Monday, October 10, 2011

Where are the Grown-Ups?

Kate Winslet is on a roll. The Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globes winner, recently added heroine to her list of triumphs when she literally carried a 90-year old woman to safety from a burning house. Perhaps even more impressive is Ms. Winslet's view on divorce and kids. Now, of course what is said in an interview isn't always a reflection of reality, but I sure hope so, because the twice-divorced mother of two said of her most recent split, "We're grown-ups at the end of the day, and however hard it's been for me, it's been equally hard for him. And we have a child together who we both love -- and raising him together, jointly and without any conflict, is absolutely key."

I've got no idea how crazy David Arquette, actor and current Dancing with the Stars contestant, can be. His history of addiction to alcohol and drugs is well-known. But again, it appears that he and Courtney Cox are determined to co-parent their young daughter despite their messy break-up. Ms. Cox and daughter Coco have been in the front row of the dance competition every week, cheering on the often-times flat-footed, but enthusiastic Arquette.

I love when parents understand that they are the adults in the family. Bravo to the divorced couple who is determined that their kids will never be used as weapons or become collateral damage. Children are entitled to their childhoods, regardless of the status of their parents' love lives. It's the same reason why I'm so strident against reality shows that feature young kids. The private lives of children should not be used as entertainment for the masses nor as a method of supporting their families.

In the last sixteen months, since the birth of my granddaughter Riley, I've been reintroduced to the enormous responsibility that parenting entails. When I babysit and Riley snuggles down, head on my shoulder, completely relaxed as she falls asleep, I recognize the complete trust she has that I'll take care of her, protect her, literally throw myself in front of the proverbial bus for her. That's the essence of parenting. It's what Riley's parents give her every day.

Every child deserves that. Every child deserves the chance to see the world through innocent eyes. Every child deserves to believe that her Mom and Dad are heroes – willing and able to protect her at all costs. I'm not suggesting that once your child is born you forfeit your right to happiness or ambition. But your priorities must change. Your decisions must be weighted by the impact on someone so completely dependent on you.

All of which explains why I can't read certain popular authors. It has nothing to do with their writing, which is extraordinary, and everything to do with the subject matter. I won't read a story where a child is murdered or abused. It's not that I don't recognize that sadly too many kids have faced that fate. But I read for enjoyment. I love mysteries because I love puzzles, but no matter how compelling or perplexing the puzzle in a mystery may be, if the case involves a child being hurt, I can't get past that fact to lose myself in the story.

This past weekend was Yom Kippur, the holiday that ends the Days of Awe, a time of reflection and redemption. I wish for every child and for each of you, a happy, healthy new year, full of love, joy, and peace.

Marian


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14 comments:

  1. Marian, I feel the same way. If a child is hurt in a book, I'll put it down. (Same for animals.) That's not enjoyable reading for me, even if the antagonist is brought to justice. Great post! Maggie

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  2. Sometimes it gets more complex. I spent the first years of my law career dealing with battered kids and doing child support enforcement, and I saw legions of parents who were not capable of raising children. When I began to write about it--yes, a child does get killed--because that really happens. But the book is about the community that tried to save that child, the failure of the agencies that should have saved him, and the way that the investigators found themselves deeply involved in giving him the only thing they could--justice. Still...I understand your position, though. I can't read books there's graphic violence to women. Especially if they're written BY women.

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  3. Thanks Maggie and Freelance Writers Job.

    Flora, you're absolutely right that it's a complex issue. Clearly there are cases where one or both parents are incapable of being the loving, caring adults we would wish for any child. Your work must have been heartbreaking, but it's a blessing that the children you tried to help had you and the community that cared.

    We all draw lines about what we'll read and what we won't. For me, it's not a reflection on the author or the strength of her story, but rather on my own inability to deal with the subject matter.

    Thanks, Marian

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  4. Kate, I have the same problem with graphic violence against women in books. I won't do it, won't read it. It's just not entertainment to me. Like you, I can read a book about missing children if it's handled sensitively and the focus is on solving the crime and not on gratuitous stuff that happened.

    Marian, I know what you mean though! My first published novel involved a missing child and the search for her (and, as Kate mentioned, how the community reacted and how the families reacted), and plenty of folks said, "Nope, can't read it!" Because of the missing child storyline. So you're not alone! I tend not to read as many "realistic" (aka "violent") crime novels as I get older. Everything just seems too real. The world is too scary. I don't want to bring more violence into my head than I see on the news already. I want to escape.

    I, too, love when grown-ups act like grown-ups. I definitely don't think that happens a lot on TV these days! More often than not, adults act like petulant children. I do worry about the kids being raised by these people.

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  5. Thanks Susan.

    I think I'm actually in the same corner as both you and Kate, if the crime is about a missing child and the efforts to find him/her, not about violence done to the child. I remember Jacqueline Mitchard's first novel, "The Deep End of the Ocean," where the child was kidnapped, but actually raised in a loving home. Same with "The Face on the Milk Carton."

    I know that scenario is not very realistic -- but somehow it's the only way I can deal with the concept of a child snatched from his family. And of course, even then, the emotional ramifications are complex and long-lasting.

    What I think we all want is a world where every child is cherished and protected.

    Thanks guys for the great discussion,
    Marian

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  6. I really don't like to read the details of any graphic violence--but in my younger days, I did write some and I do include stuff about kids at times--but try not to be too descriptive.

    There is no worse feeling than losing a child--my son disappeared when he was 4 and he and 3 other kids the same age were gone all day. They turned up in a backyard they'd climbed over a fence to get into to see a dog and couldn't get back out.

    Recently took an 8 year old great granddaughter with us to our family reunion. She disappeared and scared me so badly, but turned up in a grown granddaughter's room with her and the granddaughter's baby. After that she told me exactly where she was going.

    Marilyn

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  7. Marilyn, those were scary incidents. So glad that they turned out just fine.

    When I was about 8, I too wandered off with a friend, came home and found the police with my parents who were so frightened because they didn't know where I was. As children, it never crosses our minds that something terrible could happen. But I do know that after a lengthy discussion with my folks, I never wandered off again!

    Marian

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  8. I completely agree with the comments.. on a lighter note.. Back in the early 1950's on a rare mother's night out, my dad was 'watching' the girls... Everyone's put to bed.. Dad listening to the radio & reading the paper.. Goes from bed to bed checking out his girls... YIKES! The BABY IS GONE!!! That guy searches the entire 600 foot house ... there was a closet that opened between 2 bedrooms... he crawled thru it... he looked under beds, in the bathroom tub, out in the kitchen... thankfully the outside doors are locked [baby is only 13 months & still fairly short for reaching locks...] WHAT WILL HE TELL BABY'S MOTHER???!!! Panic!!! MOM WILL BE HOME SOON!! Starts to search house yet another time... goes into bedroom and closes door and starts again under the bed... looks up & there's the baby.. sweet baby girl asleep at the door.. had been hidden the whole time because door was open & not closed.. Just a note about the future babysitters... I remember them sitting in the hallway outside the bedrooms... wonder why???
    And, no, I don't have a problem with little halter leashes on toddlers in public places like stores, airports, etc.. They may be small, but they are quick as a rabbit!

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  9. Thank you for this post. I sometimes feel like the small voice that insists kids need both of their parents - and that any mom or dad will do.

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  10. Thanks Kathy.

    What I really hope is that parents, angry, frustrated, disenchanted with each other as they may be, understand that kids need their parents to behave like adults, to be responsible for them, even when they don't like/love each other anymore, to work together when it comes to raising the kids, even if they can't live together as a couple.

    I know, unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way.

    Marian

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  11. For some reason, your post brought tears to my eyes. Children should be safe, and loved, and have two parents who mean well by them. Life is difficult enough for all of us to make it worse. I am a child therapist, and I worked a great deal with children of divorce, and, sadly, I once did a small group for children who had a parent die. It was one of the most moving things I've ever done-those children helped each other. I am getting pickier about what I read. I like noir but not torture. I am too old to suffer along with my characters. I like things simpler these days.

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  12. Written simply and tastefully. It’s pleasant to read. Thank u.

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  13. Thanks Lil and Flash Template for joining the conversation.

    Lil, you have been a blessing to those children in need. Thank you.

    Flash Template, I appreciate your kind words.

    Marian

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