Spoiled Children of Divorce

Exemplary Children of Divorce – E.O. Wilson

In 1937, his parents divorced and he was passed from relative to relative before being returned to his alcoholic father, experiences that profoundly shaped his life. ‘A nomadic existence made Nature my companion of choice, because the outdoors was the one part of my world I perceived to hold rock steady. Animals and plants I could count on; human relationships were more difficult.’


Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson whose parents divorced when he was 7 years old found a creative outlet for his expression through the life style brought on by his parents’ divorce.  The year of the divorce he was blinded in one eye during a fishing accident.  The eyesight in his other eye began to lose vision and he began to lose the ability to hear in the upper registers, so lost the ability to hear bird songs.

Because he obviously is incredibly adaptable (and adaptable) he continued his love of the observation of nature by focusing on the study of insects later on in college.  They were small and could be observed close up.

Exemplary Children of Divorce – Dian Fossey

Dian Fossey is considered one of Louis “Leakey’s Angels.” Louis Leakey was a famous Archaeologist who encouraged 3 women to work with primates in order to understand their behaviors. These women include Jane Goodall who works with Chimpanzees and Birute Galdikas who works with Orangutans and Dian Fossey who worked with Gorillas. Of these women it’s Dian Fossey who was the Child of Divorce. (I have since realized that Jane Goodall is from Divorce as well and have added a post for her).  Although these women seem to have an innate understanding of animals that few possess it would be understandable that Children of Divorce would turn to animals to compensate for the simple, unconditional love and understanding that’s lacking in their own lives. Unfortunately, pets are often considered too much of a burden in single parent households.

Fossey was born in San Francisco, California in 1932. I’m not sure about this but I think her parents divorced when she was around 4 years old. Her Mother remarried a year later when Dian was five. Fossey was emotionally closest to her Father but he was a sailor in the Navy and left after the Divorce. She wasn’t close to her Mother or Step-Father, a building contractor who made her eat in the kitchen with the servants. She loved animals but wasn’t allowed to have any after her one Goldfish died. Opposing her Step-Father’s wishes that she go to secretarial school, Fossey first went to school to become a Veterinarian but switched to Occupational Therapy. She worked at a Hospital for a while and eventually met Louis Leakey who helped her to go on to earn a Ph.d. in Zoology at Cambridge University and to work with the Gorillas.

Fossey had a complicated love life and was considered an eccentric personality by some. She seems to have been caught up by all kinds of political problems with the Tourist Industry and with Poachers in Africa. She was murdered on Dec. 26, 1985 in Rwanda. No one knows for sure who her murder may have been. Fossey left her estate to a fund to protect the Gorillas but her Mother contested the will and won.

Dian Fossey was the 1st human to have friendly contact with a gorilla and the first to study the Mountain Gorillas long term. Her autobiography Gorillas in the Mist was made into a movie. Farley Mowat wrote a book about her called Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey in which he explores reasons for her death.

From Wikipedia:

Dian Fossey is interred at a site in Rwanda that she herself had constructed for her dead gorilla friends. She believed that all beings had the same rights and that they needed to be treated with the same respect as humans. She was buried in the gorilla graveyard next to Digit, who was killed and beheaded in 1978, and near many gorillas killed by poachers.

Household Pets
February 11, 2008, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Household Pets | Tags:

Watching Ellen Degeneres bawling her head off on her TV show over a puppy she gave away recently shows how she balanced out the insecurities of being in a family where  “Unconditional Love” is a transient and ephemeral concept.  Children of D know that bonds between people are not permanent and that family members are replaceable.

The whole issue around Household Pets is a big one for Children of D.  Most  lose our pets at the time of the divorce due to change of housing, and overwhelmed parents who are “being practical”,  and due to money problems. I lived next door to a single Mother, though, who “cured” her son of his Neo-Nazi phase by insisting on keeping a whole menagerie in the apartment. The animals were covered with fleas and scabies and the Mother and Son were still pretty dysfunctional people to live next door to, but the son had gotten over his Neo-Nazi phase. So, I think pets can really calm a kid down and keep his heart open while everything else is going wrong.

My step-sister’s Dog went back to the Humane Society and she and her brother were sent to exclusive private boarding schools so they would be shielded from the first year of the Divorce. They were miserable at the schools and when they came back they bitched even more about their poverty. They were Army Brats who had traveled most of their childhoods so this uprootedness wasn’t partarly odd for them. But when they came back their Mother had upgraded their living environment to my family’s old neighborhood. Losing a dog in favor of a better zipcode is not a bad trade-off. They hadn’t had the Dog for very long anyway. I’m sure the SPCA has astonishing statistics about how many of their drop-offs are due to Divorce.

My Brother & I went through a completely different story.  We lost our pets as well but the loss was considered exceptional because we had lived a stable life. We had two cats and a dog.  The dog, a standard Poodle had been in the family  since I was a toddler and was really old.  By the time that my Father walked out he could barely stand, so my Mother on a binge called the Veterinarian to take the Dog in to put down. Driving drunk wasn’t a problem for her but she knew that being seen that drunk in front of the vet was embarrassing. My brother had just been given his license so he and I took the dog to the Vet’s office. It was the only time I had ever seen the Dog go to the Vet’s without completely trembling either because he was in so much discomfort or because my Mother wasn’t there, who knows. When we got home my Mother screamed her head off for days saying that I had no feelings and knew nothing of her pain, lots of talk like that. My Brother, whose lack of accurate memory skills is actually a blessing, still insists to this day that he went alone to the vets, that the burden was completely on him. There tends to be a lot of misplaced heroism in Families of D. Haven’t read much about birth order. I do remember the same distortion of facts coming from my step-sister who was the eldest in her family.  The arrogance of being oldest plus all the stifled rage really can do a number on bending of reality.

The cats lasted for about another half year. We sold the house and moved into a motel for a couple of months while waiting for a condominium to be built. The cats didn’t deal well with the transitions. My Mother’s cat was a Manx.  That’s a cat without a tail and a constantly unwiped behind. I had a wild feral cat that constantly ran away. Once we moved into the Condominium my Mother took both away to the Humane Society during the day while I was at School. She didn’t tell me until I asked at Dinner where my cat was. I knew he would be gassed because he wouldn’t be able to stand the cage. I’m sure my Mother went on another binge, drunk and screaming at me for a week for complaining about her behavior.

I’ve had one pet as an adult. I inherited a Burmese cat my Mother got from the Humane Society and developed a completely obsessive, maniacal love for it. After one unfortunate event in my life I sort of went nuts constantly worrying that something was going to happen to this cat.

Is there a DSM # for this? I’m sure it could be tucked below the one for Traumatized Children of Divorce:

DSM VII, Rev., 2045 A.D. (pertinent addition):

–Children of D., Traumatized: 666.666.666

–Irrationally fearful something will happen to the Household Pet: 666.666.666.01

–Obsessive Ark Building for Flooding due to Global Warming:  666.666.666.02