Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Parent Child Reunion

In the year my parents divorced, the divorce rate was was 3.5% per 1,000 American citizens, up from 2.5% just four years earlier. By the time I had filed my first divorce, in 2000, the rate had climbed to 19% per 1,000 American citizens. At the time of my second divorce, the rate had dipped nearly 1/2% to 18.47% per 1000 American citizens. These numbers are from the National Center For Family and Marriage Research.

My parents had two children between them when they divorced, a younger sister and myself, aged three years old at the time. I had no children in my first marriage, and two wonderful daughters in my second marriage. Statistics aside, the toll on the children from a broken marriage is extremely difficult, and the damage can last a lifetime. I am not going to get lost in numbers with the number of affected children, but rather reflect on my own situation comparatively, as it relates to a news story that came across my feed today.

I get several posts every day from the various issues that I advocate for. In this case, it was a post involving the relationship between a parent and child. The genders of either do not matter, as an unnatural relationship between a parent and a child, resulting in distance and ill feelings, have no limit to gender of either parent or child.

The post read, “I just wanted to say because of this page (the advocate social media source this story came from), I reached out to my parent. It has been years since we talked, and I used to attack them, because I didn’t understand why they left. That no longer matters really. What matters is re-establishing our relationship, getting to know each other again. We have been messaging almost daily. It turns out, they are the parent I always wished they had been. I was just never given the chance to know them.”

Many of the posts that come from this social media page, are often of despair or surrender, a parent no longer willing or able to sustain the unfair and unnatural attacks, behaviors, and attitudes from someone who naturally should have love for their parent without limits. The parent in this situation often comes to the decision, they can no longer live under those circumstances, facing the most difficult decisions of their lives from surrendering their rights as a parent, to suicide. No parent should ever feel this way.

As someone who has experience as both an adult child of a divorce (ACOD), and a divorced parent himself, I frequently answer posts pertaining to the above desperate situation with nothing less than a “never give up on your child” response. And here is why.

As the writer said, they have no idea why that parent was disliked so much by them. There was likely influence by the custodial parent, extended family, and others such as friends and other acquaintances, something referred to as a “flying monkey” (a reference to the Wizard Of Oz and the flying monkeys doing the wicked witch’s dirty work).

But as the child gets older, either by opportunity or even curiosity, questions arise about what really happened.

There are some parents who expect a “switch to flip” once a child turns 18 and becomes independent, that somehow, the door to the parent/child relationship should swing wide open and they can return immediately to a normal parent/child relationship. I am not saying it cannot, but it is not likely. It could take years. And yes, that means the parent must hold out hope just a bit longer. It is NEVER the child’s fault, for feeling the negativity towards a parent was unnaturally created by the other parent or someone else. But it is the non-custodial parent’s fault, if that parent gives up. And again, as an ACOD, I am glad that my father never gave up. It seemed like he had. But just as the person who had wrote the above post, there was more to the situation than I knew. And it took time, just as it did for the writer above, to learn that “more.”

These situations can have happy endings, but they take time, patience, and communication. I was into my mid-20’s when my father and I finally made the direction to establishing what I called a “new” relationship. I told him, I needed a father, and he was not there. I no longer needed that father, but I was willing to let him back into my life. Literally, the second half of my life, we did more than make amends. We made memories. Unable to make up for my lost childhood, he made up for that time with his two granddaughters. And in a time when he needed me most, I was there as he bravely fought cancer, a battle he would eventually lose.

There were lessons that I learned from my father’s decisions in his divorce, along with my behaviors and responses to his decisions, vowing never to allow my daughters to be manipulated against me by anyone, especially “flying monkeys”, never to allow my daughters to feel that I left them, and to be there for them, whenever they needed me. In our married family or divorced, my daughters will always hear and know, that I love them.

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