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Unexpected Revelations: the Divorcing Generation


With an editor, I'm finishing work on a book of poems, Nineteen Poems Around a Divorce and Beyond.  To borrow a sentence from one of the ‘blurbs' on the back cover, "Kevin Arnold watches with care the many ripples that happen when the stone of divorce is dropped into a marriage where there are children."  (Nis Peterson, Poet Laureate, Santa Clara County)

To gain perspective on my personal history, I've been reading articles and books on modern divorce.  Although I experienced two divorces, both with children and ‘first in family' divorces for both parties, I hadn't understood how endemic this behavior was for our generation.  According to Susan Gregory Thomas half of the married-with-children parents divorced their spouse with the children still in the home: (http://www.cookiemag.com/homefront/2009/02/divorce)


They say that every generation is shaped by its war. The Greatest Generation (1901-1924) was forged by World War II; baby boomers (1946-1964) were defined by Vietnam and the sexual revolution.  But our war was the ultimate war-at-home: divorce.  Generation X, according to a 2004 study conducted by marketing-strategy and research firm Reach Advisors, "went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured in U.S. history."  Half of all Gen X children's parents split; 40 percent were latchkey kids.

Ms. Thomas observes higher parenting aspirations in her own generation:

Generation Xers, the parents of the majority of young children now, by all accounts appear to be the most devoted to family in American history.  Nearly 30 percent of Generation X parents volunteer at their children's schools or extracurricular activities, according to market research.  We would generally rather err on the side of being too close, too involved, too loving, than repeat our own parents' sins of neglect.


This enflames my guilt, especially since the description seems so accurate.  I only volunteered in schools once the divorce was underway, while my daughter Johnna, about whom an entire section of the book is written, has been a perpetual volunteer at her daughter's school, bringing parents together to build a garden for the students. http://www.montclairelementaryschool.org/Community/compost