In the Old Testament story (1 Kings 3:16-28), two women claimed to be the mother of a child and King Solomon had to decide which one was telling the truth. He called their bluff by saying the only resolution was to cut the child in half and give one half to each woman. One said ok and the other said don’t do that, give him to her. The woman who was willing to give up the child so that he would live, Solomon deemed, was the real mother.
On Tuesday at the train station, had King Solomon given that choice to Peter and Leanne, I’m not sure that both of them wouldn’t have said ‘go ahead, we’ll each take half of Simon’. Instead, they asked their child to choose between them and it was excruciating to watch.
When Leanne first said let Simon decide, I thought that’s good! But I didn’t realize they were going to act like they were in some extreme version of Family Feud, each urging and pleading “pick me”, “no, pick me”. I realize time was of the essence, with the train whistle blowing, so perhaps the reasoned out, cautious discussion I’d expected wasn’t possible. But getting right in the child’s face, wheedling and crying? It was horrible. Within the realm of realism, I guess. That’s how divorce can really mess kids up, I guess.
There’s no way Simon can feel he didn’t let someone down. And there’s no way that feeling is not going to stick with him for a long time. On the upside, I guess he saw that both parents desperately want him. But that upside likely isn’t going to apparent to him until many years and a lot of psychotherapy have passed. And, if he takes after his father, he will not resolve his childhood trauma even by middle-age.
Jane Danson (Leanne) talked about how difficult the custody battle storyline was for the adult actors to do. They all have their own children so they probably can’t help but interpolate their real life feelings into their acting. But they are grownups. What can it be like for the real Simon, child actor Alex Bain? He has been phenomenal in this entire story but watching him, tearful and broken-hearted, have to choose between two people he loves – that was truly gutwrenching to watch. I can’t imagine that it also wasn’t difficult for him to portray such emotional distress.
It’s been a cautionary tale about how hideously wrong things can go when one person decides to end a relationship, especially one that involves children. I hope when Peter and Carla return, that one of them has learned enough about themselves and childrearing that none of them will ask something like this of Simon ever again.