I wrote not that long ago about how, if there are at least 1 million children alienated from one of their parents in the UK alone, it means that a population the size of Wales and Scotland combined has been alienated from a child in their family.
Some campaign groups estimate that the 1 million used during The Westminster Accords debate is actually more like 4 million. So much worse as, applying the same logic, that would mean that at least 25% of the UK population is currently alienated from a child within their family.
Seemed fairly extreme, So I started extrapolating out from my personal current circumstances to who else I knew in a similar situation. I thought of close friends, colleagues and family and sometimes had to look beyond the semantics of cover stories I had previously taken for granted (“estranged Dads” or “didn’t want anything to do with them” etc). The results were an eye opener, even for someone as unfortunately well-informed as I am.
It all seems to start with the 60s generation:
- An Aunt, it turns out, was the product of an affair. Never knew her father. Is now in counselling having found out recently that he’s killed himself and is deeply disturbed by it all.
- Her daughter has just alienated the father of their two children from their father for unspecified reasons.
- Another cousin had 2 kids before she was 20. Lived with the father for 2 years then deliberately cut him out of their lives. Both kids in their 20s and regularly contact me when faced with life’s challenges and are very fragile.
- Five close female colleagues/friends, all women in their late 40s now, barely had a relationship with the fathers of their children, some of whom barely know who they are. One even called her daughter Mia (mine) as a mark of ownership. Yet again, all variously speak to me about how to deal with their rebellious teenage sons or emotionally fragile children and all complain at length about the difficulties they encounter daily.
I hadn’t really thought about this until it started to creep into my life. But it would appear that we are “normalising” this sort of selfishness.
And whereas I had previously been indulgent and possibly even a touch respectful of the valiant single motherhood of these close friends and family members (and yes, they are all Mums, I can’t name a single Dad), it has started to bother me a great deal.
Firstly, with the exception of my Aunt, each of the other people have had exactly the same education and career opportunities as me. Most have similar degrees and held similar jobs. So what right did they have to take sole-ownership of the children?
1 of the group reached her late 30s and deliberately set off on a mission to conceive a child and informed the father but did not want nor expect his financial support. Extreme, for sure.
But all of the others have deliberately alienated the fathers from the childrens’ lives.
Secondly, I have, at various times in their children’s lives, filled in for the absent Dads, either taking them on holidays, having mentoring chats with them during dark days, taking them to sports events etc or just being there for a box or a wrestle or even a poetry recital or three. I hadn’t asked too many questions about the process, I’ve just helped out.
But now I’m starting to question whether I have unwittingly enabled the difficulties their children are now experiencing by de-facto endorsing the behaviour of their parents by not trying to find a way to connect them with their Dads?
Hindsight is, of course, 20/20 Vision. And what could I have actually done to alter the course of decisions made by adults who know what they’re doing when it comes to contraception, are as intelligent and aware as I am and yet presumably, in the case of the mothers, deliberately chose the path they took?
But it still bothers me.
Because, by accepting each of these situations as “normal for our age”, should it have come as any surprise to me that my former partner played me in exactly the same way, albeit at considerable financial as well as emotional cost?
I don’t think it should. And that realisation is hard to live with.
In short, I and my peers allowed it to become culturally acceptable, the norm. Or to mis-quote the Manics we “tolerated it and our children were next”.
So there is a lot of truth in the six degrees of separation theory We are all connected to an alienated child. In my case, by a lot less than six links in a chain that now binds me too. Therein lies the irony, but also the hope.
For the theory of six degrees of separation suggests that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries in it.
Perhaps the same chain that connects us to the misery that is parental alienation may also be an opportunity to re-connect with our kids especially as communication is so much easier these days?
For no matter what the alienators may do to them, we’re never more than 6 connections away. Hopefully the more people who start to recognise this nonsense for the abuse it is and who start challenging the alienating behaviour, the sooner we’ll all re-connect, close the circle, expose the enabling behaviour for the hate crime it is and end parent alienation for good? For I’m pretty sure that one day we will all look back on these dark days with the same shame we reserve for other crimes against civil liberties like racism and homophobia.