I think most of us are pretty aware of the negative impact divorce has on children. Even outside the ocean of studies on the topic, our entertainment tells us that the solution to the problems of divorce is to simply undo the divorce. Because Hollywood is on an "I think I'll fuck this beehive" level of stupid. As a person who not only grew up with it, but has been through one himself in adulthood, I can tell you that divorce isn't all bad. No, I'm not telling you that your kids will be better people if you break up with your spouse; I'm saying that there are at least some small puddles of clean water in that emotional sewer. I think many children of divorced parents can back me up when I say ...
When you're a kid, life boils down to two sets of rules: home and school. If you were the church-going type, there was a third group set aside for Sundays, but that was just the basic no cursing, no farting, and no racial slurs until we get to grandma's. That was more of a "when in Rome" situation than a daily occurrence.
It's easy to grasp, because the idea is a matter of "This is how I act in the house, and this is how I act in public." I don't think a lot of people realize just how many other sets of rules there are until we hit those big milestones like driving a car, starting a career, or going to your first strip bar. How you act at home isn't how you act at work. How you act around your co-workers isn't how you act in front of a customer. And don't even get me started on the dos and don'ts of lighting farts while driving.
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I have seven ass warrants across the U.S.
Children of divorced parents get a massive dose of this much earlier than everyone else, and I don't think that's a bad thing. That's not to say it isn't jarring, but learning to adapt at a younger age gives them foresight into life that they just don't get anywhere else. And it's pretty much guaranteed to happen -- mom and dad went their separate ways because of irreparable disagreements. (Note: I'm not talking about divorces caused by abuse or violence in this article.) So when the kids start spending time at both houses, they quickly realize that the rules are no longer a collaborative effort. As long as they're not damaging the children, neither parent needs permission or compromise from the other.
Instead of an all-encompassing set of home rules, the kids are now adapting to subsets between the two. This is huge, because it softens or eliminates the shock involved when entering the real world and discovering, "Holy shit, if I act like my normal self out here, I'm going to be fired or thrown in jail for public nudity!" By the time those milestones roll around, they've already been broken in on the realities of modifying their behavior according to which environment they're in. That dude being hauled out of the club screaming "This is discrimination!" probably had parents with a great marriage.
"Go home to your perfect family, asshole."
If there's one thing that sets every parent off, regardless of morals or their own questionable examples, it's catching their kid lying to them. We're used to living in a world full of manipulative cockdongs, but we need to be able to trust the little bastards that shot out of our crotches. For that reason, we do our best to teach them to be totally honest and open. Thankfully, every family sitcom in the world backs us up -- hell, even the morally corrupt House treats lying as an offense worse than murder.
The part that's hard for a kid to understand is that there's a difference between lying and holding back information, and the unfortunate part is that it takes practice to master. Here's a good example: When I was 10, I was having a light-hearted conversation with my dad when I let go of some information about a piece of furniture he wanted from my mom. She had told him it was broken and she no longer had it -- I told him the truth, because you just don't lie to your dad. Since both were what psychologists call "fucked up" parents and neither had a phone, I spent the rest of the day walking back and forth between their houses, a half mile apart, delivering heated exchanges.
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"This is some bullshit right here."
I learned very quickly that there were some things I just had to keep to myself. Now, this is a touchy, fragile subject, so understand that I'm not saying that teaching a child to lie is a good thing. I'm saying that at some point in their lives, they need to learn the value of knowing how to recognize and utilize the gray area. Let's face it: You're not going to tell your boss, "Well, the truth is that I wasn't sick. I just didn't come to work because my favorite video game released an expansion I wanted to try out." You just use the sick time and keep the details to yourself.
Learning what I could and couldn't say around my divorced parents gave me a jump on my friends, who were mostly still in "honesty is never punished" mode. Yes, I understand that kids learn this lesson on their own, with or without divorce. The difference is that dealing with divorced parents forces you into it. Even nice parents are still human, which means that sometimes emotion overrides their "don't be a douchebag" switch. It happens.
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"No, Dad, I'm not telling Mom to suck your balls."
No matter how mature a person is, no matter how strong their willpower, eventually they're going to have a "fuck this" moment and get into it with the ex. At the very least, a person needs to vent, and human nature sometimes doesn't allow for us to calmly excuse ourselves to a secluded room to bitch in private. We can't help it -- anger is autopilot for bad decisions.
As horrible as this sounds, sometimes the kids will reach a breaking point where they're sick of hearing the bad-mouthing and arguments, and they'll step in to voice their concerns. It can range anywhere from angry outbursts ("I'm sick of both of you acting like entitled children! I'm about two seconds from dick-slapping your cheek clean off of your face!") to calming logic ("You know that's the way Dad is. It's why you got divorced in the first place. So why are you letting it get to you? Do you still want his big ol' floppy dong? Is that it, Mom? You want Dad's pecker?").
"I have 172 more words for 'penis.' We could do this all night."
Regardless of the method, the children are playing the role of a mediator, defusing the situation before it builds up into an all-out fight. That's an extremely difficult skill to learn, even for adults. Tons of people spend years of college in psychology classes to become one professionally, only to give up and become driver's ed teachers when they realize they can't do it.
It doesn't take a psychologist to understand that this isn't a healthy position to place a child in, but I'm telling you from personal experience that it's one of the most useful skills I ever learned. Not just knowing how to disarm a volatile situation, but being comfortable and confident enough to even attempt it. At old jobs, that ability was what set me apart from other workers who were competing for the same promotion. Never underestimate the power of being able to turn a screaming fuckhead customer into a smiling human who walks away with a "Thank you" without having to pull out your katana.
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"Don't worry about it. People call me a 'cuntwat' all the time. Have a nice day, ma'am."