Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Real kids, real life

In a way it would be nice to shelter our kids from the rough parts of life. But that's not possible (and really wouldn't even be healthy.) Eventually kids are confronted with harsh realities.

People get sick.

People die.

People do evil things.

People get divorced.

That last one confronted our family this week. On Monday evening I got a call from a close family member letting me know that he and his wife have decided to split up. My heart is aching for them. I hate the fact that they are going through this painful time.

After the call, I shared the news with my husband, then sat down with the kids. Zoodle is too young to really "get it," but Chickie listened carefully as we talked. The main points I wanted to get across were...
  • Sometimes married people decide not to be married anymore.
  • You won't be seeing Jane when we visit relatives, because she won't be married to Jack anymore. (Names changed here.)
  • Daddy and I are always going to stay married.
I know there's an element of risk in telling your children you'll always be married. Many, many divorced parents have probably told their kids that in the past. But all I can count on is who we are right now, and who we've committed to be in the future. Unless one of us chooses to change who we are, we will stay married. With God's grace, that's a commitment we will keep.

But as I mulled over all of this, something struck me. I can tell my kids that Daddy and I will stay married, until I'm blue in the face. But what's really going to convince them is not what I tell them, but what they observe.

Are The Engineer and I treating each other with respect? Are we making conflict resolution a priority instead of just letting conflicts grow and fester? Are we showing our kids that we love each other instead of simply surviving everyday hassles and busy-ness?

I think we're pretty good at the second one (conflict resolution) but honestly--I want to show my husband respect and love more consistently. I want my actions to reflect my commitment to him, not just my emotions at the time.

That's what will help us have a strong marriage. And that's what will convince our kids that we're in it for the long haul.


Eternal Lizdom said...

One of these days, I'm going to blog my thoughts on divorce.

I like what you've said here.

We had to explain divorce a little to Teagan- one of her good friends at school had praents who had separated (they are dating now- which I love). Her question was "When will you and Daddy get a divorce?" Not in a worried or scared way- very matter of fact like "When will you and Daddy go to McDonald's?" We explained the same thing- that when 2 people choose to marry each other, they are making promises to stay married for their whole lives and that is what we promised when we got married and that we work hard everyday to show each other that we love each other and that we love our family.

Melinda said...

It is such a tough subject for kids to understand. They start out life with the feeling that love is perfect and permanent. Then somewhere down the line we have to explain to them that it is not, while convincing them that doesn't apply to your love for them. You are so right that the only way to really make sure they know is to show them that no matter what you will love them.

Call Me Cate said...

This post has had me in a thoughtful place all day. Even though we don't have kids to reassure, your post really struck a cord. It doesn't matter who's watching - it's just important to show people we love them in all the ways you mention. Especially respect. Because while it's the "thought that counts," I think "actions speak louder than words" as well. It's something most of us could be more mindful about. Or, at least, me.

Anonymous said...

It is a tough subject to explain to kids. I think Melinda hit it on the nose with her comment above that somehow we have to explain to them that love is not always perfect and permanent, but that doesn't apply to our love for them. But how do you express that to someone who has never experienced anything but unconditional love?

We went through that when Laura was 5 and my brother and his wife got divorced. The first question she asked was, "Are you and mommy ever going to stop loving each other?" Of course the right answer is "never," but imagine the betrayal she would feel if that answer ever turned out to be wrong.

That said, I'd much rather answer that question than the one Katie asked just a few years later - "Everyone I love keeps dying, and how do I know you won't be next?"

There is no answer to that one.