Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And so it begins....

I'm not the most political person--though I loved West Wing. Today I ran across an article about Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani of interest to children of divorce:

Mar 6, 2007
Maggie Gallagher

Back when he was mayor, Rudy Giuliani made a very good point: "75 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without fathers. ... "(I)f you wanted a social program that would really save these kids ... I guess the social program would be called fatherhood."

This week Rudy made another good point: "(B)lended families are challenges, sometimes they are. And the challenges are best worked on in private."

Painful is the only word to describe what it was like for the rest of us to
watch as Andrew Giuliani, America's mayor's 21-year-old Duke sophomore son, stepped up to tell his truth to The New York Times: that he would not be campaigning for his dad. "There's obviously a little problem that exists between me and his wife," the younger Mr. Giuliani said. "And we're trying to figure that out. But as of right now it's not working as well as we would like.

Privacy is an important family value, but it is not more important than listening to children of divorce as they struggle to tell their side of the story.

There is a larger truth here that bears some attention. Illegitimacy is how
poor kids lose their fathers. Divorce (and yes, remarriage) is how too many
middle-class kids do.

For Andrew is not alone. One study of mostly white, middle-class adults whose parents divorced when they were kids found that the vast majority reported distant relationships with their fathers. A review of the social science in the Journal of Marriage and Family concluded that it's not just single unwed mothers whose kids struggle: "(M)ost researchers reported that stepchildren were similar to children living with single mothers on the preponderance of outcome measures and that stepchildren generally were at greater risk for problems than were children living with both of their parents."

Yes, remarriage, and the blended families it creates, can bring new possibilities of warm family relations, and the many divorced fathers and stepparents who've succeeded in rebuilding warm family ties deserve credit. But too often the blending process produces painful loyalty conflicts instead.

What can be more painful for any child than feeling that your father has chosen his new wife over you?

This being a two-year-long presidential cycle, many focus on what the latest in the Giuliani family saga means for Rudy's candidacy. National Journal's Hotline speculated: "It may be unfair, but almost nothing reflects personal character better than -- or more accurately than -- your family. We think: If Giuliani is disqualified by Republicans, it'll be because the sturdy stature of his character collapses, not because he is pro-choice."

Newsweek's recent poll suggests just the opposite: that the 58 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters who self-identify as "social conservatives" are far more concerned about public positions on abortion, gay marriage and gun control (with between 30 percent to 50 percent saying social liberal views would make them less likely to support Rudy). Still, it can't help Rudy to have this reminder now that his family life can make Hillary's look good. Or for us to imagine what it would be like to have him face Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record), a husband, father and fatherless son in the general election. Divorced Dad vs. Deserted Son. What psychodramas lie ahead!

For the rest of us, who are not all politics all the time, there's a different bottom line. Rudy was right back in the '90s: Fathers matter. And I hope he finds a way to make this thing right, too. There's a big truth on painfully public display: It's hard to be both a good husband and a good father if you're not married to the mother of your children.

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