"Your right to throw a punch stops at my face." I remember hearing this expression years ago as a basic definition of freedom in the United States. I thought of it more recently when I read Jon Gosselin’s plea for public understanding of his romances and his new career as a clothing designer so soon after he and Kate of Jon & Kate Plus Eight announced their split: “I hope that people can see I’m a regular guy who is going through a difficult time in life and wants to move forward.” In other words, Gosselin is reinventing his life—and we of all people should understand that. Except—he’s doing it leaving eight young kids behind. Aren’t his swings landing straight on their faces?
I know something about this. Several years ago, one year after engineering our move from Los Angeles to northern California, my husband decided to reinvent himself as a single man. There was no other woman involved, just his desire to once again be on his own. He moved out of state, leaving me with the new house we had just bought, almost all our furniture and household goods, and the dog. He did not leave me with any debt; nor did I have any friends to speak of. The northern California suburb we had moved to was so brand-spanking new that it didn’t even exist on Mapquest. Did I howl? You bet I did. Have I cursed him for snatching me from my beloved LA to live in suburbia? Absolutely. But do I think his reinvention was a punch that landed on my face? No.
He was tipping me out of the boat we had been paddling together, but not without the wherewithal to go it alone. What I didn’t have was the life I thought we were building together, but I did have the house and I did have my writing career. In my most honest moments, then, I admired and applauded his courage in leaving and freeing us both to reinvent ourselves.
Is that the case with the Gosselin family? I don’t think so. Jon’s reinvention punch has landed smack in the face of Kate and their kids. While he’s larking about in the South of France, those kids are at home wondering where Daddy is—and what they did to make him leave. Because that’s what kids do; they blame themselves. They don’t understand the nuances. They don’t know about self-fulfillment and finding new challenges. They just see who’s there and who’s not.
Reinvention isn’t always (or even most of the time) about a couple splitting up. But it never just happens to the person doing the reinventing. I’m going to start looking at the many Reinvention stories I’m reading to see whose face may have been too close to the swinging of the punch.