Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorced Parents: Hey Kids, Wanna Have A Sleepover With Daddy’s New Friend?
July 31, 2009
We may be divorcing, but the father of my kids is still one of the funniest guys I know. He and I were talking on the phone recently and he explained his concept of the 5,000 Mile Rule: neither of us can date anyone who lives nearer than 5,000 miles from our homes in Los Angeles to protect everyone’s feelings — especially the dates’, because our kids are ages fifteen to twenty-one and they would torment them or embarrass them publicly. So, until I finish writing my next book in December, I’m all alone on weekends, but come January I’ll be off to look for Dmitri or Colin or Sancho. As for him, his business in Europe seems to be expanding rapidly and demanding a lot of his time.
For parents of very young children, however, getting the needs of the parents to coincide with the best interests of the children is usually fraught with agony all the way around. We all say we would do anything for our kids, including die for them, but when push comes to shove, most of us resist being inconvenienced, lonely or horny for their sakes.
Divorce is a very self-centered decision, often a selfish one, though not always.
We could live in misery for the rest of our lives, but we’d rather not. Sometimes this actually rescues the kids, but usually not. And no, I do not believe that kids would “rather we get divorced than fight in front of them every night,” so don’t even begin there with me.
We love our kids madly and usually find a quiet corner in the maelstrom of bad feelings and accusations and disappointments flying around during a divorce to agree to put the kids’ needs first and call a truce where they are concerned. And we actually believe everything we say…at the time. But you know what they say about paving the road to hell? Never do good intentions turn to quicksand faster than when one parent wants a companion and the kids around at the same time.
A girlfriend of mine on the brink of combustion called yesterday to vent. She and her ex are the devoted parents of several very young kids and they set some rules for their mutual good behavior and consistency where the kids are concerned. Primary among them was their agreement not to introduce new “friends” of Mommy or Daddy to the children until the relationship was serious and committed and Mommy and Daddy had discussed it with the kids first to prepare them.
Okay, sounds good. So then the kids come home after a week with Daddy and tell Mommy all about Daddy’s friend Missy and how fun she is to go to Disneyland with because she will go on all the scary rides and give them as much Coke to drink as they want, Mommy feels her chest restricting. After a brief, very brief, phone call to Daddy, Mommy discovers that Daddy just met Missy and thinks he’s in love. Best yet, he thinks Mommy would love her, too. Justifiable homicide? Perhaps.
At least Mommy can understand how fun Missy is, since she’s closer to the kids’ age than to Mommy’s and Daddy’s. Now this is a multi-victim crime in progress because the kids are confused about what Missy is supposed to mean in their lives, why Daddy seems to like to spend more time with her than with them and why Mommy didn’t come to Disneyland, too, and Mommy feels disregarded, out of control and a little jealous — not to mention mortally wounded by the fact that she’s aging out of her former husband’s demographic group.
Clearly I am always wearing my Team Girlfriend shirt, but I think this selfishness is transgender in nature. I’ve got my share of Mommy friends who pull the old, “Isn’t this fun, kids? Stephen slept over on the couch last night because his car was broken!” I’m not sure why, but Daddies never suggest their friends slept on the couch, but Mommies are universal in this explanation of the male illustration of the Walk of Shame — maybe because we’re veterans of the slumber party mentality.
Again, this is a multi-victim trespass because Stephen often ends up “sleeping over” for quite some time and not reimbursing Daddy for his share of the rent or mortgage, food and so on that he contributes in spousal and child support. So Daddy feels like a hard-working stooge supporting some guy who gets to spend more time with his kids than he does.
Someone once told me that the single motivation for human beings is fear — and the thing we’re most afraid of is being alone. Not a particularly noble thought, but a particularly believable one when we appraise our behavior during the dissolution of a family. A little courage and delayed gratification on the parents’ part just might pay huge dividends toward the emotional health and security of the kids — remember them? Plus, hotels are cheap right now, so maybe Mommy and Daddy and their new BFFs should just get a room and do it on their own time.