Any good parent is only as happy as their least happy child. I can only speak from my personal experience and heart.
One of my favorite songs that I literally take as a prayer to God is “Lead Me,” by Sanctus Real. It is a real prayer written by the bands lead singer written out his heart after he and his wife had been experiencing a period of distance and misunderstandings between themselves and their children. A few words of his prayer made into that hit song goes:
“I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…
Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?
Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”
So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?”
His children already feeling alone even in their own home are asking him with their eyes to show them they are still the love of his life. His children desire to be led by their strong father. They are already hungry for his love, and no longer want to be left.
Do you think all difficult behavior or defiant behavior is outward expressions of some form of internal turmoil inside of a child of divorce? What about that of a child who after being dragged through and used during a high profile custody dispute that involved false child abuse allegations and continues to be subjected to although, not quite the same high level of tactics, but yet some forms of neglect and manipulation? I don’t know either, but I do see the toll it has taken on my children today.
I know I don’t have to tell you that second marriages and blended families have more difficulties at being happy and harmony than first marriages do. Ours, like so many others out there that were cursed with special circumstances can almost be destined for doom. Circumstances that are not going to disappear. Circumstances that have caused damage and scars on not only our children, but us as well. Not only did my wife and I have to recover from the breakup of our pasts divorces, but as a result of the personal attacks inflicted upon us after we married each other we had to recover from them before we even had the chance to blend our new family into one of our own. How do you try to repair damaged goods when they are constantly getting broken, especially when you yourself are broken? No our children are not broken down or on the verge of a mental break down because of those past events. They just continue to have to put up with a load of crap from both of our ex’s that affect all of us and it effects their development.
Children of divorce of have it hard enough. We all know that. Forget the statistics. If you read any of my blogs you know I’ll tell you that you can just look them up yourself. Besides each source you look at will be different from the other. And I’m not even an investigative reporter.
The worlds of divorced children are turned upside. Imagine how a child’s mind is unable to grasp the split of their family structure from which they gain most of their security. Maybe having to move, which may involve changing schools and leaving friends behind only adding to the sense of loss. Their lives completely torn apart.
What about when parents begin date? The child(ren) have to try to develop relationships with other adults and possibly their children. These are not people even related to them, nor did they have a choice to have them in their life. Yet they must find a way to get along with them, and possible build a family with them. And what if they haven’t even accepted the finality of their parents’ divorce and continue to harbor the fantasy they will reunite?
I hate it when I hear of some people try to sugar coat it with descriptions like, “You’ll have two Christmases” or “You’ll have two birthday parties.” For some kids the trauma is so severe it causes physical symptoms such as stomach problems and headaches. It can cause depression and withdrawal, sleeping problems, isolation, etc.
Yea they may have two of this and two of that, but unfortunately majority of the time they feel they have to be two different people, one person at moms and another at dads. No, I’m not being negative. Kids are resilient. They are tougher than what most people give them credit for. However, the truth is they can only be as resilient as their parents. And they are fragile and breakable as glass. And all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch.
Both of our ex’s made personal attacks on us with false child abuse allegations that resulted in both of them seeking full custody. That’s all said and done and taken care of. That’s a topic I keep coming back to so often in my blogs because of the impact it has made on our children and our lives. There are some things in life you just can’t pretend didn’t happen, even if all other’s around are doing so.
I’ve asked myself how much I allow my own children to affect my personal happiness and well being. How much is my wife affected by our kids? And the truth is I myself, and whether she admits it or not, let them affect me a lot. When any of my children are unhappy in anyway then I’m unhappy.
One of the major things my wife and I want when it come into our home with our children is that it should be a safe haven from the other two homes in our children’s lives. Any home should be a safe place, but we need ours to be one more so than the average home. A home where there is no bad mouthing, no accusations, no questioning, twisting of words, no putting them in the middle, no blaming, no reporting, no giving instructions to tell the other parent, ect. These are what the other two sets of parents do. As a matter of fact our kids are not even allowed to speak of those other family members because it’s always negative in some form.
What I’m about to say isn’t a hateful or badmouth manner. It truly is a report of facts. Both my wife’s ex and mine are very selfish and have no regards for which their actions affect including their own children. This leaves my wife and I to pick up the pieces and put them back together when our kids get hurt, get put in the middle of something, or worse, cause trouble because they have learned by example. After all, they both manipulate, attempt to alienate our kids, coach and use our children in court. And in most cases we are the ones blamed when they act out and require some form of intervention.
Here’s a perfect example: My 7 year old got suspended for being violent at school. Without even knowing of the event I was found guilty of his behavior. I was even contacted by someone from his school who was rude and proceeded to have the nerve to instruct me how to conduct things within my own home. I had no idea what the guy was talking about. Or once my step-son tried to explain to his dad he was upset with him only to have him blame my wife saying she was planting stuff in his head.
More than anything for all my children I want them to not have to deal with the things they do deal with. It angers me that they do and even more it angers me that I am unable to stop it. Four out of five of our children have seen therapists. One currently is for anger issues. Mostly he’s mimicking it from his mother’s home. And that angers me as a father that my children are being exposed to that type of behavior. Another constantly embellishes stories between parents leaving us never knowing what to believe. Another is conflicted with devotion between parents and identity seeking attention equating it love while another is constantly defiant and seeks constant attention. And the little one, well, other than her being wildly hyper all the time she just loves everyone and by God’s grace she’s been spared.
Of course all this has negative effects on the kids. We see and hear the damage it has on them. As if just being children of divorce isn’t hard enough going back and forth every other weekend. We see and hear the trouble they have dealing with the other homes and step-parents.
What do you do when your kids are in these positions and you see it causes them turmoil and teaches them bad? How do you conduct yourself? If you want to be that place they can run to how to you build it? “Build” is the key word. It doesn’t just happen.
I may be remarried with step-kids, but I’m still a weekend dad. Being a weekend dad is hard. If there was one word I had to use to describe it, it would be “painful.” After the initial rip of your children that you shared 100% of your daily life with, you’re then reduced to 1% of your daily life out of the month. That’s 4 days out of the month, and that’s only 4 days they have with you from their perspective. So you’re left with a dilemma. It’s easy for a weekend dad to be that “fun dad.” Or you maintain your fatherhood role and remain determined to teach your children the things a father should. Being the “fun dad” is one thing I refuse to be. No, I don’t mean I’m not fun. I just refuse to give in to my insecurities and try to “win” my kids over with fun and material things by compromising what it means to be a father. I want to sometimes. There have been times where I have had to reprimand or discipline one of my kids shortly before they were to return to their mothers. It’s a balancing act that’s difficult to walk. As much as I would’ve loved to let them off the hook just for that fact would only show me as unstable and inconsistent. Something both sets of our children are too familiar within their other homes.
Just as being a weekend dad is hard so is being a step-dad, especially in our situations. I was blessed to be welcomed within the new family when my wife and got married. Her children were young. As time went by and the dynamics of things changed so did the difficulties. I’m grateful there are no problems between my wife’s kids and I. As a matter of fact I see them as my own. Their other sets of parents are emotionally neglectful and in many cases make promises with material goods. There’s lack of structure and rules. There are promises of gifts and trips. So there are freedoms and rewards without any accountability or responsibility. If that’s the way those parents want to run their home that’s their business.
It makes the kids all the more resistant to structure in our home making me the bad guy. When I don’t give in or when I discipline I’m ignored unless something is wanted. I don’t get “goodnights” or “goodbyes.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m trash talking. Quite the contrary. It saddens me to see all of these kids in contradicting positions, some of which that certain individuals purposely neglect them emotionally only to turn around and attempt to buy their attention.
Sadly, the very things that upset the kids that the other parents do, they do themselves. They’ve learned by modeling. Yet, when you work to correct that behavior you’re met with some form of opposition.
I’m a dad. I want to teach my children. First and foremost I want to teach them to fear God. That we have extraordinary potential, creative power with imagination and passion given by God.
I want them to learn honesty, something the other parents are not teaching, and to keep promises as commitments, even when it hurts. Nothing will destroy a person more quickly than lies and broken promises. The other parents have proven that. I cannot allow them to become good liars. I must train them to keep promises and make them carefully.
I need to teach them to be self-controlled, especially my strong-willed daughter and son with a short fuse. Titus 2:6 tells us to instruct to mentor self-control. It is not in-born. It is a spiritual gift (Galatians 5:23) but must be cultivated. Some is modeled, some is explained, but in the end all self-control is learned through practice and correction.
Delayed gratification is sweeter. Work comes before pleasure. Doing the hard things first gives satisfaction. Instant gratification weakens a person. Just as well, I must teach to distinguish needs from wants. We like many things, but need few. It’s difficult when one family’s form of love is in the form of materialism.
We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year, or five years. Diligent work, a little at a time, honors God and yields lasting results. It’s so easy for them to give up or not even try if something requires effort.
I want to teach my boys to honor women. Men who honor women make better husbands and fathers. They protect women rather than harm them. Specifically, my sons should know how to hold a woman’s arm, and open doors for her. They should be coached on where it is ok to touch a woman, and where not. They should speak to women with a proper address of Miss and Ma’am. My sons should learn how to control his eyes when looking at a woman (i.e., focus on her smile, son, not her other attributes). My sons should understand that there are only three categories of women on this planet: His mother, his future wife, and every other woman he should treat as a sister. This I must do by modeling and by words.
For my daughters, I want them to learn they deserve nothing less than a man like their father.
I want all my children to learn responsibility, accountability, and respect. And I’m responsible for that.
You might be thinking what this has to do with their unhappiness. It has everything to do with it. When they are asked to be accountable and it’s contrary to their character it causes both internal and external conflicts. It causes anger. When they’re expected to be responsible and they fail to do so it causes negative consequences.
I see my kids struggling to be one person at one home and another at our home. I see them carry the weight of some parent’s expectations. I see them carrying the weight of bad mouthing parents. I see the disappointment in their faces when one of them lets them down. I see the guilt when they feel they’re being disloyal. I see their unhappiness and it makes me unhappy.
I know I can’t take away their unhappiness or the inner conflict they carry within. I wish I could. More so I wish I could do away with the cause of it all. Not they I want them out their lives. I just want them to get their act together. So the best I can do, the best my wife and I can do, is be as stable and consistent for them as we can. Be their rock. We may not always see eye-to-eye on methods, but with the same goal we do always seem to make our way onto the same path eventually, the happiness of our children. I can only be as happy as my least happiest child.