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.

2 thoughts on “Protect the Child

  1. Ame, I hear you.

    The one big question I have is “What do you do when the child finds out the truth?” If so much time is spent building this bad person, and then the child finds out that the person isn’t so great after all, how do you handle it?

    Although my mom will never win “Parent of the Year”, one of the great things she did was remain tight-lipped about my dad for 15 years after the divorce. His sisters did enough talking that she knew I was being told the truth, but she did want me to have a relationship with him. So, she was quiet about her take on his character. It wasn’t until after I was 18 and series of (incredibly lame) events were in play that she let loose. And by then I wasn’t being given any new information.

    What all of that taught me was a very important lesson: I can’t depend on dad. I can’t and I shouldn’t. Although I wanted to, I did my best not to. Sometimes I was put in a position of dependency (always grudgingly) and sometimes I wasn’t disappointed. That gave me a false hope. Deep down inside I knew I couldn’t depend on him. And that was important. For if I was ever dependent on him, I would have turned into a complete mess.

    Some may think it’s sad, but at the same time it was great that I knew who I couldn’t depend on. I had to stand on my own two feet. This is probably one of the great explanations as to why I’m so stubborn. 🙂

  2. Mrs. L – that’s a big one.

    one would hope that the child doesn’t find out the whole truth until they are able to handle it. the brain is not fully developed until we’re in our 20’s – that’s a whole different ability to process than at the age of say, 10.

    also, it’s not wrong to tell a child, ‘i’m sorry he’s like that,’ or ‘i’m sorry she hurt you.’ the focus is on the child, not on telling the child their parent is bad. that’s a huge difference.

    another thing is that we don’t have to lie about the truth when they do find out. we can also keep it simple. for example, i tell my kids, “marriage rules were broken. sometimes when we break a rule or make a mistake, we get a second chance. sometimes we don’t. the marriage rules that were broken are ones where we don’t get a second chance.”

    i don’t have to give them any more info than that. they don’t need it. they do not need the details.

    is it okay for a child to know the limits of a parent? sure. they figure it out anyway.

    it is also okay to validate a child and give them a safe place to share their concerns. for example, if a child tells one parent something negative about the other, it is good to acknowledge that. if it’s not immoral or illegal and isn’t going to be really harmful, then you don’t have to do anything, really. sometimes we may need to step in and enable a child to handle situations with their other parent … but we do so with respect. that is hard, but important.

    it is never ever ever easy to hear the truth about one’s parents when that truth is negative. but we are much more equipped to handle that whole truth when our brains and maturity are such that we can process it more appropriately.

    one of the things i do is teach my girls to forgive and that nothing is unforgivable, and i teach them what forgiveness is and is not. when they need to forgive, they are then equipped to make that choice.

    i can’t depend on my parents, either, so i totally get that. but it would have been horrible for other adults to come up to me as a child and tell me that. i wasn’t stupid – i knew it.

    we do not need to embellish the other parent, but we can point out their positive, or in the very least not emphasize their negative.

    respect the child enough to treat their parent kindly while they are together. do not make the child fear seeing you anywhere when they are with the parent you do not like (for whatever reason). make sure the child knows they can trust you to act like an adult.

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