The Boomer reinvention of aging certainly extends to sex, and it’s fun to think of all those “older” people still being active. This particularly applies to the newly single – divorcees posting their profiles on “cougar” websites, grownup kids worrying about Mom or Dad’s new “friend.” It’s new, even revolutionary, and therefore it must be cool. But is it really?
In a very interesting piece on NYTimes.com, Katie Crouch describes what it’s like — for her and her child — when her parents decide to get a divorce.
What does it mean, when your parents split apart after you yourself have lived half of your life? For one thing, there isn’t a shred of innocence left. I know exactly what my mother and father are losing, because I’ve known these people for four decades. I’ve witnessed their stubborn affection for each other; I’m old enough to get their private jokes. If I were younger, perhaps I could trick myself into imagining a cute “Parent Trap” situation, but my middle-aged mind knows reconciliation is not possible, not after almost half a century of two people struggling with a disease no one beats. Certainly, I am less shattered than I would have been as a kid. But I am sadder, too.
And then there is the new chill that has permeated my own household. I’m in a happy relationship that I can’t imagine wanting to leave. But will the statistics about children of divorce suddenly apply to me, now that I’m the product of a broken home?
According to The Gray Divorce Revolution, a 2013 paper by Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Li of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University, between 1990 and 2010 the rate of divorce more than doubled among people 50-plus — from 4.9 per 1,000 marriages to 10.1. In 1990, there were about 206,000 divorces among the 50–plus, representing 1 in 10 divorces overall. In 2010, there were 643,000, represented 1 in 4 divorces.
An interesting finding was that divorce rates tended to be higher among those who had been divorced before. This sounds right, intuitively – a big part of the Baby Boomer culture, if you can call it that, in the 1980s and 1990s, was an increased readiness to divorce and a removal of the stigma. Now, it seems, here we go again. The side effects are certainly not as devastating — the children of “seniors,” after all, are grown up. There are no custody battles.
But that’s not the same thing as saying there are no side effects. Toward the end of the article, the author describes the reaction of her own daughter:
…I recently poured out large respective glasses of wine and milk, then sat down with my daughter, now 4, to clear it all up.
“Mommy’s mommy and Mommy’s daddy don’t live together anymore, ” I told her.
She blinked at me. I took out some crayons and drew her a picture. The yellow house is Grandpa’s house. The white house, Grandma’s.
“Who gets the toys?” she asked. It was a good question, one my brother and I have been idly wondering ourselves. Where are the toys? Are there even any left?
“Everybody,” I lied.
“Who gets me?” she asked.
“Everybody.” This is the truth. Since this new family arrangement, she has been in hot demand. Constant phone calls, Skyping sessions twice a week.
She considered this. “That sounds fun,” she said.
And then I saw it all happening. She would be the one to get the clothes, the trips to Disney World, the New Coke. I could almost hear the tagline. Grandchildren of divorce: All of the spoils, none of the pain. It’s kind of nice to imagine, isn’t it? Someone, after all these years, might finally get to win.