Friday, June 11, 2010

The ACOD Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

Al and Tipper Gore...are no more. I do not know how I can go through life, or ever believe in love again, as my marital ideal has been irreparably shattered.

Oh, please. I was far more bummed when Buffy stabbed Angel in the gut and shipped him straight to hell.

Before anyone calls the men in the white suits and butterfly nets (who, for the record, are on the speed dial of all my nearest and dearest), I am aware of the difference between fact and fiction. However, since I do not know anyone involved, it's all the same to me.

What's even stranger to me is the media hand-wringing over what shall become of their poor children. (Who are, may I point out, competent adults.) There's even a term for it all: ACODs (Adult Children of Divorce), because anything bad that happens must be medicalized until it's completely trivial.

In fact, I recently came across this article in the Guardian. Not only is it awesome because it features quotes by Lee Borden (my divorce lawyer! Eeeeee!), it's awesome because of all the garment-rending that occurs when competent adults have to (gasp!) deal with adult things.

OK, I'm sounding heartless here. Blame it on Au Bon Pain being out of my favorite kind of sandwich. But not only am I divorced, I'm one of those tragic ACODs. My parents split when I was 21, just a few months after I completed college.

And, you know what? I lived. It was OK. In fact, it was better than OK, as my parents seemed happier for it. They're friends now and get along just fine. There was awkwardness, and transition, and mourning, but in the end it all worked out.

Here are some things I learned, may it help the Gore children* and the other ACODs of the world:

1. In the term ACOD, the keyword is "adult." You're a grownup. You can handle it. Really.

2. Yes, you will feel guilty that your parents stayed together "for the kids." But that was their choice, as adults, to do. It's not your fault. So let go of the guilt, and thank them for their sacrifice.

3. While we're talking about "not your fault," the divorce is not your fault. In fact, it basically has nothing to do with you. Seeing the divorce as 'all about ME and MY feelings!' is an act of narcissism - whatever pain you're going through, your parents are going through far worse. They did not do this to "break up your family," destroy your perfect world, or throw a wrench into Thanksgiving plans. Marinate yourself in a little Boone's Farm, sob to your friends, then dust yourself off and get on with it.

4. Understand that your parents are undergoing a profound emotional journey. Divorce is an ugly, miserable thing that upends your life, obliterates your daily routines, and erases all your plans for the future. It's a "reset" button that usually only gets pressed after massive system failure. Getting divorced, instead of limping along in a bad marriage, is an act of courage. Sadly, for many folks who haven't been there, it is seen as an act of weakness. Your parents aren't being weak.

5. A child of divorce is generally shielded from the inner workings of the breakup. However, if you're an adult, expect your parents to lean on you a bit and maybe give you some gory details. That's a good thing - they're demonstrating faith in your ability to handle it like an adult. Because, as we've established, you're an adult.

6. One of the great lessons of adulthood is being able to see your parents as people. Assets, liabilities, strengths, weaknesses, gaping character flaws and all. What you're experiencing is simply a crash course version of that lesson.

In the comments, tell me if I'm being really harsh, or find a way to make the title of the post have anything to do with the content of the post. Or speculate about the Gore divorce.

*Am I the only person who thinks they're all named Karenna?


Brando said...

I blame Bush for Al Gore's divorce. Losing that election turned him into an insufferable scold, trying to convince the world to separate the plies of their toilet paper and bike to work, only making him and his family feel more guilty for living in a big, energy consuming mansion and driving big SUV's while offering the feeble "hey we're buying carbon credits" excuse.

Then, the Nobel committee, feeling pity for this man, gave him a Nobel Peace Prize because global warming....something something...peace? I dunno, but they must have had a reason! Anyway, an unearned prize made him feel even gloomier, because pity only makes one more pitiful, and finally Tipper couldn't stand it. And Al of course couldn't stand having a wife who kept her sorority name well into middle age, so they bickered a lot, and he always kept the car keys in a "lock box" which made going to the store a total pain.

Shannon said...

Brando - Really? I assumed it was all the fault of that homewrecker Angelina Jolie, the poor man's Anne Boleyn.

Lemon Gloria said...

I think all the gasping and shock and can you believe it?-ing over this is really weird. So you've been married a long time and don't want to be together anymore. People grow apart. Maybe it's shocking because there was no grand scandal. I dunno.

Lusty Reader said...

i havent seen the *exact* dates their second daughter Kristin Gore just filed for divorce too. so who knows how one affected the other? aren't children of divorced parents more likely to divorce also? just weird that they'd be going through it at the same time as their daughter!

One Blonde Girl said...

As a COD (my parents split when I was 7) I often wonder if divorce is easier on ACOD. My friend's parents divorced when he was in his mid-twenties. It was an amicable split, they both admitted they had just grown apart, and they were still good friends, but my friend acted like they had just wrecked his world. I didn't want to be insensitive and point out that at least he got to experience a lot of really good years with them, while I had nothing but utterly devastating and damaging memories of my parents.

So is it? Is it easier as an ACOD?

hannah said...

Your #5 is spot-on. I was 16 (close enough) when my parents divorced. My mom and I became very close through it, because we had no one else we could turn to.

Shannon said...

LG - I have no idea why it's a big deal. I mean, it's no John Edwards race-to-the-bottom-of-the-tacky-barrel.

LR - Statistically, yes, and anecdotally, yes, children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves (I'm divorced, too). But maybe that's not a character flaw - maybe sometimes the kids see that it's possible to get through a divorce with their karma intact.

OBG - I'd say it's about a thousand times easier to be an ACOD. A divorce kid experiences a massive rupture in day-to-day routines - moving, changing schools, being shuffled from one house to the other. At the very most, I had a slightly harder time planning for the holidays. (In other words, your friend might want to get a grip.)

Hannah - Right! I loved the 20 and 30-somethings in the article who wanted to be shielded from the details - like, really? You want to go through life wrapped in cotton wool? It's an opportunity to get to know your parents as people, and support them. Lord knows they supported you!

alex said...

Life is full of bad things happening... a seemingly civilized divorce, conducted with dignity, once the kids are grown up, is one of the least traumatic bad things I can imagine.

annie said...

My parents got divorced when I was 20. Sure, it sucked, and I still really miss seeing my dad all the time, but they're so much happier now. They're also great friends now and hang out with their new spouses together. Most people think it's weird that my dad and his wife come to my mom's house for Thanksgiving, but it works for my family.

On an unrelated note, I made a batch of Shangria for a barbecue this past weekend. Tricky stuff, that Shangria, the drunkenness just kind of sneaks up on you in the middle of your third SOLO cup ...

Shannon said...

alex - Maybe the same sort of people who need a trophy for showing up also need a cookie for every emotional bruise? I have no idea.

annie - THREE CUPS? SOLO CUPS? I'm just impressed you lived to tell the tale.