children make terrible gods

A child’s ecosphere is most stable when mom and dad are on the same page.

Families don’t begin when kids come along. They start the day a husband and wife affirm, “I do.”

It was unsettling and uncomfortable, two adjectives that no six-year-old should feel regardless of circumstances. The pressure of an unspoken but blaring loud message was clear: all was not well between my mother and father, and the weight of it all weighed heavily upon me.

The family Cadillac was an incredible 18 feet 9 inches long (yes, really!). We nicknamed it “The Silver Streak,” which was also our C B radio designation. Whenever we tried to get a real-life trucker on the line, “Breaker, breaker, anyone got a copy? This is Silver Streak. Over,” not once did someone respond. C B radios, obviously, belonged in Mac Trucks and 18-wheelers, not 18-foot-long Silver Cadillacs.

One summer day in 1973, we were headed to Lake Tuscaloosa. I sat in the middle of the front seat between my parents, and my three siblings took the back seat. We stopped to get fried chicken; a large red and white striped bucket of KFC was the thing back then. Once my dad paid for it and got back in the car, I held it tight in my lap. Drive-thru’s didn’t exist at the time.

I’m guessing something came over the radio about divorce, a taboo subject in 1973 which was anything but the norm. I asked, something to the effect of, “Mom and Dad, would you ever get divorced?” To this day, I cannot tell you what they said or how they responded. I can tell you that kids have antennas when all is not well with their worlds. The atmosphere in the car at that moment clearly spoke: “Your world has just become insecure,” was the message my antennas picked up.

I’ve heard it said that kids don’t need to be told they’re the glue that holds the marriage together; they get the point loud and clear. The message has already been sent. Back in the day, parents divorced when their youngest child graduated from high school. The marriage had been in trouble years before then. Mom and Dad may have lived under the same roof, but their worlds had grown apart. The only bond they held in common centered around the kids. In essence, the children became the glue that held everything together. Once the kids left, the marital partnership ended.

You’ve heard children of divorced parents say, “My mom and dad split up, and for whatever reason, I feel responsible,” like it was somehow their fault. It’s a scenario that plays out all the time. How can we reasonably explain any kid concluding his or her parent’s break-up was on them? That makes zero sense unless, beginning in childhood, the message “You’re the glue keeping us together” hovered over every ballfield, school play, vacation, travel ball (bad idea), dinner table conversation, family outing, etc.

It stands to reason, therefore, that divorce could only mean one thing: the glue failed, so yes, this is my fault. I’m pretty much describing my mindset at 18 when my parents divorced. The real troubles began, I later found out, when I was 5, a year before the KFC bucket in my lap incident above. Crazy how I picked up on the disconnect without hearing them argue or bicker even once. Please pay attention to that last sentence.

What, then, are parents supposed to do?

· Three times a week, as soon as you get home, kiss the kids and tell them, “We’re gonna have fun later, but first, Mom and Dad enjoy spending time together. We will sit on the couch for 30 minutes. You will see us, but you cannot interrupt us. If you do, you’ll get punished.”

· It’s imperative to pick a spot where the kids can watch you without interrupting. I’ve heard this referred to as “couch time,” it works like a charm. It’s the single most secure feeling you can hardwire into your kids.

· Stressful subjects are off-limits.

This routine is highly likely to divorce-proof your marriage.

Three Quick Takeaways

· Apart from “The Silver Streak,” not one word of this blog is original; I’ve borrowed every bit of it. I’m simply sharing content others shared with me because it impacted my marriage and childrearing more than any other thing out there.

· Marriages don’t just collapse—they erode. So, Mom and Dad, don’t be misled—I promise your life only gets more hectic. If you’re too busy to establish healthy guardrails now, they won’t happen in the future.

· According to Psalm 127, children are incredible gifts from the Lord, and parents joyfully receive them as such. The trouble arises when they’re elevated to gods. They truly are terrible at it.
Jesus said, for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.


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