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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Choices for the Divorced Parent on Mother's Day

Training Your Kids for Mother’s Day

A year or two after my divorce, I was out on a date with a woman I had met, and we were visiting over a meal or something, kind of getting to know one another.  Somehow, the topic of Mother’s Day came up, which I think was coming soon (or maybe it was my ex’s birthday we were talking about.)  Either way, I remember mentioning that I always tried to make sure my teenaged children knew when those special days were upcoming, and checked to see if they needed money to be able to get their mother an appropriate gift.  Sometimes they needed help, sometimes they didn’t.  Sometimes they remembered the day was coming, sometimes they didn’t. 

Anyway, as we discussed these things, my date thought it was not necessary that I do that, given that my children were teenagers, she believed that they were old enough that they should just be responsible for it themselves.  Technically, she was right.  But for those of us who have had teenage children in the home, we realize that teenagers don’t always have their brains connected to a calendar or to awareness of others…they can get pretty wrapped up in their own busy activities.  Since she had never had children, there were things about raising kids she believed ought to be, but was unaware that in the world of child-rearing, OUGHT and IS are NOT the same thing!  (I realized that evening that if I got married again, there would be some advantage to marrying a woman who had children of her own and might thus, be more sensitive to the needs of my children as well as her own…although I readily admit that isn’t always true.)

Mother’s Day is THIS Sunday, remember?  (I always do, because my birthday is close enough that it lands on Mother’s Day every once in a while…in fact, I was probably a great Mother’s Day present myself!)  If you are a dad with younger children and are recently divorced, you have an opportunity to teach your children some important lessons, I believe.  Remembering that YOUR ex, is still THEIR mother, you can teach them that you believe it is important to respect BOTH parents, by encouraging them in appropriate plans for Mother’s Day.  (Yes, I know, but do it even if their mother isn’t always acting the way she should toward them, or toward YOU for that matter.  And, sadly, there are no guarantees that such behavior will be reciprocated, so don’t assume it will be.) 

It may not be your favorite thing to do, especially if you have to help fund a gift for a person who is treating YOU shabbily, but there is good reason to do so.
First, you are teaching your children good character, and isn't that what you want for them? 

Second, it means YOU are being a person of good character, taking the high road by doing something good, just because you believe it is the right thing to do (and maybe someday, the kids might realize that, too…but that isn't why you do it.)  

Third, the person being honored is a person you once loved, so if for no other reason, you could do this for the sake of old times and memories. 

In some cases, I realize, a parent may have completely abandoned the children and has nothing to do with them or treats them in inappropriate ways.  Even so, if it is possible, it is important to teach kids to respect both their parents, imperfect though we may be.  And who knows, making the effort even in difficult circumstances may one day affect how the children treat YOU, or the person who becomes their step-mother! 

ON THE OTHER HAND, if you are the MOTHER whose day of celebration is approaching, let me suggest that as it arrives, ask yourself not what your ex is or is not doing to help your children remember you appropriately, but what you WISH they might have done to help the kids.  And then, make plans now to be the one who does whatever that is for YOUR ex when Father’s Day or his birthday rolls around, for the very same reasons mentioned above. 

And do it, maybe because isn't doing so exactly the kind of thing Jesus meant with the Golden Rule…treating others the way YOU would like to be treated?  That is what is unique about how Jesus worded it…not that we merely refrain from doing things to others we wish were NOT done to us, but that we intentionally DO the things for others we wish for ourselves.

It would be great if both parties in divorces would be able to think this way toward their ex, but not so many divorces create environments where it is easy to do this kind of thing.  And I know that children often end up with warped perspectives of even the best of us, and that though we try our best to do what is right, we all still make plenty of mistakes.  But I also believe that having and acting on noble goals isn't a bad thing, especially in the time of divorce.  

That is a time when your character is literally on the line as you design your future and the values you choose to live out in that future.

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