09 Jun Tragic Sidewalk Tale
Today I overheard the saddest conversation. A young mother stood outside a local retail outlet with what looked to be a recently-born baby strapped tightly to her in a chest carrier. Her young toddler stood closely by intently working on pushing their large stroller down the sidewalk. As I perused the sale racks that were positioned on the sidewalk, I overheard the young mom, on her cell phone, talking curtly to what I quickly gathered was her soon-to-be-ex husband.
Her voice was calm at first as she explained to him that, yes, indeed he was going to pay the bill for the baby’s care. She reminded him that the judge had ruled that they were going to have “joint custody” and he was responsible.
“I and your children have needs too!” she exclaimed. “That’s just the problem you don’t have time or money for your children since you got involved with your girlfriend. [pause] Yes, you are going to be responsible. [pause] That’s not what the law says; read the law! In the state of Arizona if your name’s still on that birth certificate, you’re responsible. [pause] Are you telling me you want your name off the birth certificate! [pause] Look I’m taking your children to the doctor and you are responsible for it. You have to help pay the bills. [pause] Yah…well what about food! [pause] You know we are still married. [pause] Oh, so why haven’t you even come to see the kids?”
By now I was quite embarrassed to have been a party to such a private conversation and I left the outdoor clothing racks and walked into the store. I could see her through the windows, though, as she wiped her eyes, hugged her newborn, and gathered up her toddler into the stroller and left.
Those little children’s future flashed before my eyes and being very familiar with the statistics on the outcomes for children who are subjected to divorce – my heart ached. I wondered how this young woman and her husband – who based on the ages of their children, probably hadn’t been married that long – could have gotten to this point. Was infidelity, which was obviously part of the problem, the whole story? Somehow I think it was much bigger than that.
The young mother and her soon to ex-spouse are part of a generation of individuals who, for the most part, have grown up with a skewed and distorted idea of what marriage fundamentally is, what its purposes are. They don’t seem to understand that being in love is only a small component of what makes marriages work and most of all they have a deep-seated idea that somehow marriages are disposable. You fall out of love – you fall out of marriage. It’s not all their fault; it’s my generation that failed to teach and model the crucial nature of stable life-long marriage.
But it’s that baby with its tiny round head and that cute little toddler who will pay the biggest price for the disintegration of their little family. Tragic for them and tragic for our whole society.