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Teach Your Children Well

Posted in: Blog by admin on September 23, 2010

August 11, 2010

I was listening to a story about a woman who is unhappy in her marriage, disengaged from her husband and busily getting through the days taking care of her children and home. She explained it very matter of factly: She is not going to leave her husband; she is not going to take the step on a new, unchartered path; she is not going to “tear her family apart.” She has two little kids, and she decided that her role as mother is her starring role in life. Thus, she decided to sacrifice her own happiness for the happiness of her children.

We’ve all heard this story. We all know this story. For some, it is the story of a best friend. For others, it is the story of a sister … And, for some, it is our story.

The story is loaded with so many chapters, and no two people read the same book with the exact same reaction. For there is a subsidiary story within the story, and another within that one. The rich, colorful history. The background. The setting. The characters. The children. And, then there are the intricate details of employment, finances, homes and all of the accumulated “stuff.” There is so much embedded within each chapter … no one but the author really knows what the appropriate ending for the story should be. Yet, so many people act as if there is just one story that follows a standard outline with a standard (happy?) ending. The story goes like this: Man and woman meet. Man and woman marry. Man and woman have children. Man and woman stay together, forever. The children are happy. The parents may or may not be. The end.

Wait a minute. The story is so clearly outlined. But there is one foggy area — the parents’ happiness. Oh, that’s right. That doesn’t matter. We sacrificed our rights to feel happy and free the day we became parents. Of course, this argument sounds absurd. That’s because it is. But, let’s say you believe it to be true. Let’s keep turning the page. Man and woman sacrifice their own joy. Direct result – children are happy. Problem detected. Let’s explore …

Are we to believe that children are happy only if they have their parents living together? Because I am certain that is not the case. I know that children want to see their parents happy. If they can see them together and happy, that is a bonus. But, if that is not the case, it is better to see one’s parents happy and alone than together and miserable. And, I’ll try not to speak too factually about this knowledge I have because I did preface my argument by saying that each story is distinctly unique. I have some credibility though. I am a single mom. I am a child of divorce. I am a child whose parents stayed together until I was 18, in an effort to do “what is best for the children.” Now, unfortunately, I always knew that my parents were disconnected. And, as much as I liked having them side by side (as husband and wife) at all of my volleyball games, I did not like the tension in the house; the lack of unconditional love between them; the imbalance of power; the lack of respect and adoration.

There was family time. There was together time. There were warm holidays and family dinners. And, there were tense times. There were unhappy times. I feel the discomfort in my chest now as I remember the feeling in my home. The lack of a loving, safe, evolving connection between my parents. But, sacrifices were made. And, I am sad to picture my mom reading this and feeling like her sacrifice was for nothing. Who knows? Maybe I am better off because they stayed together. Unfortunately, I don’t buy that theory. I believe that any issues I may have today and any struggles I may have with being in a balanced, loving relationship are in large part due to my history. Again, it is a culmination of factors that led me to my particular reaction to my parents’ relationship. My sisters had very different reactions and have traveled along their own uniquely healthy, beautiful paths. And, while mine may be complicated and full of more vertical layers, it is still a joyous and wonderful path.

So, back to the children specifically. Do we really believe that we stay together for our children? And, if so, are we that certain our children will be better because of it? Have you ever been around a couple who dislikes each other? Who have no passion? No respect? No joy? No affection? Have you been around a couple who fakes it? Do you believe it? Guess who doesn’t fall for it? Kids. They know everything. They sense it. Many kids are not surprised when their parents sit them down to tell them they are getting divorced. They are shocked to hear the words. But, they saw it coming, oftentimes before the parents did themselves.

I feel horrible for that woman who has to go to bed each night next to a man to whom she is not attracted — next to a man she hardly likes. I feel worse if she stays and also one day discovers what I know: Kids are not better off. They know when their parents are disconnected. They are sad when their parents are sad. Their future relationships are being shaped as they witness the day-to-day interactions between their parents.

Maybe many people who stay use the children as their excuse. Maybe they are really scared of being on their own. Maybe they are terrified at the thought of not being there when a child loses a tooth or goes on a date. Maybe they are incapable financially of being independent. There are so many reasons why getting out of a bad marriage is a very difficult endeavor. And, maybe the reason for some truly is the belief that the kids are better off with mom and dad together … even if mom and dad are unhappy.

In theory, it sounds admirable and selfless: Give up your own joy for the sake of your little ones. But, in reality, the kids are getting hurt, too. Their impressions of love and connection and relationships are being formed during their most malleable years. And, you can’t fool them.

We all go around one time, so quickly. Even mom and dad have the right to go after the chance of being deliriously happy … just like they want to teach their children to go after that right with passion and energy and hope and confidence.

The power of example should never be underestimated.

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2 Responses to “Teach Your Children Well”

  1. Jon says:

    Thank you for organizing your thoughts, I enjoyed your piece.

    Here’s a few other thoughts…

    First of a all, the same story can be for a man who taking a dive into unchartered waters. It doesn’t matter if it’s the man or woman, but as a dad I related to your piece.

    Secondly, I think as parents we have an obligation to be the best possible; parent, person, friend, etc. as possible. If you find yourself with someone who is preventing you from being your best – In my opinion, you are obligated to take the dive – For the sake of you, and your kids.

    I’m not sure I took the dive for the chance to be happy – I took the dive to enable me to continue to develop into who I really am. Consequently, my kids, their mom and everyone else in my world have benefited by me being healthier.

    Have a great day –


  2. amy says:

    Jon –
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You are so right: It’s not just about believing you have the right to be happy, it’s about allowing yourself to evolve in a happy, strong, positive way. Being your authentic self is one of the best gifts you can give your children … and yourself. Thanks again for your wise input.

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