When children fare best

Madeleine L’Engle, author of Walking on Water and other works, was once asked, “What do you think you and Hugh (her husband) have done which was best for your children?” She responded immediately, “We love each other.”

In God’s divine order, other than our relationship with Him, no relationship is of greater importance than the one we have with our spouse. My children will fare best--educationally, socially, emotionally, financially--when I love their mother and my wife more than I love them.

As a lawyer who once did family court work-- dealing with divorces, custody disputes, visitation issues, and other family crises--I often heard one spouse say, in effect, “I love my children and want what is best for them, but I cannot stand my husband (or wife).” Such a statement reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about family dynamics and child-rearing.  If we truly, sincerely love our children and want what is best for them, we will intentionally, desperately, and resolutely love our spouse, the other parent.

On the other hand, if we dislike, despise, or hate our spouse, we communicate a harmful message to our children, often unintentionally. For you see, if what produced our children is unlovable or unworthy, then we imply that our children’s own lovability and worthiness is in question.  In other words, if I view the mother of my child as a “bitch”--a term I have heard on more than one occasion when spouses are at odds with one another--then my child is a “son of a bitch” or a “daughter of a bitch.”

I know.  That’s not what people usually intend to communicate to their children. But our children get it. They know instinctively what we should know by thinking clearly--a father who truly loves his children will also love their mother. A father who despises their mother can say all he wants about loving his children and wanting what is best for them. But our children know the truth. They get it. So should we.