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My wife and I failed to achieve a great marriage, so we were mediocre parents most of the time and often worse than mediocre. Married at 17 and 18, we didn’t know much about marriage. Our parents had avoided divorce, but did not provide a model for a loving marriage. Three children came early and — in the absence of maturity — my wife and I made it up as we went along.
A great deal of our energy was diverted from our children, burned up in our conflicts with each other. There were many arguments, most of them repeated over and over because we seemed unable to learn anything significant about ourselves.
Respect the precious investment of time
We were not mature adults when we gave birth to our children, so we never really gave parenting our top commitment. Other commitments dominated. For me, it was getting a college education while working second shift in a factory and then golfing, playing tennis, or bowling on weekends with friends to find some fun and relaxation.
For my wife, getting a college degree became a priority at the same time she had to maintain a home, take the kids to the doctor, get groceries and cook meals. Later, professional careers took top priority as we established ourselves in middle-class life. I don’t remember my wife and I ever talking about how we were doing as parents. We had other priorities.
Our parenting skill set had some strengths: On the surface, we were normal, intelligent, decent people who made sure their children were safe, fed, nurtured and encouraged. But our children did not have our full attention. By the time our children were in high school, our home life was dysfunctional and dangerous. We were all depressed, lonely and isolated.
Love was hard to find in our household toward the end of our marriage. Tensions were high, with teenagers getting into trouble in the outside world and parents paralyzed in battle. My wife and I were no longer able to provide the love, attention, and adult guidance children must have for good emotional health and happiness.
As divorced parents, finally, we both became better parents alone than we had been together.
You owe your children a strong, loving relationship with them and your spouse
Raising children well requires a great marriage, a marriage that can produce the energy required to raise children. A great marriage can make sure that the children’s development and safety get top priority, time and focus. Marital partners in a vibrant marriage can pull together the skill set required for raising children well. Neither one can do it individually.
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