Spoiled Children of Divorce

Good Advice

Was stunned to actually read a column in this morning’s newspaper concerning divorce.  A guy writes an advice column called “Male Call.” Today’s article is titled “Beware if he’s just not that into your kid.”  The answer is right on and it’s even humorous.  A woman, turning 30 and obviously desperate, writes in that she’s in a relationship with a guy who really wants kids, but when she watches him with her son from a previous marriage she observes that they don’t seem to get along.  “Male Call” warns her about how if she marries this guy and has kids that her kids will live in the “two tiered” household where the son from the previous relationship will always feel left out.  “Say you do choose to procreate with this fellow.  Will it end up being a two-tiered family?  As in, your child is merely tolerated, but the new ones are the ‘real’ family?  That’s an excellent recipe for ‘acting out’ on the part of your child, also known as ‘Cage Match With Step-dad’ after he/she reaches puberty.

It’s interesting how the sexes understand different parts of parenting.  To hand it to this mother, she is asking.  A Father would never ask for the advice in the first place.  He would just marry a woman and figure that she and the kids can sort it out on their own.  You notice that step-mothers never mention anything about their husbands as being part of the problem.  Everything is blamed on the kid and the ex-wife.  (That’s because of money, of course).  But concerning the advice for understanding the actual problem I think I might recommend deferring to the guys.  They aren’t afraid to look into the future and see an unsolvable problem.

From the last paragraph in this column is:  “So we’re not really sure there is a way to ‘ease the transition’ for the boyfriend.  He either gets along with your kid, or he doesn’t.  And if he doesn’t maybe you should give this a little more time before deciding to have another child.”  How nice to be asking this question before taking more big leaps in the relationship.  How nice to wait and see and give it more time.

Of course, with women, I think there is an added power control issue within a relationship.  If she rushes in and adds a child of her own to the mix then she has a lot more control in all the relationships.

I remember going to a sort of Lilith fest for writers in the San Francisco Bay area one year.  Not that I’m a writer but at that point I really wanted to be.  The key speaker was a remarkably witty, funny person and she made a point out of pointing out that her half brother or sister (can’t remember which) simply never got over her Mother being in their lives.  She, of course, was the Golden Girl who grew up with her own Mother and her own Father and her own House. And these others were just visitors who made everyone grumpy.  And, as an adult, still, she is still defensive about how must easier she had it than her siblings with that good old “Oh come on, can’t we just get along?”

Kind of funny how a writer who writes mostly about family issues just doesn’t want to discuss a problem that anyone else in her family is having.

Anyway, Mr. Male Call, hope you aren’t offended that I’ve linked to you from my hostile blog about the unsolved problems of the world.  I hope you get syndicated.  Thanks for the humor, too.  I strongly urge everyone entering into a step- situation to take martial arts classes too.

Exemplary Children of Divorce – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was a Child of Divorce.  Her biography is on Wikipedia and here.  Her Father was a Stockbroker who had many affairs and her parents split when Jacqueline was 10 years old.  Jacqueline had one younger sister, Lee, with whom she had both a very close relationship and intense rivalry.  The sisters lived with both parents.   The Mother remarried to an heir to the Standard Oil fortune two years later and had two more children who became Jacqui’s half sister and half brother.

The link given above says this about how the Divorce possibly affected Jackie:

Her parents’ angry quarrels developed Jacqueline’s ability to tune out unpleasant things—a skill she would employ in her own marriages—and her penchant to escape into literature, art, fantasy, and horses. Her parents’ divorce left her with deep insecurities and a gnawing emptiness that haunted her, fueling her needs to purchase extravagantly and to marry men of wealth.

Jacqueline Bouvier graduated college and then met John Kennedy in 1951 or 52.  They married a year and half later.  The couple had a miscarriage and a still-birth before daughter Caroline and son John were born in 1957 and 1960.  Another son was born in 1963 but unfortunately died a couple of days later.

Jacqueline Kennedy became the First Lady of the United States  in 1961 when her Husband took office.  She was a great Hostess and was very popular.

President Kennedy was tragically assassinated on Nov. 22, 1964 in Texas.

Jackie remarried to Greek  Shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis in October, 1968.  The couple eventually separated but never divorced.  Onassis died in 1975.

Jackie went on to have a successful publishing career.  She found a solid relationship after the age of 50.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis passed away on May 19, 1994 from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“Please Give”

Movie time.  I saw some really interesting female Children of Divorce characters in an indie movie this week-end.  The movie is called Please Give.  The plot centers around a New York family of fairly contented well-adjusted people who still manage to crack good jokes.  It actually seems to be a movie about people to whom nothing ever happens.  The Children of D are part of a side story.  They are the ones who the family watches and says, “At least we don’t have it that bad.”

The couple is played by Catherine Keener and I’m sorry I don’t know the Actors’ name who played the husband . I don’t know the names of any of the other actors, basically, the whole cast is great and Keener was the reason why I went to see the movie.  At any rate, Keener and her Husband are sort of hitting midlife and are trying to figure out where to go from now.  Keener’s having some ethics problems from working as a “Dealer.”  Her husband is having some problems with why he doesn’t have a problem with the ethics problem.  They own a business, a home, have a daughter, have built their lives well and now are ready to make some mistakes in order to open their hearts once again. Throughout the movie the characters struggle with the ideas of give and take in what is generally pretty funny New Yorker openness. In the end they learn some valuable lessons and make some great changes in their outlooks.

But, basically, the movie would be really dopey without the additional drama from “the catastrophic family” who exists on the sideline. These are the neighbors in the apartment next door.

The “catastrophic family” is basically a shell of what’s left over from a nuclear family.  The parent generation is gone and the Grandparent and Children are left.  The “couple to whom nothing ever happens” has bought an apartment from the Grandmother of the Catastrophic Family next door.  The old woman is really mean and really old and everybody is basically waiting for her to die.  The couple plans to renovate and expand their apartment into hers which is a cold-blooded thing to be lording over your next door neighbor.

The two granddaughters take care of the Grandmother.  These are the Children of Divorce characters.  They are two sisters in their 20s or early 30s.  Warning: I’m putting in some spoilers here but am not giving the ending.  The girls’ Father abandonned the family long ago.  The Mother committed suicide when the oldest daughter was 20 and the youngest daughter was 15.  It’s very clear to everyone in the story why the Mother committed suicide after watching the Grandmother complain and insult people. It’s not real clear why the younger daughter takes such good care of her aside from the fact that there must still be some angels living in Manhattan.  Go figure.  Oh yeah, and the big “D”?  It’s never mentioned.  That’s right, the word “Divorce” never comes up.  The Father has abandoned the family.  The Mother commits suicide and the reason that’s discussed in her bad Mommy situation.  If “D” were mentioned, there would have been no funding.  Divorced parents and even kids aren’t going to pay good money to see that crap.  (So negative.)

The two daughters live together in a cruddy apartment and bicker about how to cook food in the microwave.  Both work in girly caretaker vocations.  They are probably Community College educated.  At the beginning of the movie they are both single.  The oldest has just been dumped.  The youngest seems fated to become an old spinster.  Otherwise, they seem trapped in the cocoon of a childhood which was taken away from them bit by bit.

The youngest is a Medical Tech who takes Mammograms all day.  That seems to be a great metaphor for the fact that she is extremely loving and caring and visits her Bitchy Grandmother almost every day after work without complaining.  Through her depressing work she seems to be facing her Mother’s death everyday and has no interest in going out to view the changing autumn leaves the way everyone else in the city seems to.  Beauty?  What Beauty?

The oldest daughter gives facials in a salon.  She’s a Bitch but everyone seems to like her because she is pretty.  She maintains a very phoney looking tan.  She can’t stand her Grandmother, stays away from her and argues very coldly with her meanness. Because of that resistance she seems to be in danger of becoming just like the old woman.

In the end, the Grandmother dies, and the two families sort of merge emotionally through a couple of moments of true giving.  All the Characters enjoy the best possible ending and that’s all that really matters to me these days.

~The End~

Dear Abby on Competing Stepsisters
April 17, 2010, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Abandonment, Birth Order, siblings, step-siblings, Stepfamilies, Uncategorized

As usual, the woman who now writes the Dear Abby column avoids talking about the trauma of divorce for children.

In today’s column there is a letter from a 16 year old girl whose stepsister, also age 16, stole her boyfriend.  The Dear Abby writer avoided the stepfamily discussion altogether and said that this is just how women treat each other.  She recommended focusing the hatred and anger that the young girl has for her ruthless, disrespectful stepsister on the boy.  Men are evil, after all.  What can a lady do?  If you never let a guy get under your skin, expect him to love you back, not deceive you, how will you ever be able to trust anyone enough to get married?

This thinking angers me out of my mind, of course.  It is out-of-date. It’s basically silly and stupid and is obviously written for divorced parents to read.  It’s the reason why people get married for the wrong reasons in the first place and have to get divorced in the second place.  And, it doesn’t address the child’s problems.

It is highly likely that a Child of Divorce is witnessing how awful Men are because she probably doesn’t live with her own Father and has feelings of abandonment.  She might see him once a week the way that many kids see an uncle.  He might not pay alimony on time.  He might always be late to pick her up.  He might cancel meetings in order to do “fun stuff” that he would rather do.

The letter doesn’t say which parent the girl lives with so I don’t have a clue what her parents are like other than that she lives in a mixed home.  It does say that she has to share her bedroom with the stepsister on the week ends when the stepsister visits.

There are all kinds of particulars that I’d be curious about before telling the girl anything.  I get it that the Abby lady doesn’t have time to go into all this.  I guess that newspaper columnists just forgot to ever mention anything having to do with Divorce because it takes up too much space.   Abby doesn’t need to fiddle with that, at any rate.  She doesn’t wonder what it feels like for a 16-year old girl to not only have her bedroom invaded every week-end by a stranger, but to have that stranger steal her boyfriend.  They are already competing for attention from their parents not only with each other but with the step-parent.  They have probably witnessed their parents acting this way.  Is this a way for the visiting stepsister to become the Alpha female in a household in which she doesn’t belong?

The two girls are even going to the same school and taking the same classes together so they are always in each other’s face!  For the one girl to betray the other one so disrespectfully there is really something bad going on here.  Women should not be expected to treat each other like this.  I certainly hope this doesn’t become a habit for the girl’s relationships with both men and women in the future.

The girl says that her step-sister is very beautiful.  A 16-year old girl who doesn’t feel beautiful is already needing some good advice. This is the superficial stuff, though.

It is good advice to tell a young woman to be strong and to brush it off.  Siblings have enough of a problem with this kind of competitive behavior.  With step-siblings there is an extra tension added in because deep down everyone knows this is a relationship that could fall apart at any time.

A kid from a divorced family who is already dealing with ten times the boundary issues that a kid from an intact family has.   He needs more advice.

I’ll retype the letter and response:

Dear Abby:

My stepsister stole my boyfriend and I am so mad I am going crazy.  She’s very attractive and has no problem finding boyfriends.  She did not have to do this.  I am sure she did it out of spite.

We’re both 16, go to the same school and have several classes together, so I can’t avoid her.  We also have to share a room every other weekend when she’s here.

I have so much hate and anger toward her.  I don’t know how to deal with it.

–Hates Her in New Mexico

Dear Hate Her:

I don’t think there is a single woman reading your letter who hasn’t felt the same way you do at one time or another in her life.  Short of slipping a man a knockout drug, he can’t be “kidnapped.”  He is responsible for making his own decisions.  Yes, your stepsister might not have discouraged him.  She may have even thrown herself at him.  But what happened was of his own free will.