The Turkeys Can Tell Us A Lot
I live in a suburban / park setting and at least three groups of turkeys traipse through this rocky backyard (the whole area used to be a quarry) in the course of a day. One group has a mom and four juveniles.
Another group, that is newer has more than ten members: all shapes, sizes, ages, genders. This larger group is a bit more competitive and likely to hog the cracked corn I put down for them and the deer.
What is there for us to learn from these furry and feathered neighbors about families and, hence, about divorce? (If you can’t tell, I’ve already got some ideas to ansewr that question.)
I’m going to reference “Attachment Theory” to help understand what goes on for our children as well as the adults in the family as it forms and…when that family unit is disrupted. Normal cognitive and emotional development is facilitated by intimate attachments, as you might guess. You also hear, anecdotally, that senior folks who are engaged or in relationship live longer and healthier lives: more evidence of our need to be connected.
So, the turkeys tell us something (even though, no, they’re not indigenous): it’s important to be in a group. Not only because of the physical protection it provides but because of the psychic benefits as well.
When “matrimonial bliss” gives way to disappointment, acrimony, power struggles, what happens to the family? The bonds start to deteriorate the children lose the ability to feel attached and, hence, safe.
One of the purposes of family is to provide that sense of safety, security for its occupants: think of the intact family as a series of seat belts designed to protect the passengers in case of a crash.
Meg Wheatley, a wonderful systems thinker and consultant, told me (and about 500 other people) in the early 1990’s that “families provide the container in which each member is free to experiment with who s/he wants to be.”
Inherent in this insight from Meg is the fact that perceived safety must exist in order for me to feel comfortable with both the idea and the action of experimenting. My stepkids were avid experimenters in the 90’s and…they survived! (Not without scaring the crap out of me back then with skipping school, hanging out with the wrong kids, etc.)
What’s the purpose of family? To facilitate attachments. To provide containers for experimentation.
How does divorce impact that purpose? Well, they certainly change the logistics. And, in many cases, they change the emotional aspects.
What we don’t know is how kids cope with a family dynamic where stress and tension between the adults is omnipresent versus a situation where that gets abated through a separation or dissolution. You can weigh in on your thoughts.