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October 25, 2017 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Managaing Statement Editor:

Lara Moehlman

Deputy Editors:

Yoshiko Iwai

Brian Kuang

Photo Editor:

Alexis Rankin

Editor in Chief:

Emma Kinery

Design Staff:

Michelle Phillips

Hannah Myers

Emily Hardie

Erin Tolar

Emily Koffsky

Managing Editor:

Rebecca Lerner

Copy Editors:

Elizabeth Dokas

Taylor Grandinetti

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 // The Statement

The picture stays in the kid: ‘Custody’


avier Legrand’s film “Custody,” which
I watched this past weekend at the
Chicago International Film Festival,

centers around a custody battle in which two
children, a boy who looks to be about 9 or 10 years
old and a girl nearing her 18th birthday with
one foot already out the door, feel threatened by
their father. Their protestations fail to persuade
a judge to avoid granting some degree of custody
to the father.

We learn the father is a

menace. He’s easily frustrated
and feels insecure about his
distance from his children.
He takes his anger out on
his children and essentially
stalks his ex-wife. In the film’s
conclusion, the boy is broken

But in the film’s opening

scene, the hearing to determine


parents’ respective parenting
abilities. We get both parents’

through their lawyers’ words)
and we’re not sure whether the
complaints about the father are
valid. Not to mention, it seems
rather unfair that a father
would be all but barred from
seeing his children.

But, of course, by the end, one can’t help

but feel regret for even feeling a modicum of
sympathy for the monster.

I wasn’t terribly surprised when my parents,

in a nondescript Ann Arbor hotel room in the
fall of 2015, announced their divorce, but I
was still shaken. The informal discussion that
followed clarified that I could spend my time
with which parent I wanted to, that there would
be no judgment.

I’ll give my parents all due credit: I’ve never

really felt outward pressure from them to
spend all my time with either in particular.
Not to mention, since they divorced after I
turned 18, I was not subject to the often-terrible
proceedings of a custody battle. And I in no way
mean to classify either my mother or father as
in a similar camp as the father in “Custody.”

But intra-marital disputes have a peculiar
effect on children, and splitting the home into
two separate circles of people exacerbates that
tension, especially for children, regardless of

It was easy at first. The realities of the suburban

housing market trapped us in our house for
about two years, but even then, it was easy to
feel that my allegiance was being tested. Mom
would work during the day and Dad would work

in the evenings, so when I returned home from
breaks, one half of each day would be dedicated
to either parent. An invitation to join Mom or
Dad to an event or to go to a museum or go out
to dinner seemed like a ploy to monopolize my
time, to breed loyalty.

When the house was sold and Dad moved to

the city while Mom stayed in the suburbs, my
ability to split my time between the two became
more complicated. This was partly beneficial
since Mom’s apartment had more room, and
thus a room for me, staying in the suburbs made
more logistical sense. But I hate the suburbs.
Aside from the library’s large music collection
and this one pizza place I eat at quite frequently,
I find myself so restless in Northbrook. My
friends have different breaks than me, and I’m
often alone. Not that I know that many people

in the city of Chicago either, but at least there’s
a view and parks right outside.

When Mom and Dad lived together, even

post-divorce, there was an appearance of
responsibility for me to play an equal role in
both of my parents’ lives. Now, I know Dad’s
rental of a single apartment is mostly out of
convenience and financial concerns — how am I
supposed to not read some value, or lack thereof,
into that decision?

This, I learned, is the

cost of divorce: It’s not
that your parents are not
together, it’s that they’re
separated. It’s that every
interaction with either one
of them is a reminder that
you have to repeat the same
information to the other,
too, and pretend as if they
were the one you called

Any bit of news they




armament that serves to
justify their decision, and
you become complicit in
their war. This is all a bit
exaggerated; I doubt my
parents consciously use me
to air out their grievances

against each other or to serve as a conduit to
each other, so they don’t have to talk to each
other, but it’s impossible to escape these feelings
when you have to drive the pants that one parent
mistakenly took from the house but waited to
return them until you arrived so you wouldn’t
have to see your ex.

The worst part — OK, not the worst, but

perhaps the visibly irksome — is the assortment
of old rugs and furniture that dots each parent’s
new home. Our living room is in Mom’s. Our
family room is in Dad’s. Visible reminders of a
house that once was and a family that has been
since split apart, ripped into pieces but sewn
together to keep up the appearance that things
are just as they were.

It’s not that I want the furniture to go away. I

want it all back together.





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