They did not invent families, people made families

The above is a quote from a grade school child who is part of a divorced family. For someone who is about nine years old, I think it speaks volumes. I caught a documentary on HBO that is called “Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce.” This show is both illuminating as well as heartbreaking. It also shows how kids have to grow up more quickly when divorce occurs.

As one young girl said, “First, you cry a lot and get scared. Then, eventually you learn to live with it.” The point of the quote is divorce requires you to make your family work. The parents and eventually step-parents can make the lives of the children miserable or the best they can be under the circumstances. A few rules came out of the mouths of these children which are helpful to reflect on, even if the parents are not divorced.

Don’t take out your anger with each other on the kids.

– Try to live close enough to one another, so it is easier to be with both.

– Remember to spend time with the kids.

– Treat the other parent as nicely as you can.

There are more rules, but these are the four key takeaways that I gleaned. On the second point, they asked one child where he lived and his response was telling – “I live in the car.” He is constantly being shepherded from one parent’s house to the other’s and to various events in-between.

Yet, let me add that if you erase the discussion about divorce and insert the traveling in the car for the second rule above, these rules can apply equally to parents who are not divorced. Think about it. If we do these things as parents, regardless of whether we are married or divorced, the children will be better served. My wife and I are by no means perfect and have made mistakes as parents. One of the things we insist on is being civil to each other in our house, whether it is among siblings or adults. Another is being on the same page. When an issue arises with one of our children, we parents talk about the best way to approach the child or apprise the other of what we said or did for reinforcement, validation or to ask “did I handle that well?”

The final point above is to spend time with your kids. This is something we all could be better at, the writer included. I would also suggest to not over schedule your children in team sports, plays, music training, etc. If your child is in three things outside of school at one time, that is at least one to many, depending on the amount of practice time. The parents and children get frazzled and are being chauffeured from practice to practice. What suffers is the family meals, which are one of the few areas we try to get right and I would highly recommend to any parents. Plus, frazzled parents make less effective parents as they are stressed and will say or act out in haste.

Being a parent takes an effort. If I could add one rule to the above it is to remember your sense of humor. Parents are not perfect, so we should not expect our kids to be. They will mess up and make mistakes. They will do stuff we did as children or will disagree with our points of view. I shared with our Australian friend Judy (who writes an excellent blog called “Raising the Curtain” at http://raisingthecurtain.net/ ) that my wife and I started sharing our mistakes with our children to show that we are not perfect, survived and learned from our mistakes and can look back on them and laugh. Our kids react well to these anecdotes.

“They did not invent families, people made families.” These words are quite profound. From the mouths of babes…

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10 thoughts on “They did not invent families, people made families

  1. Seems logical and full of common sense. Not being a parent, but raised by somewhat dysfunctional parents, this makes lots of sense. Well done

  2. Lots of good advice, thank you. I was raised in a “broken home” and am determined not to ever place my kids in that situation. But you make a good point that there are many kinds of dysfunction.

    • Amaya, thanks. Broken homes have to be tough on all. You are credit to your family. I have learned there is no such thing as a perfect family as we are all imperfect people. Also, kids grow up faster these days in terms of exposure to the real world, but slower in terms of social interaction, so in some respects, there are even more challenges for parents. If mine can survive reasonably healthy with opportunity to thrive when the leave the nest, I will be esctatic.

      Take care, BTG

  3. I wish my parents had followed this advice after their divorce. They were always civil and spoke highly of each other to us, which was good, but we moved two states away from my dad and I feel like I really missed out on getting to know him. We are close now, but I always wonder how my life would’ve been different if we had stayed near him while growing up. Great post!

  4. This is a thoughtful and important message to all parents. You are so right, especially about the over scheduling and about showing respect for the estranged parent. (After all, a couple once cared enough about each other to make a baby …or more… so can’t they set aside their hurts and resentments long enough to show respect in front of those babies?)

    • Thanks Linda. I really enjoyed your post this morning, but I had to cut my comments short, as I needed to take my daughter to school, one of my favorite times with her. I am going to re-read when I have a little more time.

  5. For me, as a parent, there is nothing more important than family meals. I mean the turn-off-everything-electronic-“How was your day?”-listen-to-each-other type of meals that create important discussions and nip problems in the bud before they have a chance to become significant. Choose a round table so the family gets to look at each other while they talk.

    We approached every adventure, argument, mistake and accident as an opportunity to make a memory. “Oh, this will be a story we can tell on Prom Night!” can lighten even the most tense of atmospheres.

    A sense of humor and a sense of love are all that is really required. Children don’t always require parents who live in the same house to feel loved. In the long run, I believe most children prefer happily divorced parents and blended families than miserable parents who remain in loveless marriages. They’d rather live in a car filled with love than in a house with none.

    Fantastic post!

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