The only advice I ever got on being married was a question my dad asked me on the way to the church. “Got anything for birth control, son?”
I came to marriage with a very different set of expectations from my original wife who is the mother of my sons. I grew up in a home where dad was in charge and mom was the cook, house cleaner, and laundry lady who hardly ever confronted my dad with anything. She grew up in a home completely dominated by her mother. Brrr…still scares me to this day.
For four days prior to our marriage I was looking for any honorable way to get out of that marriage. My Judeo-Christian ethic said that even though we were not sexually active before we married, there weren’t any secrets left for us to explore. I thought I was obligated to marry her.
With our expectations that created pre-meditated resentments, we married, she taught school and I entered seminary.
Neither of us were good marriage partners. We had no training in how to be married and no skills in working through differences.
In time, we had two sons and morphed into a child-centric household. We were pretty good parents, but moved farther and farther away from any kind of meaningful marriage role model. By the time the boys were 5 and 8 years old, we were in a parallel marriage and we both acted out inappropriately.
A broken family
When she announced she was leaving me for my secretary’s husband, it cost me my job and career in the church as my own misbehavior became the fodder of gossip.
The night we had to tell the boys that their mother and I would no longer be living together, both the boys climbed up in my lap and their two questions still haunt me. The youngest asked, “Daddy, if you leave, who’s going to be our daddy now?” The oldest asked, “Daddy, if you can’t stay forever, could you just stay until in the morning?” Still hard to read those words again.
I got them dressed for bed, sang them some of the silly songs we always sang at bedtime, and we prayed together. I sat on the floor between their beds, crying silently as I watched these guys sleep into the night. I crept out the door quietly in the morning into a world I did not know. My job and career were gone, my friends abandoned me, a teaching position at the seminary evaporated and I began the long walk into being a single and part-time dad.
- This is not a dress rehearsal. You get one shot at raising your children, don’t blow it.
- If you have a bad marriage, run, don’t walk to get help to fix it before the dysfunction gets set in concrete.
- Avoid the temptation to be a “Disneyland Dad”
- Do not move away from where your children are, no matter what. Give them as much of you as is permitted. Visits, coaching, and remember to treat them in such ways while they are young that when you are all grown ups, you will like each other in spite of being kin by an accident of birth.
I’ve done my best to do that and my guys and I love each other…but the sad note is that I see the reality of the “sins of the father being visited on the children to the third and fourth generations.” My kids are not punished for my behavior, but the law of unintended consequences is real and I can see the pain I caused them even today when they are about 50 years old and have 20-something kids of their own.
God has graciously given me a wonderful wife and a do-over…I wouldn’t trade for where I am, but I hate how I got here.