Let me say it clearly again: There are no perfect parents. Your parents weren’t. Their parents weren’t. You aren’t. Your children won’t be. We are all fundamentally broken because of our sinfulness. And we will raise, well… little sinners.
One of the biggest mistakes (in my opinion) that parents make today is to so prioritize child-rearing; to allow the child’s schedule, needs, cries for attention to drive our homes… even at the cost of our marriages. So often when I talk to young couples having struggles during the child-rearing years, I ask them a simple question: When was the last time you had a night out… without the kids? Usually the answer is silence or, “Well, we haven’t.”
Our children will always cry to be the center of our world. They are not born by nature into a selfless posture. They want all of your time, all of your attention and all of your resources. When they are younger (infants) they are helpless and certainly demand and deserve your attention. But as they grow into toddlers, they will continue to cry to be the center of your world unless you teach them by your example that they are not.
This is extremely hard for parents who have so attached themselves to the success and well-being and happiness of their child and who have tied their value to their child’s success. In that instance, the parent needs the child more than the child needs the parent. That is not a healthy relationship even though others may “ooh” and “aah” around you, applauding your devotion. It is in reality, devotion to yourself at the core and truthfully, the child is not emotionally wired to be the focus of your life.
It’s also hard for parents who believe the child ought to be afforded the privileges of adulthood while they are still toddlers. For example: Who decides your child’s bedtime? Who determines what they get to eat? Does your child get to barge in to conversations you are having with another adult? Do they get to correct you? In other words, we have allowed our children to enjoy the privileges of adult living (when to sleep, when to get up, what to eat, etc.) and communicated to them that they are on equal footing in terms of family structure with any adult.
If your relationship with your child, in your mind, is THE most important relationship in your home you have made one of the most tragic mistakes that couples can make. The child needs to understand that 8:30 is bedtime even if they are not tired because mommy and daddy need some time alone… without them. They need to understand and SEE MODELED IN THE HOME a healthy marriage between mom and dad because nothing will bring them security like seeing that. There’s a reason the Bible tells us “a man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife.” It means no one… parents, children, grandchildren… is to come before the one with whom you are “one flesh.” The marriage is to be the primary relationship in the home, after the husband’s or wife’s relationship with God.
Here’s what is amazing to some parents and it hurts to hear it. Your kids don’t need you around them all the time. Your children want you to take a break… from them! I know that is a blow to the ego of some hovering moms and dads. But kids know that when you go out or go away for a quick weekend, you come back happier. Not as stressed out. And they instinctively know they will be happier because you’re gone for a bit and always happy to see you return.
Hear my heart as a pastor. So many families are blowing up their marriages over this one issue. Come to grips with this. Place your children in their proper position in the family. God created the family system for all to be healthy. Getting it wrong means everyone pays a price.
So, take a break. Have a night out. Go sit at McDonalds, drink a milkshake together without the kids and remember why you got married in the first place.
Your kids will thank you. I promise.
FOR MEMORIZATION: For this cause a man will leave father and mother and cling to his wife. And they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
FOR REFLECTION: For every rule there seems to be a lot of exceptions. There aren’t many for the one we have dealt with above. However here is an exception: there are families in our church with special needs children who never move much beyond the infant-dependent stage in their lifetime. We need to find ways to minister to these special, heroic parents that walk among us. An offer to sit with their child for an evening may be the greatest gift you could give to these courageous folks who are pressed to the limit. Pray for them. And let’s do something to minister to them.