Adult Children of Divorce are Getting Ripped Off

People are very concerned about children of divorce. Dozens of books outline the millions of things that can go wrong, and the very special attention kids will need during such a big change. Kids go to therapy, color their feelings, get calmed down by horses and most importantly, often get two Christmases. People make divorce out to be a bad and devastating thing, but there was only one child of divorce in my fourth grade class and she and her mom lived in a condo with a pool. My dumb married parents didn’t have a pool, so I don’t know, divorce sounded pretty cool to me. Teachers were also nicer to her, gave her a bunch of extra leeway, and she managed to con her dad into sending her to a sleepaway camp even though he said no the three previous summers. Michelle’s life was a lot better than mine because her parents were trying to buy her love, as the old divorce stereotype goes. But do adult children of divorcing parents get the same special treatment?

Heck no, it turns out. The Times recently ran an article about children affected by later in life divorce. There was a lot of talk about hurt feelings and other psychological impacts but not one mention of elaborate gifts. So these poor adult kids get their idea of marriage and love obliterated, without the specialized support young children are often afforded, plus no presents. What a rip off.

All those seven-year-olds get special mother/son dates and TWO bikes, but what of Gerald, the 31-year-old mild mannered systems analyst that just found out his perfectly boring parents aren’t celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary next month, but rather, they’re throwing in the towel and splitting up. Gerald played by the rules his whole life. He never snuck out while grounded or stole alcohol from the liquor cabinet, topping the bottles off with water hoping no one would notice. He never got high behind the bleachers or asked for anything more than lunch money from his parents. He got his degree from an ok school and got an ok job and just last year bought an ok house with money he saved up himself in an ok high yield account. Now his life is getting turned upside down but no one seems to care because he’s not an impressionable middle schooler anymore.

Who will take pity on poor Gerald? Will his mom take him out for soft serve after his little league game? No. Will ol’ Ger-bear have to teach his 59-year-old dad how to use Tinder? Oh yes. Will he learn his dad is “into butts?” You bet he will. Don’t you think he deserves an all expenses paid ski weekend for that? I sure think he does. It’s time to grab victimhood by the horns, Gerald, and here’s how.

First off, if my old pal Michelle can get away with doing no homework for three months, Gerald deserves a little break as well. In lieu of teacher pity, get boss pity. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take four to six hour-long breaks during the day to walk around the block or chill out in his car for “mental health reasons.” I also think it’s fair that Claire take on a couple of Gerald’s projects as Claire’s parents are still together and it’s really time for her to step up to the plate and earn that promotion, you know? I also think it’s fair that people stop judging Gerald for how much free pizza he eats on Pizza Tuesdays because no one mentioned a slice limit in the recurring calendar invite, and also Gerald is going through a pretty rough time so everyone can piss off.

Secondly, just because Gerald’s parents don’t have to fight over his custody doesn’t mean they shouldn’t fight for his love. Gerald won’t have the luxury of two Christmases because he’s a “grown up” and grown ups don’t need a large pile of gifts to know they’re loved and blah blah blah. That’s a load of crap. He does need tangible proof this divorce isn’t his fault just like an eight-year-old would. But just like expensive cheddar, Gerald’s tastes have matured way beyond those of an eight-year-old. Summer camp isn’t going to cut it. An all expenses paid eleven day Mediterranean cruise will though. And horseback riding lessons are for babies. Jetskis are for adults. So, mom and pop should buy him a jetski. No wait, TWO jetskis. One for his regular home and one for his lake house; the lake house his parents should also buy him.

Some divorcées really knock it out of the park for their kids’ birthdays in an attempt to compete with, and then upstage the other parent. This applies to Gerald as well. Celebrating 32 might not seem like a big enough milestone to garner bar mitzvah or quinceanera level parties, but why not? And why even limit it to birthdays? Maybe it’s time for Gerald’s dad to cough up the dough for Drake to play Gerald’s laid back, backyard Memorial Day barbecue.

While Gerald’s missing out on the double Christmases, he will be punished with two Thanksgivings. He’ll have to split his time between two marathon dinners where he will get grilled two times by a bevy of aunts and cousins as to why he hasn’t settled down yet. His thirteen-year-old cousin Chloe will ask him yet again if he is gay and, yet again mention her piano teacher is “a catch.” He will repeat this misery again on Easter. Twice. Lucky for Gerald, the final act in making this divorce work for him is blaming all of his problems on this divorce. All. Of. Them.

Aunt Louise on him again about being single? Divorce’s fault! Late for work? Divorce’s fault! Hasn’t gone to the gym in six years? Divorce’s fault! Ice cream for dinner again? Divorce’s fault! Mounting credit card debt? Divorce’s fault! Commitment issues? Divorce’s fault! Are you questioning whether any of this can really apply since his parents only got divorced six weeks ago? Stop questioning because Gerald will answer, “you know, there was tension there for years.” And you can’t question him! Because he’s a little broken bird of an adult man who now owns two jet skis he didn’t have to pay for. It’s Gerald’s time to shine, excuse-wise. Literally everything that is wrong or even sort of wrong in his life is because he now comes from a broken home. Soar like the excuse ridden eagle you were always meant to be, Gerald!


James J. Sexton

Kindness During Divorce

Have you heard of Blue Monday? It’s not only my fifth favorite New Order song, it’s also the most depressing day of the year! Some scientists, mathematicians and diplomats decided the third Monday of January is indeed the saddest, bleakest, most miserable day of the year. I assume it was some scientists, mathematicians and diplomats. Who else would be in charge of designating the saddest day of the year? Not a defunct travel channel, right? Oh, a defunct travel channel designated the date.

Well lucky for us, it lands right smack in the middle of the busiest month for divorces. Divorces are no picnic, believe you me, but the added stress of a divorce on top of an escalating vitamin D deficiency and a growing January specific nihilistic worldview is just about enough to unsubscribe from the outside world and decide you’re living the rest of your life in a self imposed Room situation. But I’m here to tell you, don’t. Don’t hole up, or give up. Instead, take today to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Reflect on that and change your attitude, because weirdly, you are totally in control of that. Let me explain.

A long time ago, I was feeling anxious/borderline terrified over something and a strange, normally silent part of my brain chimed in and said, “Hey, decide you’re not scared.” And, suddenly, I wasn’t. Then it happened again. I was in a crabby mood and that oft mute area of my noggin said, “Choose to be in a better mood.” And I did. I recounted this to a friend explaining I was tricking and manipulating my brain and that bending spoons with just my mind was clearly not far off. And he said, you’re exercising autonomy over yourself, you’re not Kreskin. He was right. Rude but right.

We can choose to be in charge of ourselves and our temperaments. I’m obviously not talking about clinical depression, which is real and serious, and I am not minimizing that struggle at all. I’m instead talking about the everyday non-medical stuff that gets in the way of living better. The core ingredient needed to stop the bad mood spiral to beat yourself up town is kindness. Kindness towards yourself, and kindness towards others.

The magical thing about kindness is that it compounds. If someone holds the door for you on the way out of your local coffee shop, odds are you’ll hold the elevator door for someone else later in the day. Kindness is contagious and in a world that is basically on fire and crumbling every minute of the day, we could all use some more good in our lives. If there can be acts of kindness during war, you can certainly implement it in your divorce and in your daily life.

Be kind to your ex.
I’m not suggesting you treat your former spouse like royalty or anything, but I am recommending being less of a jerk. Small things like a simple compliment can be so unexpected and flattering that the whole day can change. Next time you’re doing the kid shuffle, mention to your ex how little Sally was saying she always has such a great time with your ex, or that she was really looking forward to their time together. Small things can add up to a larger change in attitude. Offer to run an errand or wash their car or help out with something minor around the house. You’ll be surprised how disarming something small can be.

Be kind to your divorcing friends.
Whether you can relate or not, if a pal is going through a divorce it’s possible they’re going through the roughest period of his or her life and you’ve got a front row seat. Just be there for your friend. It’s simple advice, but it’s good advice. Follow their cues. Let them vent when they want to, and backoff when they don’t. Little gestures can be the most meaningful when they come as a surprise, so send them some flowers or show up with groceries one night and cook them dinner. Make them a pity filled Spotify playlist so they can cry it out, and an upbeat dance party playlist to buoy them afterwards. Be there for your bud and they’ll repay the favor the next time you’re down in the dumps.


Be kind to your kids.
Unfortunately, your kids are buckled up all nice and snug in the backseat of this long-haul that is your divorce. It’s imperative they feel safe and important during this big change, so take some time to really hang out with them. Ask them how they’re feeling and push when you get one word or vague answers. Establish new traditions with them to give them something familiar and recurring to look forward to. If they’re old enough, ask them what they need from you to process through the changes. Don’t ever bad mouth your ex in front of them. This is not their war, do not drag them into it. Create an atmosphere filled with hope so that everyone feels like while the future may be different, it will still be good, and maybe even better than the past.

Be kind to yourself.
Like She & Him said, you’ve got to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that this is a hard time and you will be feeling a lot of emotions. Don’t beat yourself up for not being further along in the process of working through those emotions because there is no set timeline. Keep a gratitude journal to keep things in perspective. Take yourself on indulgent days out where you get to do anything you want and please let that include getting a slice of cake. Look outside yourself and do something good for others like donating blood or volunteering.

Give yourself the ultimate gift: clean up your Facebook account. Unfriend or at least unfollow everyone except your closest friends. The reasons are twofold. First, comparison is the thief of joy. You don’t need an acquaintance’s#blessedlife shoved in your face with minute by minutes updates with meticulously staged I’m-better-than-you photos. Secondly, in this election year, for your own sanity, unfollow or unfriend the people that make you irate. Your high school lab partner is racist, ok? No amount of explaining the complex war on terrorism is going to change that. Your friend Chuck’s wife is a moron. Can you really get into a debate about Planned Parenthood with a woman who spells babies “babys?” What’s your ETA on getting her to agree with you? Months? Years? Give it up, bro. Release yourself from the Facebook shackles and enjoy your new freedom where success and happiness are defined by you, and you alone. Then listen to Kindness, the musician, and brainstorm. Prioritize kindness and see how quickly your attitude and worldview change.

Do you have any kindness tips? Or want to argue with me about which is the best New Order song? (It’s “True Faith,” don’t even start.) Leave your comment here, on Facebook, or catch me on Twitter.


James J. Sexton