Prioritizing blended families

I am going to start posting about relationships and children now that I am divorced and there doesn’t seem to be reconciliation in site. It is my hope that if I am ever married again, the husband I have will see eye to eye with me on this. I was brought up to believe that a husband and wife need to put each other and their relationship before that of children. Usually the marriage is first and then children who grow up and then leave and yet a marriage remains. I thought maybe this was just biblical, which it is…but I am also learning that it is in secular psychology as well. In fact, the following is from psychology today:

“Making your kids the centerpiece of your life may seem like a good idea, but generally it’s not. Besides the more obvious risks and dangers such as overprotection, indulgence, and other practices that can lead to a sense of entitlement and prolonged dependency. Making your children’s happiness your highest priority can result in an unanticipated and undesired consequence: the promotion of the idea that marriage requires the sacrifice of one’s personal needs and desires in order to fulfill the higher moral imperative of responsible child rearing. There’s no question that some degree of sacrifice is required for any relationship worth it’s salt to be successful, but the real question for parents is always, “Where is the line between my responsibility to my children, my responsibility to my spouse, and my responsibility to myself?”

When one or both partners make their children’s happiness a higher priority than the health of their marriage, they run the risk of neglecting the needs of the marriage, and in doing so, fostering feelings of resentment, neglect, resignation, and alienation in themselves and/or each other. Even if the consequences aren’t overtly harmful, they can erode the quality of the couples’ connection and give children the message that marriage isn’t a particularly fun place to be much of the time. As most parents know, children sense much more of their parent’s moods, feelings, and attitudes than they outwardly express. Unhappy and unfulfilled parents can lead their kids to conclude that marriage makes people unhappy, or if the focus of their discord centers on child-rearing differences, that they are the source of their parents’ unhappiness.

It’s natural and beneficial for parents to make their children’s well being a high priority. It’s better to err by caring too much than not enough. Still, making the needs of the marriage subordinate to the needs of the children can, as many have discovered the hard way, lead to unexpected consequences. For Betty, the children always came first. She claimed that because her husband Stefan was an adult, he could take care of himself and shouldn’t need much attention. Even as her children grew into adolescence and young adulthood, she never modified her position. She justified her stance and frequently told Stefan, “You’re not giving enough to them, so I have to.” “I’m not focusing on them,” Stefan would respond, “because they need to stand on their own two feet. When are you going to let them grow up?”

“You don’t care about your own children,” Betty would blurt through her tears, and the cycle would continue. They had this conversation hundreds of times over the course of their marriage. Sadly, both were unable to see that the casualties of the impasse were the children, as well as their marriage. For years, their relationship had been starving as a result of a deficit of attention. With both children now grown to adulthood, their marriage had devolved into cold, resentful stagnation.

Betty’s relentless attention to her children was a way of avoiding the real problems in the marriage, which had to do with a lack of intimacy and a loss of trust. Stefan’s unwillingness to nurture the marriage by acknowledging his own loneliness and sadness served to perpetuate the pattern. Ironically, but predictably, the children for whom Betty sacrificed her marriage were also losers in this game. Not only did they lose out on the kind of support they needed to become more independent and responsible themselves, but they missed the opportunity to grow up under the guidance and example of a loving partnership, Betty and Stefan managed to stay together even after their kids moved away from home, but their marriage remained unsatisfying because they never faced their real issues. They stayed together because they were fearful of being alone and opted for the familiarity of the old pattern.

More than anything else we can do for our children, the example of a happy marriage supports and encourages the possibility of creating such a relationship in their lives. The time to experience the true blessings of a marriage is not after the kids have left home. It’ never too early or too late to put your marriage first!”

This was an issue in two/three marriages for me…both similar in personalities but one the children were born into and the other the child was in the process of being adopted (wherein he then chose the child to be adopted over reconciliation). My first husband realized this and repented after the divorce but sadly I was living in sin and didn’t care. Next time, if I don’t stay single, I will make sure whomever I date is on this same page.

The Empty Room

Sun shining down On white washed fencing Caging in the house Once broken and burned. Light glistening through Windows clearly showing All the rooms inside The reconstructed home. Hardwood floors Newly purchased sofa Kitchen sparkling clean The memories washed away. … Continue reading

Life as I see, I mean, Dream It

There are days when the world feels like it goes against me. Everything I say and do seems to irritate and everything that’s said or done towards me just rubs the salt into the rawness. Likely, I am trying so hard to climb UP, that in my incessant trying and perpetuating speed, I end up digging a hole-deeper, and instead of going forward, I regress.  I guess one could compare it to quicksand: you fight to get out of a pit and instead you sink deeper.

Those days, I look back at how I’m cramming every second of time with more time-consuming opportunities, convincing myself that they are helping me get somewhere, but really, are they? I take two steps forward, and slide right back down.

I’d like to know my efforts aren’t in vain…and I guess I somehow wish that this is a dream from which I will awake and everything will be perfect:

I’ll wake up in the morning (well rested) to a clean house, go on a nice jog, kiss my honey goodbye as he leaves for work, talk to my daughter while I cook her breakfast, get her on the school bus, then drive to work, getting there plenty early of course! (I know…don’t laugh.) After a prosperous day at work (because I’ll be doing what I love like owning a business or working as a police officer, fighting crime), I’ll go pick up my daughter from her after-school program, where all her homework would have been done and I’ll see a great report from her teacher on how helpful and obedient she was.  I’ll drive home and start cooking dinner and just then, my husband will walk in the door and come to kiss me immediately because he missed me so much. After he changes, he’ll come to the kitchen and finish prepping dinner and setting the table with me. We will all sit down at the table and say grace, then eat our well-balanced meal talking to each other about our day (no cell phones). After dinner, we will clean up together and then I’ll throw in some laundry while my daughter gets ready for bed and my love feeds our well-behaved dogs that are a little mischievous sometimes.  Then we will tuck in my little girl together and go sit on the couch, me doing homework, and him watching his sports and catching up on news. After I finish, (and switch out the laundry), we’ll  go take a shower together, maybe somewhere in there…he’ll passionately start kissing me and tell me how beautiful I am, and then…maybe some other things…. Then, we’ll finish folding laundry and make sure the house is tidied before we lay down for the night, snuggled up in each other’s arms. Sigh…

I know, some fairy tale huh. I think I have to wake up and realize no one is perfect-no life is perfect and happiness and joy is about what you choose in spite of a dirty house, running late, not having enough time in the day to get everything done that should be, juggling family life, and trying to shush up about my apparent irrational expectations about partnership.

And, life goes on….

My Girl

Sometimes at night

When all is quiet and calm

I sit alone in the dark

And I wonder about you

You whose beauty fills your face

Your painful eyes so pretty

Your smile so young

Do you know your place?

I want to hold you

And tell you it’s alright

Your life, it hurts I bet

You put up quite a fight

I barely know you

Just by name

By pictures vague

What they write in vain

But I know you’re mine

And I’ll fight too you know

Your soul is beautiful

And I love you so

Your heart is young

And much too broken

Come here and find

He’s already spoken

He’s watching you

Protecting and all knowing

He’s loving you

Watching you growing

Guiding and showing

Us your spirit

To cherish and call you

Our child-my little girl.

I wrote this the other night as we wait for the process to move forward on foster-adopting a teenage girl.  A teenage girl who seems to have been written off by the “system” and labeled as a “problem child.” If you know me, you would know that this sort of thing is a pet peeve of mine.  All I my life I grew up labeled: “Missionary kid” or “rebel”.

It sucks to be predestined to act a certain way or be someone you’re “expected” to be instead of being loved for who you are, the good and the bad.  This girl is so beautiful and you can see that pain and beauty and depth in her young eyes and I just want to hug her and cry with her as I’m so sad and hurt that she has gone through everything she has.  When kids act out, it is often because of the trauma they’ve had or hurt they’ve experienced and many times they aren’t rebelling against authority, they’re rebelling out of a lack of relationship. (We talked about this in our “Life group” through church yesterday.)

I am okay with problems.  Perfection scares me, to be honest, as I am anything but perfect.  Life is tough and we have a firm foundation, thankfully.  The winds that blow us will not uproot us.  And as a song says, “we might bend but we won’t break.”

Timing

I’ve heard the phrase said, “it was just wrong timing.”  I thought this to myself regarding something recently and stopped myself.  I try not to think too in depth about much when it comes to my life, my choices in the past, and that sort of thing.  I have taken many opportunities in life and I’m sure missed out on many.

I am the product of a free-will thinking individual as far as my beliefs.  And as I said to a friend recently, I get criticized for all my decisions that come off as looking like I am not sure where I am going in life.  I want more-I don’t want to settle and be content with just “getting by.”  Or so I say….  I guess some things in my life are dictated by “other” forces such as not wanting to rock the boat with family or children.  I have had a lot of varying jobs that have all given me a wide spectrum of job skills.  I have had a lot more relationships than one would care to that have given me the ability to put up with some things and not others or how/when to choose my battles or when to let go.  Each thing I’ve gone through is a process.  Like I said before-stepping stones…it has always seemed to be my destiny in life to hop through on stepping stones without a final point and to be a stepping stone for others to “find themselves” or what they want.  Does it make me excited?  No, honestly, it doesn’t…don’t we all want a happy, perfect ending?  Maybe I just believe that my happy ending is giving all that I have and am for others.  Yes, I have desires and wants, but either I don’t get those or I just have to keep waiting.  Maybe when I’m 90? 😉 The grass might look greener and I have always taken chances and risks, but I’m so tired of doing so and being wrong.  I just can’t risk that anymore.

All these thoughts bring me back to my main point-is there ever a “perfect time”???  I remember thinking that about a relationship I had and yet, it was clearly never meant to be.  A good friend once told me I was his soul mate but the timing was off and that we were “never meant to be” and of course, I agreed that it wasn’t meant to be, but for other reasons.  “Timing…”  Is there really ever a “perfect” time in life for anything?  Sometimes people put stipulations on getting married or having children, saying, “When x happens, then we’ll be ready.” (Most times x=having money…which is rare for most people in this day and age to ever have the “right” amount of.)

Henry David “Thoreau” (my favorite writer if you weren’t aware) said, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”  He also made the wise comment that, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”  Thoreau said more than what I could ever quote-all good stuff.  So, to paraphrase what he is saying in these, we know what we want and can not always have it, except in our dreams.  There is no “perfect time” but we have to live each moment at a time to the best that we can and take advantage of the open doors…those opportunities.

It’s times like this that I realize I am writing to reveal something new to myself-to clarify all the thoughts in my head.  I wish I could say that I will seize moments in the future and do just that, not playing it safe (as many of you think is my custom…even though it isn’t.)  It isn’t in my nature to stir anything up.  So, I’ll try to be patient and wait and keep living one day at a time and see what happens.  Thoughts and feelings can stay in my dreams where they belong.  🙂

Just think about it the next time you tell yourself something isn’t the “right time.”  Maybe that is the very time you need to take an opportunity.  Everything happens for a reason.  You won’t know until you try.

Listening to “In My Dreams” by REO Speedwagon