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  • Writer's pictureAbby Rosmarin

The Queen of Hearts

Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts has a very efficient way to deal with any distress. Her solution is always the same: Off with their heads!!!

Done! Except… well not! Because, only a moment later some other transgression is experienced. In this world, the Queen rules with impulsive, vengeful and unmitigated power without regard to any self-reflection.*

An attempt to address the source of such rage such as illustrated in the cartoon below would be futile (and likely inspire another beheading order).

I understand why some people try to pursue a decisive unilateral solution to relieve their relational discomfort. (Of course, not with the brazenness of the Queen of Hearts.) So, for instance, a parent may choose not to communicate with another parent although they have a joint custody arrangement.

What often drives this approach is a belief that by so behaving, the underlying problem (e.g., unresolved conflict between parents) will just disappear. Unfortunately, it likely will not. The child(ren) invariably suffer (even though there is value for the children not to witness parental conflict and independent parenting can relieve the exposure, they suffer in other ways) and the exclusion of the other parent without consent only aggravates the dynamic.

Here is an example of how no communication while raising a child can have unintended consequences. During Parent A’s parenting time, Parent A brought the child to a friend’s home. It was learned after the visit that the friend had COVID and had exposed the child and Parent A. Parent A developed symptoms and tested positive. The child was not tested and exhibited no symptoms. Parent A did not tell Parent B about COVID exposure (“I can bring my child to visit with whomever I want during my time”) and did not alter the parenting time (“I don’t see my child enough as it is”). Parent B, not knowing about the exposure, visited a relative with the child, not sharing this information with Parent A (“I can bring my child to visit with whomever I want during my time”). Shortly after the visit, the relative developed COVID serious enough to require critical care hospitalization. Parent B developed symptoms and tested positive. The child tested positive.

When the timeline was finally revealed, conclusions were drawn that the direct cause of the parents, child and relative's COVID was the ("reckless" or "appropriate" depending on the parent's perspective) decisions to visit with the friend and relative. Blame and judgment between the parents accelerated. The child was privy to enough information that he felt fully responsible and was greatly distressed. It was absolutely not the intended desire of either parent to have the child feel he was to blame. Deciding to not share information about the child's life created this situation.

Communication about issues related to child(ren) is essential when co-parenting. When in doubt what to share, at a minimum, share what you would hope to receive. Parents may disagree on the substance of the matter communicated. How to address that issue is for another blog. The solution, however, is not to preemptively shut out the other parent in the hopes that opposition will be removed. After all, despite all the orders, no beheadings actually happened in Wonderland and as Alice observed after "the Queen shouted at the top of her voice "Off with her head!": "Who cares for you?" ... "You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

*Lewis Carroll wrote: “I pictured to myself the Queen of Heart as a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion – a blind and aimless Fury.” As related in Gardner, M. 1960.The Annotated Alice. Clarkson N. Potter Inc.


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