Monday, January 28, 2008

One step removed...or not

Every divorce blog out there has been linking to this new study that says divorced people are less likely to be taken care of by their children as they age. I haven't linked to it because I had yet to see anyone saying anything that seemed particularly insightful...until now. Elizabeth Marquardt published an op-ed piece in yesterday's Washington Post on the supposed trend. Here's a short excerpt:

In his study, Temple University's Davey found that aging stepparents were only half as likely as biological parents to receive care from grown children. "Society does not yet have a clear set of expectations for stepchildren's responsibility," he observed.

You can say that again. All stepchildren and stepparents forge a relationship in their own way. Some become deeply attached, some are virtually strangers, many fall somewhere in between. Even when stepchildren and stepparents are close, the deep ambiguity of the relationship can make losing a stepparent to death or divorce a profoundly lonely experience for the child. A friend told me about a colleague who had recently nursed her beloved stepmother, a woman she had grown up with, during a long illness. Even as she mourned her stepmother's death, the woman was mystified and hurt by the lack of support she had received from many friends and co-workers, who'd wondered why she would go out of her way to provide long-term, hands-on care to someone who was "only" a stepmother.

Her story was all too familiar to me. When I was 13, my beloved stepfather took his own life. He and my mother had been divorced for several years, but from the time I was 3 years old until they separated when I was 9, he had been my in-the-home father, a man I'd fallen in love with not long after my mother had. His death was devastating for all of us, but my immense grief, which stretched through my teenage years and into my 20s, was made all the more lonely and isolating because almost no one around me -- friends, teachers, many members of my extended family -- recognized that I'd lost anyone of importance at all.

There are parents who leave, never to be heard from again, who are complete strangers to their natural children. I think we're usually apt to admire children who can overlook years of neglect to care for a parent who falls into this category. By the same token, as Marquardt points out, there are stepparents who hold as deep or deeper a relationship with their stepchildren than do the children's absent natural parent.

Some time ago, I blogged here about the different words we sometimes use to define step relationships. Those words often reveal the different levels of our connectedness to our family members. Until now, no one seemed to be considering this study in light of the varying degrees of connection that children have with their stepfamilies in particular.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Who has custody of his privacy?

Here's a twist on the old "competing worldviews" issue that children of divorce often face with their parents:

The Boldts began arguing over custody when their child was 4; custody eventually was granted to the father. Their dispute over circumcision began when the boy was 9, after James Boldt converted to Judaism and he wanted the child to be circumcised as part of the faith.

The father contends their son wants to be circumcised; the mother says the boy opposes it.

The family court judge has sent this one to trial court. I'm sure they'll resolve it somehow, but really, there has to be a better solution than one that subjects an almost teenage boy to having the entire world know about the status of his foreskin.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ACOD's on Oprah

Today's Oprah features adult children of divorce. A kind friend is TIVOing the episode for me. In the meantime, check out the online material at Oprah's web site.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Over the weekend, I got the cover art for the book. I really like it! As my friend Lori noted, it captures a sense of family as well as a hint of loss. Would love to hear your feedback!

February is Child of Divorce Month at the Movies

Thanks to Catherine for the tip about another new movie with a February release date featuring a child of divorce, Definitely, Maybe:
Ryan Reynolds stars as Will Hayes, a 30-something Manhattan dad in the midst of a divorce when his 10 year-old daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin), starts to question him about his life before marriage. Maya wants to know absolutely everything about how her parents met and fell in love.

Apparently, what ensues is a movie version of How I Met Your Mother. Speaking of sitcoms, Ryan Reynolds, who plays the dad in this movie, also starred in one of my favorite now-defunct TV comedies, Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Healing on film

Sorry for the long silence on the blog. The baby dog is indeed a baby with a teeny-tiny baby bladder that needs to be relieved several times each night still, although I swear I am watching him grow right before my eyes--I think he's doubled in size in the week and a half that I've had him! He's a cutie pie, but, boy, could I use a full night of uninterrupted sleep!

Catching up on my inbox, I saw a message about a limited-release Christian movie about divorce scheduled to hit select theaters the day after Valentine's Day. According to Christian Post, Me & You, Us, Forever "will look at the damaging reality of divorce on spouses, children, families and friends as it aims to put forth a message for the hurting that healing is possible." The film is billed as a love story, interrupted by thirty years. Looks interesting.

To see a list of theaters that are showing this movie, click here for the official movie web site. No one in Virginia is showing it yet, so if you happen to see it in your area, check in here and let us know what you thought.