Benjamin Law recounts what were supposed to be the happiest moments of his life – Christmases, birthdays, talent shows, theme park visits – were actually some of the saddest.
Benjamin Law

26 Jan 2016 - 10:42 AM  UPDATED 4 Feb 2016 - 11:14 AM

My parents split up spectacularly when I was 12. What happened in real life has some similarities to the first episode of The Family Law, except for us, there were more scenes involving confused, whimpering minors cowering on their mother’s bed, which we decided to cut from the show for efficiency and because scenes like that don’t really make for great TV comedy.

Anyway, after Dad was kicked out, custody and time-sharing arrangements between Mum and Dad were fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants ad-hoc. Most of us initially kept living with Mum, while Dad would take us out every second weekend for 'Fun Times with Danny'. Later, when tensions and fights escalated, Mum would boldly declare she was coming along on Dad’s weekends too, one, to make sure Dad wasn’t “brainwashing” us; and two, because it was her “basic human right” as a mother. As kids, we weren’t really all that brushed up on UN conventions, so we didn’t question her logic.

As someone who hadn’t spent that much one-on-one time with the kids before, Dad has his work cut out for him. As I write in The Family Law book, the Sunshine Coast hinterland is great in some ways (there are heaps of theme parks) and not-so-great in others (the theme parks are shit):

Come to Superbee, where our prime attraction is free honey tasting! Also: you can buy honey! Look, here is a man dressed as a bee! Here at the Hedge Maze, get lost! In a hedge! We also have scones!

One weekend, we visited a giant fibreglass replica of a beer bottle, which was both a fun outing for children and a tribute to Australia’s ongoing problem with alcoholism that reeked of human urine. Another weekend, we visited the Forest Glen Deer Sanctuary, where various native animals ended up attacking us, probably because they were racist. All I’m saying is I didn’t see emus attack white people.

Benjamin Law 'enjoying' a theme park outing

There’s an old saying: Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Similarly, Mel Brooks once said: Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die. Which is to say, it’s all about perspective. Sometimes, many years after the most hideous moments in your life, you look back and realise how darkly funny they were. And occasionally, you see what were supposed to be the happiest moments of your life – Christmases, birthdays, talent shows, theme park visits – were actually some of the saddest. Those tragi-comic intersections? You might’ve noticed already, but that’s where my favourite stories live.


The Family Law sneak peek: Jenny joins a family outing


The Family Law Thursdays 8:30pm on SBS or anytime at SBS On Demand