01 January 2005

Single...With Children: It's All A Matter Of Perspective

Single With Children: Divorce influences many different perspectives

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 04/28/04

I decided it was finally time to paint the interior of my house. I would have preferred to wait until I could afford it, but I was afraid if I waited that long, the Sheetrock would have disintegrated to the point there would be nothing to paint, so I bit the bullet. This required that I make yet another decision, and I have a long, solid history of indecisiveness.

I had to make a color choice. I scanned color wheels and charts and store displays until I pared it down to a manageable 20. What I was sure looked like a peach or apricot tint screamed pink to the rest of my family in a tone that left no doubt I must be color-challenged. I took the high road and told them it was obviously a matter of perspective.

Perspective is an amazing concept. According to trusty old Webster, it means "The interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed." In less flowery language, it's nothing more than "a point of view" and, being the individuals we are, there's never a shortage of those.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an e-mail with a link to something called a "blog."

This was a HUGE mistake, because it wound up costing me several hours of sleep. As it turns out, a "blog" is shorthand for a web log, otherwise known in cyber circles as an online journal. If you can think of a subject, there are probably several thousand blogs discussing it.

As I sifted through these public, but deeply personal journals, I came across vast quantities written by teenagers and young adults discussing what their childhood had been like living through their parents' divorce. Given the topic, you can now understand why I'm still coasting on about four hours of sleep at night. I was amazed. I was intrigued. I was unable to stop reading.

I had made a serious miscalculation and gross oversight. I always knew that there was more than one side to every story involving divorce. I just didn't realize there could be several. For as many people who are directly touched by divorce, there are an equal number of points of view belonging to those whose lives have been forever changed by the fallout.

This was not light reading. Some of the entries were veiled in an almost fragile, dark humor; some of them in deep sorrow with lingering pain and supercharged anger. A smattering were peculiarly absent of any emotion, almost as if the writer hadn't quite decided exactly what she or he felt about the experience. The one constant thread that ran through every blog I've read, is that living through a divorce challenged these writers' preconceived values and feelings toward relationships on just about every level. How could it not?

As I poured over the accounts of these young diarists, I was taken aback by their keen understanding of what was taking place probably long before their parents may have even been aware. Children of all ages always seem to have far more sensitive "emotion detecting" equipment than we care to admit.

Raw emotion, unresolved anger and strong resentment for being placed in the middle, forced to take sides between two people they have loved and trusted most in this world, set the tone of many of the accounts I read.

There was still a lot of pain being processed and dealt with years after Mom and Dad had moved on to new lives and different relationships.

I couldn't help but wonder how my daughter's and son's blogs might read. If I were to have found their thoughts and memories written in the form of a journal, what would surprise me the most? And what details did their dad and I overlook that might have made for an easier passage? I know we tried our best to keep things positive, upbeat and as pain-free as possible, but how far off the mark was our perception of their perspective?

A friend who has not only experienced her own marital breakup, but also is an adult child of divorce, once reminded me there are three sides to divorce: His side, her side and the truth. I would have to agree that's probably accurate. However, when it comes to perspective, each one is different, unique and deserves nothing less than complete respect.

I guess it's a lot like my perception of color. What probably looks like a peach to me, may very well look like a pink to someone else.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker 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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