Between Two Worlds is a new, groudbreaking book about the effects of divorce on children. The basic premise is that even though outright conflict between divorced parents may not exist, children of divorce bear the conflict within themselves. They are emotionally torn between two worlds – one of mom, one of dad, and often with conflicting values and worldviews – and are left to their own to make sense of the two worlds.
In intact families, children don’t have to make sense of divergent parental values because parents generally present a shared worldview, an agreed-upon set of values to their children – either intentionally or simply by nature of co-habiting, co-existing, living under one roof together. Kids in intact families can focus on kid stuff, whereas children of divorce spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on parental balance. When they divorced, the parents gave up trying to reconcile their different worlds, but the kids can’t give it up – they still live in (or inbetween) the two worlds of mom and dad.
I am a child of divorce (I never remember my parents living together) and for as long as I can remember I’ve navigated the waters of two different parental worlds. Outright conflict was absent from my parents’ relationship, but the conflicting values of their two worlds created a tension within me and my brother. To this day (I’m 31 years old), making decisions about holidays and frequency of grandparent visits (I have a two-year old daughter) is about as enjoyable as medieval dental surgery.
And so, in an era of divorce where 25% of young adults are children of divorce, how do we understand the 4th Commandment of honoring father and mother? What happens when father and mother offer different values and differing worldviews – which one do we honor? And when the family itself is unstable, and yet parental relationships are used as a metaphor for our relationship with God, how do we speak of God the Father? (This study also showed that children of divorce are much less likely to participate in a faith community).
Well, I’ll give more reflections on this book early next week when I finish it. But for now I must get ready for work, get my daughter off to daycare, and spend any freetime working on my presentation for church this weekend on the Spirituality of the Ordinary (see below). Have a nice weekend!