Almost every single parent, I'm sure, wants their child(ren) given the best start to life. I say almost because there are relatively few exceptions. We want to improve hope for our kids, and give them a better future than even we had. It's the parental prerogative. This desire speaks to our own brokenness, for we are all broken in some way or other. No parent is, or can be, perfect.
The greatest gift a parent can give their children, toward the end of that bright and hopeful future, is to love (truly selflessly love) their partner--not just any partner--but the other parent in the equation. The partner in the child-rearing stakes.
For the separated and divorced person (like for me and my present children) this won't make sense; the other parent is no longer partner--but to truly love the other parent for our children's sake is a non-negotiable, if we really want what's best for our children. I'll explain why.
Children need not love first, but security. They need to know that Mum and Dad are 'good' together, that their world (parents are a child's 'world') is not going to break apart in an instant. They need to know this deep within. They need to see a genuine mutual heartfelt respect occurring. They don't want to see Mum or Dad hurt, and especially not by each other. That's like a worst fear for them.
Unfortunately, many parents can't provide for this first need--in the proper sense; I'm acutely aware of my own situation. So how do we compensate? Well, it just so happens, in my view, that compensation is the key concept.
The way I compensate is I try to love my former wife by supporting her as far as the children go in every way I can, and even in ways that I often can't i.e. I'll try to go out of my way. I don't always succeed, and every now and then there is conflict; I know she doesn't feel supported one hundred percent of the time--yet that's my goal.
For the large part I succeed. When I upset her I promptly say sorry and make amends if I can--sometimes I can't appease her but that's okay--so long as my intent is right. I know my children are grateful. And it's a model to them how to treat their future partner.
(For widows and widowers, keeping their deceased partner's memory alive, in love, would seemingly be critical to the compensating process.)
For parents of a complete first family home, as yet 'unblended,' please realise that you have it all, structurally--please work on it. Work on your marriage all the time and develop a family history and tradition. It's the most important thing anyone can do.
Giving our kids hope is about giving them security, and their basis of security right through even the teen years is you; Mum and Dad. Love each other.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
Acknowledgement to Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way: Growing Kids God's Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002).