Protect the Child

To my girls, he’s their Daddy! They love and adore their Daddy and look forward to their time with him. To be honest, the three of them had to work that ‘peaceful place’ out over time, and it did take some time. But they’ve found it, and they need him. Why? Because kids NEED their Daddy’s.

To me, he’s my ex-husband.

I have not been the perfect anything ever, but I have tried. I have failed, but then I have picked myself up and reset my buttons and moved forward. That encompasses being a friend, a sister, a daughter, to being a wife to my first husband, to being a Mommy to my girls, to being an ex-wife, to being a Single Mom, to being a wife to my new husband, and to being a Step Mom. I say, “I’m sorry,” often. I work hard not to make the same mistakes twice. And I work hard to move forward, becoming better at all of it.

It has always been very important to me that my girls have a great relationship with their dad. I encourage that. I uplift their dad around them. I try to teach my girls to honor their father.

One day, years ago, my girls and I were talking about their daddy. We talked about what a great daddy he was. And one of my girls replied without missing a beat, “If Daddy is so great, then why are you divorced?” I’m a pretty prepared mom, but I was caught off-guard by that one.

There’s another facet to this divorce thing in situations like mine … that’s the role of adults, ones I know now, and ones who were around then and know the facts first-hand, who watched me go through hell, who held my hand and prayed me through. All these adults also must be respectful of my girls’ dad around them. And anyone who has ever been close to something like this knows how very difficult that is.

Along the lines of the discussion we’ve had out here recently … how to handle situations of divorce within the church … and the complexities of such when children are involved … another challenging aspect is how to treat the other parent when you see them in public, especially when they are with one of their children or when one of their children is present.

Here are some things to think about:

Remember … that parent is still that child’s parent. Respect the child enough to remember this truth in how you relate to both of them in public.

Remember … that child needs their parent. Regardless of what that parent has done, their child still needs and wants them.

Remember … though there are bad things, there are also good things about that parent. Search deep and wide if you must, but find those good things. “You have your Daddy’s eyes.” “You have your Momma’s smile.” “Your Daddy always gives to Angel Tree at Christmas, too.” “Your Momma makes the best chocolate cake!” There is still something of good in that parent for their child to hold onto – give it to them. Give the child the good in their parent.

Remember … respect the role of that parent even if you cannot respect the parent, and do so by treating them with respect, especially around their children.

Remember … do not add fuel to the fire of gossip about the other parent. You may listen if the parent you know or the children need to talk, but just be a sponge that absorbs and never leaks out except to God (with the exception of abuse; that should be a given). You are talking about a child’s parent. Regardless of what they have done, they are that child’s parent. Do not risk their child over-hearing you, and do not risk anyone repeating what you have said in a way that will get back to their child.

Remember … Protecting the children (except in cases of abuse) does not mean taking them away from their parent. Period. For better or worse, good, bad, and ugly, kids need their own parents.

Remember … if there is a remarriage on either side, the First Rule of Step-Parenting is that the Step Parent is NOT the Parent. Do not go around saying, especially to the child, “Your step parent can now take the place of your real parent [when they’re not around … when they’re acting like an a$$ … when anything].” That is a terrible thing for a kid to hear. The step parent is another adult role in that child’s life, but they are not the parent. Do not make the kid choose by telling them the step parent can take the place of the real parent. That’s cruel.

Remember … if you don’t know what to say, keep your mouth shut and smile. Check your attitude. You will very likely forget that encounter, but I assure you, the child will not.

Regardless of whether or not it looks the way you think it should, protect the child, and protect their relationship with both their parents. Children need their parents. Don’t be instigative in ripping that relationship apart.

Be the adult.

Protect the child.