How Does It REALLY Feel to Be a Child Caught in the Midst of Divorce and Remarriage? in a Bittersweet Memoir, One Writer Recalls It Only Too Well; Femailreal Life

Daily Mail (London), June 3, 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

How Does It REALLY Feel to Be a Child Caught in the Midst of Divorce and Remarriage? in a Bittersweet Memoir, One Writer Recalls It Only Too Well; Femailreal Life


Byline: CLAIRE CALMAN

THERE are now millions of stepfamilies in the UK which bring with them a whole new set of relationships and rules for parents and children to come to terms with. So what is it really like to grow up in one? Here, novelist CLAIRE CALMAN, 40, who is married to Larry, a 44-year-old publisher, tells of her childhood experiences. Claire has an eight-month-old baby, Leo, and lives in North London. She says:

ONCE upon a time, there was a man and a woman and they met and fell in love, got married and had children. And then it all went horribly pear-shaped.

Every day in Britain 650 children witness their parents divorce or separate, and in the battle that ensues it's often their voices that are lost.

While coming from a 'broken home' - as I do - no longer bears a stigma nor is even seen as unusual, the fact that it's commonplace doesn't make it any easier.

As a child belonging to two families - my mother, a designer and illustrator, and my father, a cartoonist, separated when I was two and divorced when I was five - I learned how easy it is to feel like a ping-pong ball, batted backwards and forwards between households.

You spend your life packing and unpacking, mentally readjusting to fit into two different sets of rules and routines and two sets of expectations and demands.

My sister and I stayed in the family home in Bloomsbury, central London, with my mother but spent most weekends at my father's rented flat in Primrose Hill, in the north of the capital.

For the first few years of their separation there were also occasional 'truce weekends' which I remember fondly. We'd travel down to our tiny Kent cottage on Friday night, stop for fish and chips on the way and then spend the weekend as a family, drawing pictures or playing in the garden.

BUT these interludes of togetherness never felt strange to us - that was just the way it was, at least until my parents met new partners. To-and-fro children soon become minidiplomats, learning how to smooth ruffled feathers and ease adult jealousies, nimbly avoiding no-go areas and taboo subjects.

I was a naturally shy child but after my parents divorced my shyness intensified. I found it hard not to blame myself in part for their break-up - lots of children mistakenly do - and soon became withdrawn. I tended to hang back, observing the adults carefully, looking for shifts in mood, listening for changes in tone of voice, trying to analyse what was going on beneath the words.

Those skills and my vivid memories from that time have now become part of my work as a writer.

In my new book, Cross My Heart And Hope To Die, I found myself drawn even deeper into the question of family loyalties and dynamics and wondering what makes a family a real family: blood or being there?

I've learnt the answer from my own experiences - after all, I was never in a 'normal' nuclear family again after the divorce.

When I was six, my father met his second wife, but she came as a package deal: Buy One, Get Two Free - her two children from her first marriage.

Becoming part of a stepfamily is a fraught business, especially for children; after all, you haven't picked your own stepmother (unlike in films such as Sleepless In Seattle) and I found it difficult to get on with mine initially.

At first, our new stepbrother and stepsister seemed like alien beings.

They were both extremely tall, blonde, athletic, adventurous and physically strong. In my family, we are typically short, dark, bookish and decidedly unsporty. They went skiing every year to Verbier. We went to Glasgow each summer to stay with our grandparents. They went to posh boarding schools. We went to the local state schools.

My stepsister, the same age as me, was a horse fanatic and had a picture of her pony by her bed at school. At nine, my passions were reading comics, avoiding piano practice and the gorgeous boy in the year above me at junior school.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How Does It REALLY Feel to Be a Child Caught in the Midst of Divorce and Remarriage? in a Bittersweet Memoir, One Writer Recalls It Only Too Well; Femailreal Life
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.