31 January 2005

Single...With Children: 9/11 Causes Separation Anxiety For Parents And Children

Single with Children: Divorced parents must overcome obstacles

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 10/10/01

There's no denying that many things have changed in the lives of all Americans since Sept. 11. Whether we were personally touched by losing someone we knew in the recent terrorist acts or not, life is most decidedly not quite the same. While the news coverage has subsided just a little and regular programming on the networks has resumed, all of us have grappled with how these recent events signal changes in our everyday lives.

I'm seeing a few personal issues that will have to be addressed. It's no secret that my daughter would rather do anything than board an airplane, but before last month she usually managed to steel herself for the long flight. Now, however, she can't imagine the possibility of flying. The mere suggestion leaves her reeling with anxiety.

In this large and mobile nation we are blessed to call "home,'' many divorced parents have been forced to address arranging visitation, and this requires something that isn't always abundant in many situations involving divorce: communication, commitment and cooperation. All three elements are absolutely vital if we are to make the waters calm for our children.

One of the most amazing displays of pulling together to overcome chaos and unimaginable destruction is New York City. I'll admit that I never thought of the town as the embodiment of "warm and fuzzy.'' But from the images and interviews I've watched on the evening news, the residents have proven to possess compassionate hearts and a willingness to work together. It's been inspiring to read accounts of neighbors and business folks pulling together, offering support and a helping hand to each other. For a city with a reputation as being "brusque'' and not particularly friendly, New York is teaching the rest of the United States, and particularly those of us no longer married to the other parent of our children, some important lessons about overcoming obstacles and pooling our resources.

With the holidays fast approaching, many noncustodial parents are grappling with ways to ensure that they can still enjoy spending their precious visitation time with the children they don't see as often as they might if they were in closer proximity. For custodial parents, perhaps it's time not only to consider our ex-spouses' dilemmas but also to facilitate a mutually acceptable arrangement that will benefit the most important object in any divorced family: the children.

In the case of New York City, we've seen people from differing ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds cast those differences aside to offer their help in a thousand different ways. Perhaps, in this same spirit, we can take this opportunity as ex-spouses to let go of some of the past pain and resentment and support each other rather than construct roadblocks that only cause additional pain to our shared children.

A few days ago, I told my ex-husband that the chances of Katie boarding a jet for a post-Christmas visit were about as likely as Osama bin Laden turning himself in to the United Nations. He laughed but had to agree. He dearly wants to spend the week after Christmas with his children as much as they want to share that time with him. We discussed a few possible solutions, such as my driving toward some middle point or to a closer destination where he might arrive for a week of bonding on the ski slopes. Whatever arrangements we eventually arrive at, and whatever sacrifice it takes to achieve, it will happen, because we both realize that now, more than ever, our children need to spend time with him.

Divorce is a fractious, difficult business. Feelings are hurt, hearts are broken and lives are changed. Divorce, just like New York City, doesn't tend to generate images of compassion; however, nothing is impossible if we cast aside the differences and let go of the anger and bitterness. Good things can come from that. Imagine the positive lessons that our children can learn by witnessing a new level of kindness and consideration between the two people that mean the most in the world to them. At a time when our whole unique and diverse country is pulling together on a national level, why not bring that same spirit into our homes?

Of course, there will always be a few situations where any common ground will prove impossible to find and cultivate. That's simply an unfortunate fact for a few families, and sometimes even the very best of intentions on the part of one parent will be met with stiff and unyielding resistance by the other. Absolutely no one wins in those unfortunate situations, least of all the kids. However, remembering that most of us would turn our worlds upside down to give our kids the very best life we possibly can, offering a little help and understanding to the person we created these amazing creatures with in the first place, really shouldn't be that difficult.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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