For four years my parents have been separated, whatever that means. Well, what it means is, after they spent a year or two trying various marriage and rabbinical counseling options, they decided it wasn’t going to work out, and told us kids.
It’s funny how, no matter how old you are, as a child, you always wish for your parents to get back together. Even if you’re 21 and out in the world on your own. There’s always this hoping, and you know it’s silly, but still.
And then the divorce comes through. The final nail in the marriage’s coffin. In my parents case, that happens today, in Brooklyn, in the office of a rabbi. My father will hand my mother a document, called a get, and she will be ‘free’. And he will be free. And the marriage will be free to R.I.P.
In Jewish practice, that’s how divorce goes. At the end of the day, it’s in a man’s hands, for the woman cannot marry or move on until she receives that document from him, before the eyes of witnesses.
For the past four years my parents have been meeting in mediation sessions to work out the terms of their separation in a fair and cooperative way. They’ve remained friendly and cooperative, but I wouldn’t attribute that to their mediation process; I would, however, attribute my interest in a mediation career to their meditation process. Before that I had never really given mediation a thought, barely heard of it.
My parents were still friends after they announced their decision, and mediation was an extra layer of smooth sailing for the process to work out. I like to imagine what mediation could do for all kinds of other people in different situations. The couple who had it bad before the divorce started. The kids’ fiery anger towards their parents. The woman for whom a get does not come through.
So there, in my world, is the origin of mediation.