Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do Kids Come First?


Many years ago, I befriended a man (I'll call him John) whom I dated for a few months. John's father was an alcoholic and drank himself into a wheelchair. Because he was often intoxicated and could no longer work and provide for his wife, all responsibility fell upon John to provide for his mother. John was frequently inundated with tasks that were clearly not his responsibility. John often would run to his mother's side whenever she was bored or depressed, or needed a shoulder to cry on. Needless to say, my presence was not welcome. I remember calling John that year to wish him a Merry Christmas, and his mother picked up the phone and said, "For crying out loud, you just saw him yesterday! Can't you have some respect and let his mother spend time with him on Christmas?"

When Valentine's Day rolled around, John and I had plans to go to dinner. About two hours before John was supposed to pick me up, he called me to say, "I am going to have to cancel. I'm taking my mother out to dinner instead." Naturally I protested. But my objections had no effect on him. You see, John was not married to his mother, but he was committed to her just the same. After explaining to me that mother came first, we hung up the phone so he would not be late for his "date". I called him the next day to tell him we'd be better off as friends.

Most of the ladies reading this will understand what a gross offense this was on behalf of the man. But I personally believe the mother is primarily to blame. She chose not to raise John according to the Bible's instructions that a man is to leave his mother and father (and ultimately cleave to his wife). I wonder, how many ladies out there are raising their children in the context of a relationship that resembles the one between John and his mother?

What is the purpose of parenting? As a parent, your job is to prepare your children to leave (Genesis 2:24). That's right, moms: your children will leave you one day! Their job is not to stick around and provide you with companionship. Instead, God expects that they will provide companionship to their own spouses. When a parent demands an inappropriate amount of time and attention from a child, the child becomes confused about his role. The child will eventually grow up to break his wedding vows every time he feels obligated to postpone plans with his wife to attend to your needs instead. Perhaps your child will choose not to marry at all, assuming "Mom needs me." Therefore, if you aim to be a good parent, you will remember your place in your child's life, which is to equip him to become a man, leave home, and start a family of his own. When you don't release your grip on your children, they do not learn for themselves how to leave.If you are divorced, your children already have a negative attitude toward marriage. They have been programmed to think that marriages are destined to fail. Your second marriage is your golden opportunity to demonstrate to your children that this is not true!

Let me give you another scenario to think about. One of your coworkers is divorced and has two children: a girl, 11, and a boy, 13. She just got remarried six months ago and already there are problems in the marriage. Her children and her new husband are not getting along. Your other coworkers are standing around the water cooler gossiping about the situation and one of them remarks: "My kids come first. If I ever get married again, I don't care - my kids come first." Would you agree with this statement? Throughout my life I have heard many women say this, and sadly, it is perhaps the worst mentality toward parenting (and marriage) a person can have.

When you ask most women to explain what they mean by this statement, their response is almost always the same: "I want to show my kids that no matter what, I love them. I would never choose a man over my own flesh and blood." There are so many problems with this type of thought pattern -- where do I begin?

Let's start with the concept of "flesh and blood." Your children may be your flesh and blood, but the Bible says that a husband and a wife are more than just flesh and blood: they are one flesh. This puts the husband/wife relationship at a higher level than any other relationship we claim to have with a "blood relative," including our children.

For women, this is a difficult truth to accept. A woman has had nine additional months of bonding with the child and literally experiences the child coming forth from her own flesh. In spite of this strong bond, the relationship with a woman's husband still trumps the relationship she has with her child. The Bible says that God fashioned Eve from one of Adam's ribs. Therefore, a woman is the product of one person -- her husband. Her entire being rests in him. A child, on the other hand, derives its entire being from two people, and therefore its "loyalty" is divided evenly between those people. Only a husband and wife were designed to give full attention and devotion to one another. In traditional wedding vows, the two promise to "forsake all others." This includes children. Now before I start getting all kinds of nasty comments on my blog, let's remember that this is not my opinion. This is God's idea. God never does anything for no reason, so let's look at why the order of "spouse first, children second" makes sense.

Many parents who make their children the most important people in their lives sincerely believe that they are demonstrating to their children how much they love them. In the short term, this may appear to be loving. But in the long run, it will destroy the child's ability to have a faithful, committed marital relationship of his own. You may think your children are feeling offended, abandoned, or ignored. And perhaps they are. This may be one of the reasons they choose to act out by being disrespectful to your new husband. But there is another side to this: children who act out are testing the loyalty of the institution of marriage itself. This is because your children desire security. They are testing the waters to see how long it will take before this marriage crumbles, too.

If you are divorced, your children already have a negative attitude toward marriage. They have been programmed to think that marriages are destined to fail. Your second marriage is your golden opportunity to demonstrate to your children that this is not true! If you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ and His ability to mend broken relationships, your second marriage should be a breeding ground for healing for your children as well. This is your chance to model to your children that a healthy, committed relationship is possible in Jesus Christ. It gives them new hope for their own future.

Being faithful to your marriage may be difficult at times when your children are vying for your affection. When you "side" with your husband, your children may accuse you of choosing your spouse over them. They may pout, cry, and throw temper tantrums. It will be painful. The temptation to soothe them and meet their demands will be strong, but don't give in! It is said that 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce, and that percentage is higher for second marriages. If you allow your children to dilute your marital bond to the point where "the kids come first" and you get another divorce, you will have demonstrated to your children once again that marriage does not work. You will reduce the power of God in their eyes as well: "What God has joined together, let not man separate," (Mark 10:9). When you don't cling to your husband, your children do not learn for themselves how to cleave.

It may take many years of heartache and patience, but if you are faithful to your husband, your children will one day look to your marriage as a positive example of what a healthy relationship should look like. The ultimate reward will be a grown child who aspires to have a marriage "just like mom and her husband."

As a child, are you allowing your parents to interfere in your marriage? Repent of this by leaving your parents. As a parent, are you allowing your children to interfere in your marriage? Repent of this by cleaving to your spouse. God has designed for all of our needs to be met by one another. When we follow His plan according to His design, provision is made for everyone. When we don't, all sorts of problems occur. At the very most, you will break a cycle of failed marriages in your family. At the very least, you can avoid someday becoming the subject of someone's blog as "The Worst Valentine Ever!"

For more information, see this article by Dr. Adrian Rogers:
http://www.wtln.com/MinistryAudio/Love_Worth_Finding/1540/

2 comments:

Kurt said...

Happy Valentine's Day to you Jen!

Great post here! I cherish my mother greatly with unconditional love for her, as she has given to me. It is sad that some men and even women, becoming trapped in serving the parent(s) out of guilt. This just creates a severe delay for the child in ever finding a spouse. There may possibly be too many comparisons how the potential spouse doesn't measure up to their parent(s).

Semper fi in Christ.

steve said...

Jen,

Not only did you hit the nail on the head, this needs to be "shouted from the rooftops" to the Church.

With all the brouha with Jon & Kate Plus 8, which I was interested in because I think my extreme negative feelings for her make me question my salvation, LOL, but I did a lot of screaming at the TV.

Supposedly, they were Christians - if you've seen old versions of the show, there were Bible verses taped on the kitchen walls.

When they discussed their situation, it was nothing about God, nothing about "The Bible says," or "My pastor counseled us.." it was all about the kids, the kids, the kids.

This "soccer mom" obesession with the kids, oy vey !

Men (Real men of God) are to submit to CHRIST as THEIR HEAD, and wives are to submit to their husband. The cool part for wives if they pick the right dude is he loves her as Christ loves the Church, and gave his LIFE for it - they should lay down their lives for their wives. At the same time, WHERE in the Bible is this obession with kids ?

I know you didn't specifically mention situations with kids, but it's a hot button issue with me lately. I'm really not judging, and if I could go into detail, you'd believe me on that, but I've seen so many men miss an outreach because of their kid's basketball game, or open house... and the men are probably afraid of the "wrath" of their wife if they went to the outreach or whatever.

I don't understand why Christian marriage is so difficult - it really shouldn't be.

Thanks for tackling such a 'sacred cow,' but great article, and I hope more people get what you are saying. Sorry for ranting.