When I came home from work last night, Younger had an interesting question for me.
"Does quitting smoking make you grumpy?"
Realizing that when a kid asks a question from nowhere, it is really coming from somewhere, I told her yes, and explained as best I could why it does, and then asked why she wanted to know. It turns out the father of one of her best friends gave up smoking for New Years, and he is now angry all the time. The girl had broken down crying at school yesterday morning before classes even began, and younger spent much of the opening period comforting her in the bathroom. I know the girl and her parents so I listened carefully and asked a few questions of my own: Why was he angry? What did he say when he was angry? The subtext was: are the girl and her sister in any danger?
But as it turns out, he is angry at his ex-wife. That is odd, for they had one of the more amicable splits I have ever seen. Whenever I saw them together they were friendly to each other, and he was more attentive than many husbands I know: he would get her coffee, take her coat. When they divorced, he let her keep the house rather than sell it and split the communal property. He then took up living in a dingy basement apartment in a seedy section of town. I am not entirely certain why they divorced (I believe she wanted to be free again, but I can't say for certain) but it seems to have hardly strained their relationship.
So, what's changed now? She's getting married. My guess is that he is furious apparently at the thought of her living with her new husband in what was once their house and that is why, assuming that this just isn't the withdrawal talking, he's planning on suing her for his half of the house now, and possibly for some support. I suspect, but can't confirm, the problem at the heart of this matter is that he thought the two of them would one day re-unite and be a family again. Her re-marriage is a dash of cold water in that face, if I am right, and he now wants her to pay for his pain. Caught in the middle are the two girls who can't understand the rage and the foolish things done by adults who refuse to grow up. I am not worried about their physical welfare, but they cannot see this level of ugliness and not be affected, or, as sometimes happens with children this age, think they are somehow the cause. Please pray for them, and that their parents remember that they are adults.