I believe that children are born to love their parents. I think it is inherent in our DNA. When we come out of the womb we are coded to love both our mother and father.
I also think most people want to be loved, and many of our screw-ups and transgressions are actually made in an effort attain the feeling of being understood and accepted.
So let's consider two parents that don't get along. And let's consider these two enlist their children in their personal army against the other parent.
It's wrong, but I didn't always think so.
I saw many marital relationships that were broken as a contest between the spouses, one was right, the other was wrong. One parent had all the good qualities, and the other had the bad. If the bad one would just fix him or her self, then the marriage would be saved, the army would retreat, and all would be well.
Not so much. Let's imagine a scenario:
Let's say one parent is a drinker. We'll say in this case it's the father. He drinks too much and it interferes with his role as a partner in the house. He spends too much time out of the home and he isn't reliable to help around the house because he's too tipsy to be useful.
Now let's say the mother in this case does most everything right. She takes care of the kids, she cooks dinner, she even has a part time job to bring extra money into the home. She looks like a saint.
Dad is wrong. Mom is right. That's the way I always saw it.
But let's say this mom makes her issues with dad's drinking the kids' business. Unless his drinking is making the children's lives unsafe they don't need to hear a bit about it from mom. That's between Dad and Mom and the bottle of Jack Daniels.
Once this mom brings the parents' issues into the children's awareness, that's a problem. She's threatening their inherent love for their father by pointing out a percieved flaw in someone they want to keep on a pedestal, someone they deserve to respect.
So while the Father is the "bad one" because he has a drinking problem, I believe that the mother is doing more harm to her children than the father. Not only is she pointing out something 'unloveable' about him, she's also getting on the playing field with the child, which totally wrecks the family dynamic.
Do we really need our children to validate our perceptions of our spouse?
Do we have the right to try to take their love for their other parent from them?
Are we so unsure of our view of things that we need assurance from a child?
Spelled out so plainly, do you want your child to love less?
I hope not.
I don't think so.
And that's what I think is the basic problem with many troubled marriages and divorce situations. I think we are so busy trying to validate what we see as our spouse's shortcomings that we are completely blind to the impact that truly has on our children.
It's not easy, when we are feeling low and unloved, to refrain from pointing out how someone else is low and shouldn't be loved. But not easy doesn't make it right. Like Glennon Doyle says, "We can do hard things."
So next time you want to say something unflattering or unkind about your child's parent to them, I beg of you to think twice. Of course I know there are a million different situations and a thousand special circumstances. I also know that on the whole, children are born to love their parents.
Let's not rob them of that.