Children of divorce tell amazing stories. Not the expected accounts of dysfunctional parents whose constant fighting -- with or without physical and/or substance abuse -- has shattered the innocence of their lives. Instead, they tell stories of emotional survival in the social sense. Stories about how normal and happy their lives are at home. They are unlike the children of divorce we see on screen; those articulate little creatures who endlessly discuss the emotional ramification of the war between their on-screen parents. Instead of dramatic plot points, the real children of divorce seek the comfort of privacy.
Media coverage of The 2012 Olympics shattered the private story of one brilliant little athlete. 16-year-old Gabby Douglas was an underdog just three months before the games began. An African-American who excelled in a sport that has traditionally been dominated by caucasians, Gabby was not only competing for a personal win but to create a historic record -- to be the first African-American gymnast to win the most important gymnastics prize at the Olympics. Through a combination of talent, luck and determination, Gabby won the Gold Medal for Individual All-Around Gymnastics. As she stood on the top platform listening to our National Anthem play, her smile was so big you could almost feel it inspiring other young African-American girls across the country to believe in themselves and pursue their own dreams of greatness. The first post-medal story to break announced the fact that she had just signed a $10 million deal with Kellogg's. I actually cried when I saw Gabby's joyful reaction to the moment a Kellogg's executive showed her a box of Corn Flakes with her picture on it.
By the next day, the media shifted its focus to "the real story" of Gabby Douglas. It was an ugly tale of two estranged parents -- an absent father who allegedly failed to provide adequate financial support for his four children, coupled with the financial struggles of a mother who was allegedly on the brink of financial collapse and had declared bankruptcy. Alleged details of a pending divorce, custody claims and the topic of child support were speculated upon. Legal emancipation was rumored. The media demanded to know who would control the millions Gabby would now earn in endorsements. The joyful laughter of a triumphant athlete segued into a smile that seemed forced. Gabby told reporters that she was having trouble focusing.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The Gold Medal gymnast fell off the balance beam and all the glory settled into an awkward silence.
When a minor child is involved, the public should not have "a right to know" the intimate details of a family's truth. The laws that determine who is and who is not a public figure need to be adjusted to protect the emotional rights of a child.
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