Warning: This is not inspirational or even remotely filled with grace. This is written from that place within every parent that growls when their children are threatened and protects God’s most significant blessings with inexorable ferocity.
Last week at school, a child stole and fairly savagely destroyed my child’s umbrella. It was clearly a cry for help. Perhaps she was suffering from overexposure to men in her life? Too much dad, if you will. That would make sense, because last week when MY child was merely disengaged in one of her classes, the first thing her coach surmised was that she was suffering from the lack of a dad in her life. Obviously, the role of a man in a child’s life is the sole driving factor for behavior, right? It could not be too much screen time, lack of adequate rest, failure to maintain a routine, poor discipline, learning struggles, inappropriate role models (of any gender), or just the natural processes of identity formation and testing boundaries. Nope, it is obviously and always related to the man in their lives.
I hope you are picking up on both my sarcasm and frustration here.
You see, this is an issue that finds me struggling to find and constantly praying for grace. I have two well-behaved, well-adjusted little humans in my home. Yet, I still find myself defending their adjustment to everyone from well-intentioned friends to perfect strangers who do not elicit the perfect smile or eager hug from my girls.
“Do you think they are struggling because their dad is gone?” The simple answer is no. I think they have feelings (mostly sadness) about their dad being gone, but they are by no measure, “struggling.” Seriously, I check (and check and check). Their therapist recommended we discontinue therapy to avoid the risk of convincing well-adjusted kids that they are not, in fact, well-adjusted. If a licensed therapist won’t convince my kids that their lack of a dad is impetus for any imperfect moment of humanness, I certainly won’t allow anyone else to do it.
Yes, kids misbehave; including mine. There are so many reasons, but the main one being: they are kids. Could the lack of a dad cause my children pain? Absolutely. But, does anyone have the right to assume that this “lack” is the motivating factor in their (mis)behavior? Absolutely not. Because, in addition to “suffering” from lack of a father, my children also “suffer” from an abundance of love, a healthy diet, a consistent routine, a faith-based household, high moral and behavioral standards, loads of laughter, scant screen time, an emphasis on their overall well-being, and a perspective beyond their years.
Friends (and strangers), when you ask if my kids’ (incredibly low-level) misbehavior, lack of desire to smile at you, or shyness to offer you a hug is a result of their not having a dad, you are reducing them from the complex, interesting, circuitously motivated humans that they are to the one component of their lives that is out of their control. Do you understand how dis-empowering that is? It tells them that they are what they are missing, instead of them being everything that they are. It sends the message that they can be explained by the choices of others instead of by their own decisions. It is toxic and I need you to stop. Now.
God trusted me to raise these magnificent girls, and, if you are not a single parent, you cannot imagine the enormity of and blessings within that job. I choose to give thanks for my little 3 person family, because, as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, thankfulness in all circumstances is God’s will. So, please stop armchair quarterbacking a game you know nothing about.
To drive this home, let me share some brief real-life anecdotes about well-meaning parents who are so concerned about my girls’ parenting:
Yesterday, you were shoving frozen waffles down your kid’s throat in the elevator while running late to school. (I saw you on the way back from dropping off my kids on time, after having fed them a homemade, well-balanced breakfast.)
Your kid was in the backseat of your Range Rover watching movies while you sat in drop-off, and even that wasn’t enough to stop his fits. (My kids were in the backseat having conversations about the super moon and practicing their spelling words.)
You have been struggling to get your kids to help around the house or are paying them for their time. (I just finished meal prepping lunches for the week while my 8 year old cheerfully prepped our dinners and my 10 year old folded all of our laundry.)
I don’t mean this to shame any mom or ignore my own obvious shortcomings. We all have struggles and failures as parents. I share these admittedly-spiteful observations to debunk the notion that your two-parent family is inherently better than my family in terms of the structure for and behavior of the children. I work hard. I have amazing kids. My life looks nothing like an episode of SMILF, I promise. I will not let you map your inaccurate assumptions onto my children’s identity.
There are children at my kids’ school who are already using hate speech, who have physically harmed other children, who have taken to identifying as (the most privileged and untouched by actual gang life) “gangs,” who have stolen from other kids, and whose behavior has pushed a teacher to the point of tears. You know what these kids have in common? A two parent household. So, my question is: Who is going to do something about the epidemic of kids acting out in response to the over-parented lives?
Again, sarcasm and frustration intended.
Yes, my kids lack a dad, and that is painful. But that pain does not define them. God defined them before they were even born (Jeremiah 1:5), and their value is unshaken by their circumstances or your expectations for the composition of the ideal of family. They are not incomplete or driven by what they lack. They are full in (Colossians 2:9-10) and filled with Christ’s love (1 John 3:1-2). It is a message about their worth that they consistently receive from me and one that I will robustly protect. You have been warned.