicable- that is another fantasy everyone has.

      • In that last bit I’m reminded about Seinfeld, where Jerry and Elaine talk about how they broke up and it was 100% mutual. No one believed them but that was the truth of the matter: no one believed them because it’s so damned rare.

  5. Children carry such burdens. How the courts treat children is deplorable too. I really am not able to say too much on this post, because it stirs up too many emotions. It’s unfortunate that so many people divorce before the “real Love” is known. Some, not all. Some people should not have married to begin with. Society at large is filled with “lost” kids. I applaud those “kids” for accomplishing what they do with their lives!

  6. Oh wow, I did not read this until after I had posted myself, but that same idea of “shifting, shifting shifting”…shifting sand really, has been weighing heavy on my heart lately. Kids really need some stability, some predictability, in order to build a strong foundation for their lives. The importance of that seems all but forgotten these days. It is not just divorce that can pull the rug out from under them, but a lot of cultural changes too. Kids need a positive place to rest their eyes.

    • I was dreaming about shifting sand last evening, so it is so cool you picked up on that energy. And you are right, it is not only children of divorce who have the rug pulled out from under them.

  7. As hard as it has been to raise Mr. T on my own, there are times that I’m so thankful he hasn’t had to shuttle back and forth. As much as he has probably missed out on, the one thing I know for sure is that he knew where he would lay his head each and every night – on the same pillow on the same bed! I can’t imagine it, not having gone through it, but my goal has always been to make sure he felt stable, even if there was only one parent!

  8. So insightful! I witnessed this with my stepdaughter as well, including both of her parents’ families criticizing her for not being present at all the holiday dinners — as if this is a choice she could make at the age of 10!! Thanks for taking up this topic. It is a tough one.

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