Thursday, June 29, 2006

Parenting through divorce

This excellent article on gives a wealth of info on children of divorce, including how-tos for parenting, reactions to divorce by age of child, advice for post-divorce dating, and these sobering stats:
One in every two marriages ends in divorce.
Two-thirds of these families include minor children, As a result, about 1 million children each year become "children of divorce."
Divorce is the most common problem children face today. It is more prevalent than drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, or the death of a parent.
Currently, about 37 percent of all American children live with a divorced parent. Before reaching 18, about 25 to 35 percent of American children will spend some time in a stepfamily. Two thirds of these children will have step- or half-siblings.

Stopping divorce before marriage

From USA Today:
More couples are getting premarital education, perhaps thinking it may give their new marriages divorce protection. And new research suggests they may well be right.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A different kind of love

ESPN has an article up on 70s tennis star Roscoe Tanner. I'd never heard of him, to be honest, (my first awareness of tennis started with Ivan Lendl) and I happened on the article for reasons that had nothing to do with tennis or divorce, but this article gives a good look at the devastation that can occur when families (not just marriages) fall apart. According to the article, Tanner has become a Christian; let's pray that his commitment to Christ will lead to real reconciliation and healing between Tanner and his children.

In an interview from her home in Aliso Viejo, Calif., an Orange County suburb, Roscoe Tanner's daughter said, "He's a charmer who will say whatever he needs to get what he wants. I don't care to hear anything he has to say."

Tamara grew up exceptionally close to her father. He attended her soccer games and tennis matches and helped sharpen her skills in practice. But lately, Tamara, now 20, finds herself wondering if those things ever happened.

"All of a sudden one day, he's gone," she said. "And he never came back. The things he's caused our family to go through -- it puts doubts in my mind about how real it was. How could he really love me and not come home?

"He pretty much erased us from his life. I didn't think that was humanly possible."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

More from Graham Greene

From The End of the Affair:

"Always I find when I begin to write there is one character who obstinately will not come alive. There is nothing psychologically false about him, but he sticks, he has to be pushed around, words have to be found for him, all the technical skill I have acquired through the laborious years has to be employed in making him appear alive to my readers. Sometimes I get a sour satisfaction when a reviewer praises him as the best-drawn character in my story: if he has not been drawn he has certainly been dragged. He lies heavily on my mind whenever I start to work like an ill-digested meal on the stomach, robbing me of the pleasure of creation in any scene where he is present. He never does the unexpected thing, he never surprises me, he never takes charge. Every other character helps, he only hinders.

"And yet one cannot do without him. I can imagine a God feeling in just that way about some of us. The saints, one would suppose, in a sense create themselves. They come alive. They are capable of the surprising act or word. They stand outside the plot, unconditioned by it. But we have to be pushed around. We have the obstinancy of nonexistence. We are inextricably bound to the plot, and wearily God forces us, here and there, according to his intention, characters without poetry, without free will, whose only importance is that somewhere, at some time, we help to furnish the scene in which a living character moves and speaks, providing perhaps the saints with the opportunities for their free will."

An unusual Father's Day tribute

From an article by blogger Jimmy Moore:

"I told Christine when I married her over ten years ago that we're cutting the word divorce out of the dictionary because it's not an option. She might have to kill me, but we're not getting a divorce no matter what. :)"

Jimmy shares a heartbreaking and encouraging story about the crazy upbringing and abuse he endured, his desire to break the cycle of abuse with God's grace, and his reconciliation with his father. Great article; go read it!

(Read more of Jimmy's blog here.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What's God doing in my relationships?

Responding to the "Blog News" post Monday, Anonymous said, "What's god got to do with relationships?" That's a good question, Anonymous. I haven't been ignoring you; I just needed a little focused time to give you a thoughtful answer.

First off, let me assure you that you are not anonymous to God. He knows your name, knows exactly how long you're going to live, and even knows how many hairs are on your head (which is actually pretty amazing because this is a moving target--in other words, apparently He's keeping a running count). He knows that secret thing you do that you think no one knows about. He knows you better than you know yourself. The cool thing is, He loves you in spite of it all.

So about God. Most Christians believe that God is inherently relational. We believe in a concept called the Trinity, meaning that God is one god but is composed of three distinct entities: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Don't try to wrap your mind around it. This is why it's called faith. There are simply some things about God that are too hard for our finite human brains to fully comprehend and this is definitely one of them.

God created us as relational beings. In the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of time, Adam had a relationship with God. They took walks together in the garden. Kind of sweet. Still, God decided that Adam needed to have a relationship with another person. He created Eve. This was still in the garden, before sin, when everything was perfect. So God thinks relationships are part of His ideal world for us.

God went a step further with this relationship thing when He became a human being, when God the Son was born into this world as Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus was and is God Himself in human form. In this way, He once again walked and talked with us.

Jesus spent a lot of His time on earth teaching us about God (and who better to do so if He was the real deal?). Some teachers of the Jewish law once asked Him which of God's commands was greatest. Jesus responded: "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength" then He added, "And the second [greatest] is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commands." In other words, if you love God perfectly, you will love others perfectly, and vice versa.

Jesus's best friend on earth, His disciple John, wrote about this in a letter. He said that when you love another person, God is living through you, and that no matter how much you say you love God, if you don't love others, it's all a lie. (See the post about the Graham Greene quote!)

The cool thing about God is that He really does want to have a relationship with us, and that means He gives us the ability to choose whether we want to be in relationship with Him or not. You can certainly choose to turn your back on God, to ignore Him, to marginalize Him, to pretend He doesn't exist. That's one option. If that's the option you choose though, you're on your own in this life. No one to pray to when times are tough, no comfort but your own strength, no joy but your own happiness however temporary. The other option is to choose to be in relationship with Him. I think it's the better option. I think it's a far better option for those of us who have experienced the heartache that accompanies divorce. I'm convinced that God has the only really effective answers to our problems, the only real comfort for our souls, the only real satisfaction for our desires.

Decorating post-divorce

From an article in the Washington Post:

Children add an element of urgency in setting up a new home.

"Men realize the children need to be comfortable. If school-age kids are saying, 'Where is the kitchen table?' or, 'Here's a bed, but where do I put my clothes?' it will hit home sooner," Sember says.

What tangled webs we weave...

Oh dear--that's all I can manage at the moment!

"Although Sam is helping Samantha raise both children, he has no legal rights to the little girl. Steven turns out to be Siena’s biological father—but he has her only for a few days every month.
"On top of it all, Sam and Samantha no longer have a sexual relationship. Though they are still married, Samantha calls the marriage a 'technicality.' On the film’s website, Sam explains, 'What we both want eventually is to live next door to each other raising our children together; we will both live with someone we love.' Since Steven already has a new partner, this would give Siena six parental figures and three homes!"

From the BreakPoint web site.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Graham Greene on love and hate

I'm an acknowledged bookworm. Last week, I went to a booksigning for Anderson Cooper's new book. I was #219 in line to get my book signed, so I had a little time on my hands before my group of 25 was called for our turn, always a dangerous thing for me in a bookstore. Wandering around the store, I picked up a Graham Greene novel that sounded intriguing. Cooper was surprisingly personable, exchanging a few words with nearly everyone in line. He asked about the other book I was carrying and expressed his own enjoyment of Graham Greene's novels.

The reason I love Greene is that he delves unhesitatingly into the doubts and surety, joys and pain of faith and life. Here's a sample from this week's read:

"I have never understood why people who can swallow the enormous improbability of a personal God boggle at a personal Devil. I have known so intimately the way that demon works in my imagination. No statement that Sarah ever made was proof against his cunning doubts, though he would usually wait till she had gone to utter them. He would prompt our quarrels long before they occurred: he was not Sarah's enemy so much as the enemy of love, and isn't that what the devil is supposed to be? I can imagine that if there existed a God who loved, the devil would be driven to destroy even the weakest, the most faulty imitation of that love. Wouldn't he be afraid that the habit of love might grow, and wouldn't he try to trap us all into being traitors, into helping him extinguish love? If there is a God who uses us and makes his saints out of such material as we are, the devil too may have his ambitions; he may dream of training even such a person as myself, even poor Parkis, into being his saints, ready with borrowed fanatacism to destroy love wherever we find it."

No one-size-fits-all solutions

From a chat today with advice columnist Carolyn:

Wondering: I appreciate and agree with the idea that not splitting up with someone you're not really in love/happy with is selfish (that person deserves to be happier, too). I'm wondering if you could comment on that in relationships involving kids (and does age of kids matter?). If both partners are fairly clearly not happy in the relationship, but both feel strongly that they don't want to mess up the kids' lives...? Not being the potential custodial parent particularly sucks, it just isn't the same not living under the same roof as your kids, no matter how stressful staying can be. There is more clear support nowadays for the idea that two happy parents living separately is better for kids than two unhappy ones under the same roof, but I knew that when I was in an unhappy relationship and -still- my reaction was 'yes, I believe that generally, but not for -my- kid' - and now I see a friend going through something similar (worse, because he would likely end up non-custodial). Sorry, not exactly a question...

Carolyn Hax: No, it's fine, I think I understand the question in there. Kids complicate things--immeasurably. Which is why I don't "support" either camp, the stay-for-the-kids or the go-get-happy-for-the-kids. I've seen both decisions up close and -so- much of the choice hinges on the specific personalities/strains/temperaments/life circumstances involved. I guess what happens is that the definition of "selfish" gets a lot more complicated, because you're not thinking "your needs, my needs" anymore, which of course is complicated enough. But kids mean it's yours, mine, theirs--and you are the guardian of theirs. No one can know what will tip his or her own family's scale, much less someone else's.

Staying in contact with former stepfamily

From an advice column focused on divorce: "My wife and I are going through a divorce after 18 years of marriage. We didn't have children; however, she has children and grandchildren from a previous marriage...would it be OK to send [birthday/holiday] cards to her children or grandchildren?"

The importance of fathers

From a Father's Day column: "Children recover more rapidly from the emotional trauma of parents' separation when they maintain close ties with their fathers. The continuing involvement of divorced fathers in families where mothers maintain physical custody has become recognized as an important mediating factor in the adjustment and well being of children of divorce."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it

Stop and think for a moment of the ways God shows His love for you. If you need to, pull out a piece of paper and begin listing down all the things God does – big and small – to show you His love. Now tuck that list away in a safe place. The next time you wonder if anyone loves you, or what exactly love is, or whether God is for real, you can pull that list out and remind yourself of the greatest love you’ll ever know.

In Isaiah 54:10, your loving Father says, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” This is a love you can cling to. This is a love that won’t fade when you’re no longer a cute little chick magnet, or when a new spouse and stepkids come along. There is nothing you can do to lose God’s love; and there is nothing you can do to get God to love you more, because He already loves you perfectly and completely.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Blog news

Thanks to Eve Tushnet for the USA Today editorial mention!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Putting on an act

From an interview with Robert Emery, author of a book, The Truth About Children and Divorce:

"I found ... that all the advice I'd given was true, but it was a lot harder to follow than I realized.
The hard part was being able to step back from hurt, pain and grief and really put your children first, bite your tongue, control your anger. Sometimes, it's putting on an act for your kids. That may seem impossible or disingenuous; it's not. It's a reason and a justification."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dearly beloved

"What would happen if people had to own up to separation?" This is the question asked by a young documentary film maker, Thomas Collardeau, in his film The Parting. We make wedding vows in the context of community; what if we had to dissolve them in front of our closest friends and family?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

NPR on divorce and moving

"Judges say it is now one of the hardest decisions they have to make. Just a decade ago, most divorces ended with one parent -- usually the mother -- getting sole custody. Courts would almost always allow the mother to move, as long as she could prove she wasn't motivated by spite. Judges generally believed that if the mother was the primary caretaker, keeping her happy would ultimately benefit the kids as well.

"But with a growing number of parents today sharing custody, and with new research showing the importance of children staying connected to both parents, many courts are now raising the bar."

Read the whole article here.

Marketing to Generation Ex

From a NYTimes article on Anthropologie:

"ON a philosophical level, there is something about Anthropologie that is well intentioned but makes me profoundly depressed. The old bicycles, the old-fashioned Marvis toothpaste, the etched-glass candleholders, the calico pajama sets, the teacups and saucers — all are the trappings of a grandparent's or a parent's home.

"But the 30-something generation that shops at Anthropologie, among the first to be widely defined as children of divorce, no longer has access to those homes, which have long since been dispersed. There is no longevity in their parents' houses. The romantically weathered chests of drawers and stacks of pristinely aged National Geographic magazines were all put into storage, sold or dispersed among the various interested parties.

"This is where Anthropologie steps in: It helps the shopper create the illusion of household continuity by allowing her to reimagine a place where Grandma might leave out her pre-fluoride tooth powder, to simulate a life in which Mom and Dad still live together in a house with European teacups and flocked bedspreads. In a world of Anthropologie furnishings and clothing, the consumers can reclaim lost childhoods, lost marriages, lost virginities. The store's philosophy takes the colloquial and sad world of regrets and realities and wraps it up in a swath of vintage calico, tied with a satin bow."

Good news for dogs

"When it comes to divorce cases, a Spanish court has stated that dogs should not be treated like children..."

Cynical or smart?

I can't decide. The latest Sweet Potato Queen book is called The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide. Sounded pretty horrible to me until I read the entire AP article, which offered two insightful quotes by author Jill Conner Browne: "If you read both ends of it and you pay attention, you can avoid whichever end of it you want to avoid. If just reading about a wedding scares you, you should run for the hills;" and "Weddings take on lives of their own. They really have nothing to do with marriage. Five minutes after the wedding you are no longer the bride. You are just a wife married to that husband and it is one of the ruder awakenings that the universe has to offer."

Advice for school

Summarized from an education advice column:
  • Be united with your ex in love for the child and rules.
  • Let the school know and give the necessary emergency contact info
  • Let the school know how to handle reports cards and other school records
  • Establish routines
  • Establish new traditions
  • Talk regularly
  • Get help when needed

NPR on God and divorce

NPR's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly did a story Friday on adults who were children of divorce and the impact on their spiritual lives. Here's an excerpt:

"Jen says her church did nothing when she was a kid to help her cope with the pain of her parents' divorce. That's changing now, thanks to the efforts of adults who still suffer from their own parents' breakup. They hope the new church-based programs for today's children of divorce will assure them that the love of God will be a constant in an otherwise turbulent time."

Read the whole transcript here.