Punk Rock, Family Values, and The Impact of Divorce

It’s not often that Punk Rockers highlight family values. In 2001 blink-182 sung about the devastation that divorce can bring to kids. They spoke with boldness and anger: If it’s what he wants and what she wants, then why is there so much pain (“Stay Together for the Kids”). Now, Pierre Bouvier adds his voice to the subject. In the final song from their newest album, Harder than it Looks (2022), Simple Plan take an honest look at the inner turmoil kids feel from their parents’ divorce. Perhaps these punks can help us all appreciate the value of a strong marriage.

I should give an important caveat here as I prepared to speak about divorce. As a Christian Pastor I believe in the importance and God-given value of marriage, and yet I also recognize that in this fallen world divorce is a reality. Furthermore, I believe that God has given divorce as an option in certain situations. In fact, in our broken world divorce is not just allowable, but in some cases it is the right and appropriate course of action. Yet, even in such situations divorce is hard.

At the popular level, however, the devastating impact of divorce is not often honestly acknowledged. Divorce is often treated as simply a common reality. “Everybody gets divorced.” Or it is treated as a better option for a couple. “We’re better friend than spouses.” Which of course may be true, but such sentiments don’t paint a realistic picture of how hard divorce is on families. In the concluding song of their new album Simple Plan, the 20 year pop-punk veterans, acknowledge this reality. The song “Two” is written from a child’s perspective as he leaves mom’s house and gets in the car to drive to dad’s. He reflects on the dynamic of having two separate lives and how much he hates it. Bouvier sings:

“In the passenger seat, I wonder what went wrong
Is it all my fault they don’t get along?
Can you turn around, give it one last chance?
Don’t you understand?”

It’s common for young children to feel responsible for divorce and blame themselves for their parent’s fighting. Often a child’s inability to process their parents’ separation leads them to search for explanations that do make sense. This makes personal guilt a viable option: I was bad, and that’s why my dad/mom is leaving. Personal guilt is an explanation that little minds can process, and so it provides meaning where there is none for them.

The child’s experience of moving from one household into two can be additionally challenging. In the chorus Bouvier belts out:

I never wanted two houses, two bedrooms, two separate lives
I never wanted two families, two stories, two different sides
You tell me it’ll be okay ’cause that’s what you’re supposed to say
But all I want is to go back to one

Here is an honest look at all the adaptation required of kids in divorce. Divorce calls for lots of change, and at the daily level. This often leads kids to develop anxiety and depression, or to underperform in academics and athletics. It’s not just two houses, but “two separate lives,” and in particularly bad divorces “two different sides.”

What fascinates me about this song is that Bouvier is 45 when he sings these words. He is hardly a teenager expressing his frustration. I don’t know whether he ever experienced the impact of divorce in his home personally, but he captures the experiences well. Yet this isn’t usually the most pressing concern of those approach fifty. It’s fascinating to me that even at this stage of life he recognizes how hard divorce can be on kids. Whether he is remembering or simply observing the impact, his signing so honestly about this issue at this point in life is evidence of its significance. In addition, rock n’ roll has hardly been a bastion of family values. All of these facts point to the weight of this particular subject. If a middle aged punk is speaking this honestly about the impact of divorce on kids then maybe we ought to all sit up and pay attention too.

Again, divorce can be the right and necessary response in some dynamics. It’s sad, but it is part of living in a broken world. But nonetheless there is a reason that the Bible limits divorce to certain types of scenarios (adultery, abuse/neglect, and abandonment). The religious leaders during Jesus’ time advocated for divorce “for any reason” (Matt. 19:3), but Jesus argues that this is not according to God’s design (v. 4-6). There are real grounds for divorce and God, in His grace, gives the victim of broken covenant vows that out. But, all marriages have chronic problems and helping couples learn how to navigate these, grow, mature, and love one another in spite of challenges matters too. It matters especially for kids. If Punk Rockers can appreciate this, then the rest of us should get on board too.

1 Comment

  1. Insightful to me, but extremely heartbreaking to read as I see/saw it with my husband’s children.

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