One of my favorite blogs ever, Rants From Mommyland, ran a Domestic Enemies series awhile back. The contributors would list the people whose random comments with respect to their children absolutely made them so crazy they felt like their eyeballs might burst. I liked it, because it made me realize I wasn't alone. Many of us parents occasionally find ourselves on the receiving end of some fairly spectacular douchebaggery. Sometimes it's the mom of a biracial child who gets asked "What is your son? Is he yours?" Sometimes it's the parent of a special-needs child who gets asked what is "wrong with" the child, right in front of the child, who can understand everything that's being said. People are sometimes complete jackholes without even knowing it, because so often we (I include myself because I know I've said some things that mortify me in retrospect) just aren't thinking.
When I was rather pregnant with Tink, I was at the grocery store with Tweak, who was about 16 months old, and an older lady came up to me and asked how far apart my kids were going to be. I told her 19 months, and she looked at me in horror and said, "Well, he's still going to need a lot of care!" I tried to laugh it off and said thankfully we weren't planning to enlist him in the Army when the younger one arrived, and she just snorted and said, "You young people don't know anything," and then she stalked off and hopped on her broom and flew away, cackling loudly. Of course, now I see people who are obviously about to have close-spaced kids and smile brightly and tell them how AWESOME it's going to be, only I'm totally lying because sometimes it sucks rancid monkey toes. But once the cow is out of the barn it seems like you can either say positive things or keep your pie-hole shut.
Up until I got divorced, that was the kind of thing that got my knickers in a bunch. Now, it's the stupid shit people say about divorce in front of kids.
Case one: Tweak comes home and tells me that a little girl in his class told him that because his parents were divorced, it meant we must be weird or crazy, because those are the only people who get divorced. I wonder where she got that?
Case two: We're lounging at the pool, which we just joined, and a mom of another kid at my kids' school says she doesn't understand how her down-the-street neighbor's kid got suspended from school for drugs, because he was always such a smart kid, never any problems, etc., "And his parents are still together, so he's not the product of a broken home." Cue Tweak asking me loudly what a broken home is.
Excuse me. I'll just be a moment.
OK, I feel better now. Where were we? Oh, yes, it was super-helpful, because the boy isn't anxious enough. I fake-named him after the "Tweek" character on South Park (which I usually don't watch, not because I don't think it's funny, but because I think I might go to hell for thinking it's funny). He's really bright and has a huge heart, but you could power a small subdivision with his agitation sometimes.
Mostly both kids do really well with the divorce now. Their dad and I get along as co-parents, and we make it a point to support each other and sit next to each other at school plays, soccer games, and such, so that they don't feel tense or like they have to manage the situation. And, it has been over 3 years since the split, so most of the negativity has drained off by this point. It's about them, not us.
But. Tweak is already tightly wound, and I have NO idea where he gets it (no, seriously, he gets it 100% from me). My ex husband and I have worked very hard to create security and stability for our kids, and to tell and show them over and over how much we both love them and will always be here for them, how that will never change, etc. We have a counselor solely for the purpose of making sure we don't screw up these kids, and I, so presumably this also applies to my ex, sometimes bite my tongue near in half to keep the snark from boiling forth when I feel it coming on. It takes a lot of work, but I'm proud of how well the kids have adapted.
|He's VERY well-adjusted.|
Now that I've calmed down a little, I'm actually encouraged to see that Tweak has taken it all in stride. I suggested to Tweak that people who say mean things about other people are usually pretty worried about something that's going on with themselves, so the mean comments say more about them than you. And I said that a broken home was how some people talked about a family where the parents divorce and don't put the kids ahead of their own feelings, so that the kids feel like they're being pulled between both parents. He said, "You and Daddy don't do that, and you're not stupid or crazy, either." Strong praise.
Look, I totally understand how people don't want to have to explain to their kids that people get divorced, thus begging the question about whether it's going to happen to them. And it's not like I haven't read the statistics about how divorce makes a child 23.327% more likely to end up turning tricks in an alley for crack rock by his 18th birthday. They scare the daylights out of me. But none of that is helpful to my children.
Truthfully, I know that in neither of these instances was there any ill intent on the part of any adults, and I know I'm a tad bit hypersensitive about this topic, in the same way that the Titanic was a tad bit of a shipwreck. And, I've totally said asinine things in the past without realizing what someone might have been going through or how it might have made them feel. I just want to offer up a public service announcement that perfectly nice people get divorced all the time, and it sucks for them and their kids, and anything we could be saying that doesn't make it suckier would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.