Who I should be kissing first

Would you believe me if I told you I know the reason why 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and why the vast majority of those divorces involve children? Could I convince you even though my name doesn’t end with pompous initials, this site is full of weird skulls and motorcycles, and this isn’t a professional paper supported with reams of cherry picked research? As a single man, full time father, employee, and boyfriend I don’t have the time or the desire to spend countless hours in a library when I’ve lived and observed the eventual findings around me. Much like the all-knowing ‘consultant’, I don’t need someone to prove to me what I already know to be true.

•♦•

My ex wife’s parents were, and are, wonderful people. During my decade long relationship with her they were a source of inspiration and her father often took the place of the one I lost years before. Their own marriage was strong and after 30 years they were still as close as newlyweds. Spending any time in their presence one could quickly see they loved each other as much as when they first married. While visiting they would often disappear for hours at a time only to be found hold up in some room spending time talking and being together – just the two of them.

My ex often told me while growing up her parents made it very clear their marriage was more important than their relationship with her and her sister.  That while they loved their children very much their marital vows came first, and above all else they were determined to do whatever necessary to nurture and grow that marriage making sure each other’s needs were met even if it meant sacrificing something else.

They knew mommy was always the first person daddy kissed at the end of each workday.

After sharing this I was initially critical of their approach. Shouldn’t children be a parent’s top responsibility?  Since they didn’t ask to be brought into the world aren’t parents obligated to sacrifice everything for their kids, leaving the leftovers for everybody else? Wouldn’t anything less signify self-centered parents, the types who pawn their children off on the babysitter or grand parents every chance possible so they can get selfish ‘alone time’ and ‘date night’ while the kids question just how much mommy and daddy really love them?

As I move forward in life, looking through the rear view mirror of my own experiences, I now realize just how right her parents were. Through the demise of my own marriage and observing the end of many others it’s become easy to recognize how we can place a career, ourselves, our children above the one thing we swore before God, family, and friends we would never do – a marriage. But it’s become all to common.

It feels almost immoral to say my children are not the center of my world  – but they aren’t. It makes me sound like the vilest narcissist who, determined not to sacrifice myself and relationships for the sake of my kids, doesn’t deserve the precious gift I’ve been given. Because as bizarre as this is going to sound I believe the moment I surrender myself or primary relationships –  especially a marriage  -on  the altar of parenthood I’m not only performing a disservice to my children, by placing them in an ivory tower, I’m destroying the one thing I’m working harder at than anything else, building a lifelong and loving relationship.

•♦•

Occasionally my job responsibilities require travel on nights I would normally spend with my kids. And since co-parenting is such a time sensitive affair when this does occur the only interaction with my kids I may have for is a phone call or video chat. At the same time this also implies I haven’t laid eyes on the Queen either. Upon my return I’m often faced with a difficult decision, and one that may very well force me to sacrifice either my Queen or my kids for the other.  To tell you it’s an easy decision would be a lie but it’s one that, when necessary, I  make without a second thought. And here’s why.

When it comes to our kids we’ve all been told, ‘they grow up so fast’, ‘enjoy them while you can’ alluding to sacrificing for them and often they’re right. Yet what the pundits leave out is that in order to get something I have to give up something. To sacrifice implies, by definition, something or someone is chosen to be more important than someone else. In other words I must decide who is the higher priority.

Yet while sacrifice implies choice – it also signals death. To sacrifice must also mean to kill. Sacrificing everything for my kid’s will ultimately mean that something else must be given up on the alter to die. And therein lies the problem. Because there will come a day, in the not so distant future, where I will be little more than an afterthought to my kids, it happens occasionally already. Instead of spending time with dad their only desire will be for me to transport them to a friend’s house, the mall, or a football game  – then immediately and quickly disappear. Where once I was their protector and provider always in high demand I’ll eventually be seen as a resource called upon only when needed.

And when the day comes where I’ve outlived my usefulness yet sacrificed everything I had for them – where will that ultimately leave me? They won’t care about the high price I’ve paid, the sacrifices I’ve endured,  or the life I’ve put on hold – all for them. My importance will suddenly be in direct proportion only to what I can do for them. It’s a reality every parent faces, and we all know it, because we’ve already been in the supporting role.

It’s through this realization that, much like my ex in-laws, I’ve grown to understand just how much more important my relationship with the Queen is and why it must always be so. Because on that day when I wave goodbye to my children as they head off towards their futures I want to turn around and know the Queen will be there  –  because I remembered to kiss her first.

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24 responses to Who I should be kissing first

  1. Becky

    I agree I need to rebuild my life but it’s so much harder with children, especially when you have full custody. It’s not that I want to sacrifice EVERYTHING but I can’t just bring anyone around and because of this dating is almost not even worth the trouble.

  2. YUP! Perfect!
    We have 9 children. And I WANT to be the first to get that kiss! I’ve always been very aware that they’ll grow up and move out and on and will take whatever I offer with barely a thought of the cost to me. They’re young. I expect self-centeredness. They’re not married. They don’t really care to understand the dynamics of it either. My job, as I see it, is to give birth and nurture, teach and guide. Then, if they’re lucky, I’ll say goodbye to them and they’ll look to their spouse to nurture them! And they’ll do the same for him/her. I have to admit I’ve failed to provide that example. But I’ve lived the lesson. And so have they!
    Great thoughts!

  3. I think it’s important, too, to remember that we are modeling behaviour for our children. I think that by demonstrating a healthy, loving relationship with our significant other, we are teaching them how to treat their future spouse, and what expectations they should have in terms of how they will be treated in return. I think that this approach means that we’re teaching our kids how to be healthy and happy in their future adult relationships.

    And you’re right … our kids won’t always need us in their lives the way that they do now. They’re learning to grow and spread their wings, and soon we will be but minor characters in their lives. Our spouse, however, will (hopefully) always be there, and it’s a helluva lot easier to maintain a relationship over the years than to try to rebuild one that has been allowed to go downhill.

  4. Well argued. Becky’s problem is also very real for many. In our house we have a lot of family meetings where problems are aired and limits need to be respected. Occasionally, the three of us feel like a team.

  5. Wise words, Kyle and I couldn’t agree more. We have our kids on lease, as I like to say for maybe a quarter of OUR lives…we have ourselves and our spouses, God willing, for much longer. My parents loved me with all their heart and soul, but my dad loved my mom more than ANYTHING! They loved each other for nearly 73 years and were married for 66…it was something to behold!

  6. Papa – Author

    Great insight Betzy. Thanks for your input, stop by anytime.

    9 kids…whoa….and go grab yourself a martini….:-)

  7. Papa – Author

    Becky, the fact that you understand your boundaries, in my mind, speaks to your maturity and will serve you well when that time eventually does come.

  8. Charismaga

    I like this post, as I do your entire website. I have thought about jumping back into the dating scene, but this issue is one thing that really holds me back. It’s difficult to imagine putting anyone but my daughter first. She’s very young, she needs me, and I know that she will be in my life forever. If I ever marry again, I do hope it will be forever. But so many marriages don’t work out; my first one certainly didn’t. It’s difficult to think about putting someone else first that may not be there forever. Even when my daughter is older and leaves the nest, she will still be a huge part of my life. I don’t know that I would regret not having put her first. And I would regret not putting her first if I entered into a relationship that didn’t last forever. I would really like to know how you deal with this dilemma.

    I’m also curious as to where you place your boundaries. I know you put the Queen first, but I’m sure that there are situations where you put your children first. For example, I’m sure you would love to move in with the Queen, but you feel it’s not best for your children right now, so you haven’t taken that step. So in putting her first, do you do this the majority of the time, unless it would cross a certain boundary line for you? How do you view this?

    I really appreciate your insight and would love to know what your thoughts are on this 🙂

  9. My husband always kisses me first. We show our kids that we love each other, and even though they’re important, we’re the closest person each other has. A day will come when hopefully, they’ll find their someone too.

    They know we’re best friends to each other – not them. They get it. People may think it’s selfish, but I think it’s good for the kids to see that mum and dad chose each other to produce them with. This shows them how special we think they are.

  10. Papa – Author

    Charismaga,

    You’ve made a couple of points here that I’ll address individually.

    1. I don’t know how long you’e been divorced but from your comments I’ll guess it’s not all that long. Maybe you’re just not ready to go down that path yet. And if so that’s ok and very mature of you.

    2. You mentioned forever several times. Certainly we all want to be in that relationship that lasts a lifetime and that can clearly happen. But if you enter into any relationship with the onset of lasting forever you’ll likely always be disappointed. Regardless of what Hollywood says, we don’t “just know” as soon as we meet. I didn’t know with the Queen until some time after we had been together. For your part that means establishing boundaries that will you keep up until such time as YOU are ready to take them down.

    3. My life is a walking daytimer. I am very compartmentalized meaning that I have certain times when I am a dad and when I am a boyfriend. When I am a dad and it’s my time with the kids I put them first, when I am the boyfriend and it’s my time with the Queen I put her first. I know that sounds easier than it is, but it was a choice that I’ve made over time.

    Here’s an example just yesterday. My ex asked if I could watch the kids on her weekend as she and her husband got last minute plans. Now the Queen had wanted to go see our friend play jazz this weekend. No major plans and she probably would have been ok if I had cancelled and taken my kids instead but this goes back to what I was talking about before. That is my time with the Queen and while it wouldn’t have been anything tragic it could have sent an ever so subtle message that I laid out in the post.

    4. Our relationship with our children changes over time. Mine is nothing like it was just a few years ago. My freedom is more now than it was just 12 months ago. Our kids grow to understand that we are parents but also humans. We have needs and it is ok that our kids know that. And while your daughter will always be in your life, as I hope my kids are in mine, she will hold different positions. I know I don’t ever wish to become that parent that can’t cut the umbilical cord.Personally I look forward to the day when my kids become adults and assume lives of their own. I look forward to our relationship at that time.

    Hope this gives you a different perspective and thanks for reading!

  11. T

    Love this post, CP. And that is what I wanted in my marriage too. I asked, pleaded and finally began planning date nights because my husband wouldn’t. He never found it important enough. He was too busy making excuses as to why he “forgot” or “never got around to it”. In fact, do you know what got the attention when he arrived home from work? Not me. Not the kids. The TV. The DAMN TV.

    For a long time, after I moved into my own place, I didn’t own a TV.

    Thank you for the reminder that balance is important.

  12. Charismaga

    Thanks so much, CP. I will really think about what you just said here. You’re right in that it hasn’t been that long for me….I separated from my ex 2 years ago (but that initial year we went through a year-long battle in the divorce and that’s all I could focus on). The divorce was just finalized a year ago, and I’ve just been trying to focus on myself, why things happened, and what I really want out of life. Your blog has been incredibly helpful to me in thinking about many different things. I am really going to think about your response. I truly appreciate it!

  13. What do you do in a dilemma such as mine?
    My SO and I have been together in a long distant relationship for a year and a half. I have not felt such a deep connection of love with someone, everything so far is almost perfect, I am truly in love. My SO want my kids (which are 11 are 14) and I to move into his home which is 45 minutes away.
    Dilemma #1- My kids father is very active in their lives and takes them 3 days a week. He works in the medical field and his schedule changes often. If I uproot my kids they will see their dad much less. Is that fair to my kids, to tear their father away even more?

    Dilemma #2- My son is bipolar,adhd, with major anxiety issues.

    Dilemma #3- I had just started college one week before meeting my boyfriend. If I move to my SO’s they are no schools I could finish out college or I would have to commute 45 minutes to where I attend now. Or I can quit college and just find any job I can.

    #4- My boyfriend has chronic back issues and takes narcotics daily to be able to function and work. I know in 10 years or sooner he will no longer be able to work and all finances will be my responsibility, which is fine is long as I have a good paying job to support all of us. Without a degree that will not be an option.

    Dilemma #5- My SO cannot move to me because he has his son half the week, if he was to move with me that’s means he see’s his son less and has to pay child support and on his income he cannot afford that. In addition his doctors are where he is and his job, keep in mind he is a carpenter and rarely works in his city, the company office is located their that’s it.

    Dilemma #5- Since I have been with my SO, he has been on the verge of losing his home due to having no work at times. He has not paid his second mortgage for one year and just struggles financially. his ex wife is on the mortgage and wants him to sell the house and keeps pushing him to let it go. It really scares me if I were to move there and he loses his home, then what? I have to move my kids again. My kids have moves 8 times in their life already with changing 4 schools.

    Are we both finding excuses why not to relocate to one another? I want so badly to move in with him and to start a life, but I am unsure if the time is right for us right now with theses dilemmas. If I don’t move in with him, he says our relationships is over. DO I put my SO first or my kids? Please I need some advice ASAP. I just told my SO yesterday why I cant move in with him and now he wont even talk to me.

  14. Papa – Author

    My Dance, Thanks for your questions and the detail. I’ll attempt to answer each of them below from a man’s perspective and as someone who isn’t emotionally connected to the situation.

    1. “Is that fair to my kids, to tear their father away even more?” It seems by you asking that question, you already know the answer.

    Let me give you something else to think about.”If I don’t move in with him, he says our relationships is over” He just showed you his true character. With that statement he said in fewer words “I want to be with you as long as it can be on my terms. I want you to make the sacrifices, move, uproot your children, and tear them away from their father. I, on the other hand, will stay comfortably where I am and take NONE of the risk.” Now My Dance, if he had used those words would you still consider moving to him?

    I live 8 miles from the Queen, 8 miles. I could easily justify us getting married, moving in and making her and I happy. BUT, as parents we have bigger things to consider than what just makes the two of us happy, specifically four children. Is it hard to live in two separate homes and sacrifice our happiness for the sake of our children’s? Absolutely. But here’s the deal. If we were to bring four children together the drama and the chaos at this stage would be potentially unbearable (and I can assure you that there would be drama in your own situation). And that’s in light of us being together for three years. Why would we want to put that kind of pressure on our relationship when it isn’t necessary? We believe it would be better to wait a few years and allow our kids to get older and more mature before making a life changing move that like.

    And lastly, let me say this, any man (or woman) who will place such an ultimatum on a relationship (move in or it’s over, i.e. it’s my way or the highway) needs to be asked how committed they actually are to the other person. Love is about compromise and understanding. Not demands and hardness. Maybe it was just his emotions running wild that made him respond in that way but it would concern me greatly and lead me to ask “do I really know this person?”

    From my persecutive, I think you’ve been the responsible one. You’ve looked outside of yourself to the impact it would have on everyone else – especially your children. Love is patient. If your relationship is built upon respect and mutual understanding it will be a wonderful experience whether you live together or half way around the world.

    I hope this gives you something to consider and good luck and please let me know how you fare.

  15. Thank you so much for your quick response. I have taken a lot of time to really think about my situation with a great amount of research, in addition I have spoke to my SO about my concerns for my children, if we were to move.

    My SO still believes it is best if we, uproot and move in with him. He feels he is a better example as a father figure for my kids, that part is true. But the reality of it is my kids already have an active father, he may not be the best, but he is my kids father and they love him. My SO also feels if my kids see me happy then they in return will be happy. True to a point. My SO also see’s that because my ex is a paramedic and does not have a typical Mon-Fri 8-5 job, and he is selfish in choosing that career, because he is not able to take the kids on a normal non-custodial visitation schedule. Which means if my ex’s days are off during the week, he takes the kids then, including taking them to school and picking them up. His schedule does make it hard for me,but we make it work, regardless. I think you get the idea.

    After doing research and thinking. I have seen some people uprooting and having a great life, and others that regret taking that risk. Some people put their needs above their kids, and some don’t. Yes it is my life and my happiness can influence my kids, but i don’t think in this situation that will be the case. I have a mentally ill son, who I can see being completely miserable being away from his dad and his established life and resenting my SO and myself. My parents after their divorce, both put me in this situation, and I was a trouble making child and resented my parents for many of years. I will never have that time back with my parents as a child and cannot put my kids thru the same ordeal.

    As of now my SO will not wait no longer than one more year at the most. At 38 pushing 40 he wants to find someone to start a life with. I can understand that and respect that, but not at my kids expense. So, my response even though it breaks my heart is; “I wish you the best.”

    Time is very precious, when it comes to kids and it is time you will never have back when they are young, which is utterly the most important! My ex may be my ex, but I will not take that time with his kids away! I also realize when my kids are grown, I will have that time back for me, my wants and my needs.

    Thank you for the great insight.

  16. Kyle Bradford – Author

    My Dance, It seems to me you have made a very thoughtful and wise decision. I would surmise that if your SO is a wise man he will see that.

  17. isobel1107

    All of what I’m reading resonates with me. I am almost 3 years into a divorce battle. I’m trying to relocate with children to my home state. My (still) husband and I had a child and got married very young.. (in that order). We had a long distance relationship prior to getting pregnant on a whirlwind vacation. I moved to his home turf because I was freshly out of college and making 19k to his six figure earnings. Fast forward 11 years now.. I am in love with a man ive known over 20 years. He resides in my home state. I am 500 miles away and struggling on multiple levels– emotionally financially, etc. He is tied to his home because of obligations with his children. I’m fighting an uphill Everest battle to move back home with my children & be with a man who truly loves me. It looks like the court system here is siding against me. Do I leave my girls (ages 8 & 11) to rebuild in a place with my family & this loving man as a support system? Do I stay anchored to a state with a crippling cost of living? I stopped working ft when my youngest was 2 due to health issues. My earnings are slim; however, the almost ex is maliciously motioning that the court impute an outrageous salary on me. I cannot afford an attorney. I am miserable and longing for a support system. The man I want to be with is unable (due to custody issues) and unwilling to come to me/us because he loathes this state and the tremendous cost of living. Help…

  18. isobel1107

    As an aside– verbal abuse & adultery played a major role in the breakdown of my marriage.

  19. Beth

    You are spot on. My husband says this as well, but doesn’t actually DO it, so I hope you do keep the Queen first in practice as well as theory. 🙂 Knowing mom and dad love each other most is so important for children!

  20. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Beth, I am certainly doing my best. Posts like this are always great motivation not to get distracted.

    “Knowing mom and dad love each other most is so important for children!’ — Well said, and in my mind, it is the most important thing that our children should see. That dad and mom love each other.

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