On a morning walk during the last school holidays, I had the opportunity to see suburbia in its early buzz. And most of what I saw was good. Some pretty gardens with happy flowers, teddy bears still peeking out of a few windows, people coming out to check the mailbox and waving hello. But I also saw something but made me feel sad. Three SUVs pulling up at separate curbs – their engines humming outside nicely groomed houses. None of the driver’s turned their engines off. Only one of the drivers got out of this car. No-one was waiting on the curb or came out to greet them. And overflowing out of the passenger doors …children, all of them around school age carrying little cases or backpacks shouting… “Goodbye Dad”… several of them running back to try to give a final hug.
These were not children being dropped off for a weekend sleepover with a friend. These children were most likely being dropped off between a separated Mum and Dad. How did I know? A number of things were obvious like the cases on their back (and several other items dragged from the car) but also the tone of the goodbye to Dad was not the kind that says I will see you later in the day.
We are bringing up generations of children who’s normal is being split between homes with different rules and different atmospheres. Not for them any cozy Friday night movie nights with Mum and Dad together making the world secure.
I felt sad. Mainly I felt sad because I knew how torn most of these children would be feeling and that it was most likely that at times they were forced to choose out loud or in their own head which of their parents was the most reliable or lovable; children growing up too soon.
I believe relationships can thrive. I believe in the power of commitment hard work and at times professional intervention to facilitate a way through. And I believe that even if couples choose not to stay together there is still the ability to role model what respectful and caring relationships look like in the face of separation. And that would include – Dads getting out of their cars and Mums coming out on the curb to greet the arrival. When children step out of that car they step onto the wobbly bridge that spans no mans land. The least parents can do is swallow their own hurts/pride/anger/indifference and hold their children’s hand until they get to the other side.