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Part Three: Living As Roommates: Famous Words Before The Divorce:  My Kids Are My Number One Priority

Do not exasperate your children.

Ephesians 6:4

We’re going on our second generation, maybe third, of parents who put their kids first and put their spouse on the back burner.I don’t know where this idea came from, that your kids are more important than your spouse, or that your kids are number one, but it is an insidious notion that has destroyed families, absolutely demented children and rent husbands and wives apart.If you believe this, that your kids are number one, you will live it and if you live it your spouse will get the idea and if you give your heart to your kids instead of your spouse, your spouse will either do the same (give his heart to his kids) or find something else or someone else to give his heart to, because giving his heart to you has gotten him nowhere.

And then why be married?We’re just roommates anyway.What’s the problem of divorcing a roommate?It’s not like we’re husband and wife!

If you are married for 60 years, you’ll have kids in your house literally for 20-30.If you have one child, it may only be 18 years.While your kids are living at home, many of them will quit listening to you around age 12, so your effort to give your heart to your children will just backfire, because you will creep them out or push them away, because no kid is ever supposed to be a magic pill to make his or her parents feel good.A kid is supposed to be a kid.

Yes, they need you to protect them when they are little, and guide them when they are older.They need you to provide an example on how to live.They need you to provide an atmosphere where they can grow and learn and develop their gifts and hone their dreams.You are nurturing them to face that cruel world out there.And then they are gone.If they call you once a week for 15-20 minutes, count yourself blessed.The other 167 hours of each week you’ll be spending alone…unless you were wise enough to invest in your marriage, while your kids were little and you survived those challenging years and you and your spouse were still lovers and friends even with diapers and measles.Then the two of you can chum around and enjoy your later years together.You might even secretly look forward to the day the kids are gone so you and your sweetie can have some fun already.

Parenting is cruel.It is cruel, because your kids will often turn their backs on the values and ideals and lifestyle and faith that you hold dear.That can tear your heart in two.They will do this, even if you are pretty consistent and a really nice guy or a dear lady.Kids have their own wills, you know.You can guide those wills for a while and then you will only be a signpost on the road and, for some, a distant memory.The amount of power you actually have is so minute as to startle even the most aware of us.Sleepless nights are just one of the byproducts.I suggest a thorough reassessment of your dependence on God to keep you from feeling completely worthless or like a professional failure.You have to let go.Maybe, if you are lucky, like the father of the Prodigal son, your children will come back.Not every Prodigal son that leaves, comes back.

But it is also cruel, because kids do not suffer hypocrites lightly. They can smell one a mile away. They will be quick to point out to you in subtle or not so subtle ways that you have let them down or your choices and behavior did not match the values you preached to them. They will believe what you do, not what you say, unless what you say matches what you do. Since none of us are 100% able to match our values with our behavior, we have a disparity that kids will naturally fill with their own hurt or resentment or lack of forgiveness, just like you! Or they will withdraw from you when they are uncomfortable with you just like you withdraw from mom when you are uncomfortable with her! Or they will yell at you just like you yell at dad! Or they will despise you just like you despise their mother. You taught them, remember!

Just fill in the blank.

If you treat your spouse like ___________ , your kids will treat you the same.

It’s your choice.

You can’t get along with your spouse? Hey, we’ll just have a happy divorce. I’ll see the kids half the time, right? That’ll be just fine. The kids will be fine. The children know I love them.  As long as both of their parents love them, they will be fine.

No they won’t. I’ve got news for you. If you divorce your kids’ mother or father, they will emotionally divorce you. For years. Sure, they will cooperate while they are two or six or eight. But don’t expect much cooperation when they are 12 or 14. Then you’ll be lucky to see them once or twice a month for pizza. Why would they want to see you? You left them, remember! You taught them how to treat you by how you treated their mother! You were upset with their father so you left him. They are upset with you so they will leave you! This is how it works, people.

So, no.When they are 14 they will NOT want to come visit you.They will want to stay at their mother’s, not because they love her more, but because that’s where their friends are. Or probably things won’t be working out with you and your 14-year old so well and he’ll want to go live with dad a state or two away and you’ll hardly ever see him again. No one can live at two places and NOT end up in a mental institution!Joint custody?Joint misery.For everyone.

And then you bring in your stupid new spouse, who has NO blood ties to them, and absolutely NO history with your children, doesn’t know them and has NO desire to know them, because from your new spouse’s perspective, you seem to be more concerned about your children (Duh?) than this new spouse. The jealousy is so thick you could pour it on pancakes and all of a sudden your house feels like a Junior High lunch room.  He or she thinks your kids are little jerks and you never discipline them and they get away with murder and they have no respect for anyone and they don’t help and never study and they just take advantage of you and you do nothing and I can’t believe you live like this and I won’t be treated like this and you’d better do something because this is insane…

Ahem.

Sorry.

The number one thing kids need is to know that mom and dad love each other.If mom and dad love each other, then I will be Okay.I can be a kid and think kid thoughts and do kid things and learn by my mom and dad’s example how to get along when you disagree and when you are down and when you are discouraged and how to love my future spouse and that the values mom and dad taught me of loyalty and faithfulness and faith and love and patience and tenderness where real, were not just ideals, but actual ways to live, and I can live this way, too.Maybe, they will look up to you and admire your example, how, when the chips were down, you survived and learned to thrive and rise above obstacles, the two of you, hand in hand…literally.

So, please don’t love your kids more than you love your spouse. Unless you are bound and determined to live your life alone or with spouse number two or three or…

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