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.