‘Beautiful Boy’ and the Longing for a Perfect Family
Beautiful Boy is hitting the movie theaters, a film based on the best-selling books by father and son David and Nic Sheff. It’s a heart wrenching look at addiction — extremely timely, as overdoses are now the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50. But the back story is something every so slightly touched on in the film. Divorce.
David’s 10-year marriage to Vicki, Nic’s mother, ended in 1988, when Nic was just 4 years old. He marries Karen Barbour a year later. David has full custody and is a loving parent as is Karen, but Nic is shown distraught having to fly to Los Angeles to spend the summer with his mother. Clearly there is conflict between David and Vicki; every phone conversation between them escalates to an acrimonious level quickly. In fact, it was an ugly divorce that ended up going to court, where David gets full custody and Nic gets to live with his mom during holidays and summer — something that hugely impacts his life. In fact, David His dad believes it’s what drove Nic to addiction, which began with vodka when he was 11, and quickly escalated to meth.
Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen has a divorce story of his own.
“I come from a very loving family, but that was also broken in a sense,” says Van Groeningen, whose hippie parents divorced but continued living together and raising him with their new partners, and whose father died young. “So I do have this longing for the ideal family. That’s what my films start with. But I also make them go through an ordeal.”
Van Groeningen says he had a loving relationship with his parents, and clearly Nic’s parents adored him, and yet both children longed for a “normal” family.
While I can understand that longing, that kind of thinking can be problematic — who knows if life would have been better if their parents had stayed together unhappily? It might have been much worse. Research shows that unhappy parents who stay together for the sake of their children could cause more psychological damage than they would by splitting up. In fact, many young adults would prefer their parents breakup than remain unhappy together for their sake.
Divorce per se doesn’t harm children, or cause them to become addicts. Nic became an addict, filmmaker Felix did not. Some people who grew up with divorced parents have found positives from the experience.
While I have great empathy for children who long for a perfect family, few of us, if any, grow up in perfect families, and the perfect families we see on TV or on social media aren’t actually that perfect.
Marriage isn’t always the answer and divorce isn’t always the problem.
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Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com