When Parents Argue

A study done by researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey says that parents who stay in high-conflict marriages cause more harm in their kids than if they split up. If kids witness years of yelling and arguing, they will suffer in the end. Better to see less strife. But we knew that already.

It is a scary thing to decide to go separate ways, if there are kids to consider. It is hard to predict future effects. I have always maintained that since people on earth disagree and argue, kids should see people disagreeing and arguing. And they should see them settle differences, compromise, find solutions and shake hands. Sometimes, people can’t shake hands. Sometimes, they never settle, or agree to disagree, or play fair, or show good sportsmanship. So, that is why this study makes sense. 

I think that in these cases, it is better to explain to kids who will one day choose mates how to choose mates who can argue and disagree and then figure it all out. Ta da.  

A Confirmation for Single Moms

Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation should be inspiration for single parents. Many people are quick to presume that children who are raised in a single parent household have less chance for success than kids who live in a two-parent family. As with any demographic group, there are instances of both, naturally. Most important, though, there are factors other than number of parents affecting both success and failure. People don’t seem to realize this.

Judge Sotomayor’s father died when she was nine, leaving her mother to raise her and her younger brother, who, by the way, is a physician and university professor. Mrs. Sotomayor bought a set of Encloypedia Britannicas for their apartment in a Bronx housing project. Circumstances, good and bad, exist; I believe it is how you manage them that determines your outcome. The child who lives in a mansion but must mow the grass. The child who learns value watching a mother work three jobs. All good.

I do not define myself as a single mother. And my kids are not “children of divorce.” I am a mother. They are kids. We are a family with a story. The people next door have one, too. My girls have the same drive, goals, expectations from me that they would have had had their father been around. They don’t have the fancy knapsack, but they wouldn’t have had it, anyway.

Here are a few others who probably didn’t have the knapsack, and seemed to have turned out pretty well without it: Bill Cosby, Ed Bradley, Alicia Keys, Audrey Hepburn, Mariah Carey, Michael Phelps, Bill Clinton, Lady Bird Johnson (who was raised by her aunt), Alexander Haig Jr., and oh yeah, Barack Obama.  

Congratulations Judge Sotomayor. Go get ’em.

Home Sweet Home

It is time to talk about Texas. Having returned earlier this week from a weekend in New York, with family and friends, so many friends at a high school reunion, it is time to talk about Texas. Oy.

A day or two before leaving, I saw something funny while jogging through my neighborhood, one of a few that have some vestiges of history. We live in a stone cottage, built in 1931. Many of the original houses have been torn down and replaced by oversized extravaganzas that stretch to lot lines and fake a European pedigree. Anyway, when I passed one, I saw a man holding a long brown object. He was standing at the base of a tree near the curb, lifting the long brown object overhead. It occurred to me, judging by his stance, that he was not poking at a cat with a broom. The man, in Polo–peach, with khaki Bermudas–was pointing a gun.

“Are you shooting at something with a rifle?” I couldn’t help but ask, slowing in front of his Bavarian castle.

“It’s just a BB,” he smiled, resting the weapon up against the trunk. He was a neat man, about 60, with well-snipped hair and a tank watch. His dog didn’t budge, his gaze fixed to the top of the tree.

Then, the man touched my shoulder in that amiable way, the way they do it here. “We have a lot of squirrels,” he said.

We have a lot of squirrels, I thought, but we don’t kill them with assault rifles. Across the street, a small child skipped from a car to her front door. What if PoloMan was a bad shot? I snuck from his grip on my scapula and took off, reminded that I was, indeed, in Texas. I am a New Yorker. But I am in Texas. Save me.

At the reunion, most of my old pals asked when I would be coming home, or getting out, really, sounding like visitors at a jail. As a single mom, I have to abide by Texas laws that prevent me from moving across county lines, let alone state borders, or risk actual imprisonment. And I do not look good in orange. I am free to relocate with my girls if their Dad does first. If he goes 30 minutes north, I can go to Paris. That is a kooky law.

For now, though, despite the horror washed across my classmates’ collective face, I am faced with squirrel murderers, Bible belters, Republicans, and barbecue. I really hate the barbecue. They fry turkeys here, in huge vats of oil. Despite these troubling aspects of the place, my kids like it here, since it is all they know. We moved from Boston when they were ten and twenty months old. They are thriving and happy, and completely immersed in school and their assorted activities. They could be anywhere. I am in Texas. 

They know, however, that they will be going to college in the northeast, anywhere from Virginia on up. The younger one knows that she won’t be visiting Mommy in Dallas for Thanksgiving during her freshman year. She’ll be finding me somewhere else. I suggested the other day that she skip a grade at some point in the next seven, but she thought she was already young in the class. They had a wonderful time running around my old high school and meeting my buddies and their kids, though they said it was odd seeing me with friends.

They want to go back, for a longer visit next time. I think we’ll do the college tour. At least they will be geographically desirable.