Will Somebody Think Of The Children?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Divorce is a bitter, bitter thing for a child to face.  It leaves scars that never heal, churning up big ugly terrors of abandonment and instability.  And God forbid you handle it wrong and turn the kids into the rope of your tug o’war game with your ex-spouse, constantly demanding they take sides in a war they never asked to be in.  That separation and consequent reordering of their life can fuck them up in profound ways.
If you love your children, divorce is a damned hard road to put them on… So a lot of people endure borderline abusive relationships for the sake of the kids, sticking around so they never have to go through that anguish.
But stasis also takes its own toll.  Because every day you stay with your spouse, you’re teaching your children what love looks like.  They’re taking their cues as to all their future romantic relationships from you, because this is most likely the only intimate pair-bond they’ll get to see in such detail.
No matter how dysfunctional the household, if you grow up with it, you think it’s normal for a time.  And why not?  At seven, it’s not like you’ve experienced anything else.
So if you’re pondering divorce, yes, consider the strain on the kids once those separation papers go through.  But also consider all the compromises you’re making to keep this creaking marriage together, all the angry fights you’re subjecting them to (because even through a muffled door, kids pick up on that shit like antennae), all the ways in which you’re both showing disrespect for each other…. And then think, “Do I want them to think this is the way they should treat someone they love?”
Because a bad parental relationship is like chemicals in the groundwater.  It’s not as explosive as the divorce, but in some ways it’s more long-lasting, so subtle they might not ever realize that they’re being inevitably drawn to unhappy relationships like good ol’ Mom and Dad because, well, they keep making decisions to hide their emotions and fight unfairly in ways that drive all the positive partners away.  That the template you handed them is broken, and you never really bothered to explain that to them.
Thing is, parenting is all about uncertainties. You can teach your kids the worst lessons in the world, and some of them will still thrive and find a way to surpass every bad instinct you ground into them.  Or you can teach your kids the best lessons, and still have them miserable and broke and upset.  So it’s hard to give any firm parenting advice, because like much of life, it’s a game of odds where sometimes, no matter how well you’ve played out that hand of Blackjack, the dealer flops into a 21 and it’s over.
Yet that doesn’t mean playing the odds is dumb.
I think if you’ve taken on the responsibility of kids, then you owe it to them to try to make the marriage work, and give it every shot in counseling, mediation, whatever you can do to try to restart the love you guys once had.  But if you can’t, and you’re still miserable, then I’d think mighty hard about whether the lessons you’re teaching them are the lessons you want them to learn.  Because there’s a good danger that, in fact, they’ll learn it far better than you’d like.

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