A long time ago in a land not so far away, married couples often stayed married to one another, despite their disagreements and problems “for the children’s sake.”
It was assumed that destroying a child’s home would damage the child. Underneath that assumption was another: Children have a better start in life when they are raised in their own intact families with their own biological parents.
Along came the 60s and this notion of staying together “for the children’s sake” was tossed in the cultural ashcan alongside civility, honor and a belief in the common good.
The Me Generation wanted to opt out of all the constraints that came between it and its essential drive to all-out me-firstness. “It’s better to be from a broken home than to live in one,” was the new slogan. It was put up there on the living-by-slogans billboard just below the “quality time” slogan concerning child rearing.
We didn’t, we were told, have to concede to the onerous demands of full-time child-rearing. We could drop in once in a while for “quality time” and this “quality time” would be so incredibly powerful in shaping the child’s character, values, morals and overall mental health that it would wash away the deleterious abuses of being ignored and shunted around for the bulk of the child’s life.
It was magical stuff, this “quality time” — the elixir of having it all without the need to feel guilty about short-shrifting our young.
Ditto for being from broken homes rather than living in them. It was, we were told, oh so much healthier for a child to live part of his or her life in a tranquil, albeit it lonely, home without Dad, watching tv, and later, playing video games, while Mom worked, and then to shuttle off to Dad’s tranquil homespot to watch more tv and, later play video games, while Dad worked.
“Blended” families and live-in boy and girl friends became the new normal. After all, if it makes Dad/Mom happy, then it must, by definition, be good for the kids. Or so we were told.
A child who gets the wondrous experience of counseling their bereft parent over their broken hearts about the guy/gal who dumped them, who wakes up in the morning, never knowing who’s going to be sharing the parent’s bed down the hall, who has to dip and dodge from the advances and abuses of boyfriends and girlfriends, who finds themselves suddenly saddled with steps — stepparents, stepbrothers, stepsisters, step grandparents — of all types and then, in a year or two, finds themselves without the steps once again, is, in the parlance, “growing up fast.” After all, the new new normal says, they’re going to have to deal with these things someday, anyway. Right?
Believing that all this is good for kids requires a bit of willful neglect of the obvious. First, we have to overlook the adults that these kids become. We need to stare right past the drug addiction, insect sexuality, near psychopathic way they treat one another and their increasing inability to form families and raise children of their own.
Second, we need to stop believing that there is any connection between their total lack of respect for marriage as an institution coupled with the abject willingness to see it destroyed and the fact that these young people grew up in cold, chaotic circumstances with child parents who failed at every personal value except selfishness and self-indulgence.
I know that someone is going to raise the specter of violence and abuse in the home and the need for divorce in those circumstances. That happens. And when it does, it really is better for a child to be from a broken home than to live in one.
The interesting thing is that violence and abuse in the home are not going away. Divorce has not ended it. Domestic violence is escalating. Why? You’d think that if divorce was the answer to it, domestic violence would be moving toward extinction.
I think one reason violence in the home is on the rise is this bizarre method method of child rearing that amounts to buying our kids stuff, driving them to activities and ignoring them as people while we do whatever else pleases us. I think it is giving us adult children who are exactly the kind of people we have raised them to be.
Each generation of children we are producing with these methods is less able to commit to other people and raise a family of their own than the generation before it. They exhibit a kind of internal chaos that I think reflects the chaos in which they were raised.
We’re not only producing whole generations of young people who cannot commit to one another and love one another and then commit to and love and raise children of their own, we are also producing young people who are marked by profound alienation and rage. We are, in short, getting the kind of adults that abusive homes produce. Are our current child-rearing practices abusive to children?
Oh yes. I think so.
We were deconstructing family at a massive rate long before the debate about gay marriage reared its head. When demands for polygamy follow on the heels of gay marriage — and they will — we will just slide further into the abyss right behind it because we have no cultural center to hold us.
There is only one way to reverse this trend. You must do it yourself. You must, to paraphrase Ghandi, be the change you want to see.
That means you must commit to your wife or husband; you must cherish and protect them. You must put your family, your spouse, your children ahead of everything else.
I know this will sound like blasphemy, but you need to put your home and family ahead of your career, your craving for “fun” and your desire to live life as a perpetual adolescent. You need to take care of the people God has entrusted to you before you do anything else.
The way to stop this is for both men and women to stop putting me first and put their families first. It is not enough for wives to be good wives, or husbands to be good husbands. We are male and female. That is the human race. And both men and woman have a responsibility before God to put the welfare of their spouses and their children above every other consideration.
This is drastically counter-cultural. You will get a lot of flack for doing it. Men will be called some of the pejorative names used for women if they don’t go along with the fellas about things such as sleeping around, and going out on the town. Other men will do this to them ruthlessly. I’ve witnessed it for years in my life of working with 90 men.
Women will be told they are “wasting their lives” if they stay home with the kids. When I was a stay at home mom, I had more than one person look me right in the eye and tell me I was “wasting” my life. When I ran for office again later, I also had people chide me for trying to come back when I should not have left in the first place.
The truth is, as my grandmother used to say, misery loves company. Why should a bunch of men care if their male coworker doesn’t go out to the stripper joints with them after work? Why should they turn aggressive and ugly and tell him he’s “whipped” because he loves his wife and family while they do not love their wives and families?
Who’s the real man here? Is it the braggart good-for-nothing who dishonors the people he has stood before God and promised to protect and defend, the strong individual who stands up under the verbal hazing and honors his promises with his fidelity?
By the same token, who is wasting her life? The woman who builds people, or the woman who builds widgets?
You have one life. In this free country of ours, you can spend your life how you chose. At the end of the span, when you are like my Mama and cannot do for yourself, do you want to be wrapped in the love and care of grateful generations, or do you want the cold hardness of the alone?
When you look back over your life, do you want to view a wasteland of broken relationships, crazy and dysfunctional offspring and nothing much worth claiming, or do you want to see a life that gave life, that nurtured and loved and created? Do you want to see strong people going forward into tomorrow with your love in their hearts?
When you stand before God, what will be the sum total of the great gift of years that He gave you to spend?
Home and family are not outmoded ideas. They are eternal truths on which people are built.