A woman friend of mine is separating from her husband of many years, struggling with how to talk with the children and dealing with their reactions. Soulful and insightful, intuitive and deeply spiritual, my friend is trying to fashion a transition that is barely perceptible to the children. She and her husband agree on so many issues that mediation is barely necessary to iron out the kinks; they have come to the table prepared, options discussed, fleshed out and open to further modification.
What is so striking about this scenario is the subtlety of the process. There is no scorched-earth policy here, no crash-and-burn. The moving van will not show up one day and irrevocably alter the children’s lives as someone moves “away”, or as one child queried, “Promise me you’re not going to move to England like they did in The Parent Trap!”
Children gain a sense of the world from far more varied sources than their parents’ information sharing. Movies, television, and the models of friends’ homes create all kinds of imagined circumstances as children seek desperately to absorb/digest and manage this new information about their family. What if the movement of separation and divorce could be slow, subtle, barely visible to the naked eye, not because people are in denial, but rather precisely because of the integrity of their awareness that moving slowly helps mitigate the pain of the transition?
There is a rhythm to change, as there is a rhythm for everything that lives and breathes. If we paid more careful attention to rhythm, there would be less in the way of seismic shifts between people. That kind of attention, of course, requires thought, self-control, self-monitoring, planning, dialogue, consideration, compassion………much of which dissolves when people are striving to distance themselves from a marriage. I am humbled by my friend’s courage and resolve to move forward with the slow steadiness of a tai chi master. There is much to learn.