I am coaching girl’s softball this fall. At least for this semester, we have become one of “those” families with activities almost every night –soccer, gymnastics, dance, voice, running club, brownies and now softball. In addition, we do lots of homework and a few church activities. While we resisted softball all this time, now my kids are getting into it. I don’t know if they like it because they know daddy spent a lot of my childhood playing ball, or if they are naturally attracted to the ebb, flow and energy of a bat and ball game. Of their many activities, I certainly know more about batting stances than back handsprings or pirouettes, and I am admittedly as much or more excited than they are to be out pitching and hitting and throwing, even though it is underhanded.
As you know if you have them, kids do not come home with a set of instructions from the hospital. You can take classes and read books and make other steps to improve your parenting abilities, but there is no substitution for on the job experience. Good parents spend time with their children. They nurture them, care for their health, safety and psychological needs. They also take an interest in their activities. Good parents teach their children about God and good manners and try to shape their activities and education around their natural inclinations, ability and sources of joy. Parenting is a two-person job. Children will grow to be the best version of themselves when two healthy parents pour in life and energy.
When parents divorce, it is more difficult to be a team because parents do not show up for the work of parenting on the same days, and because of the hurt associated with the failed relationship. Most spouses are thrilled when the other parent takes an active interest in their child’s activities, but in divorce, the hurt creates a sometimes unintentional territorial response to the other parent’s attempts at doing the job which would have otherwise thrilled their spouse before the breakup. This is the reverse logic of child custody and divorce. Said another way, why is active interest in the life of a child praised in marriage but sometimes scorned in divorce? I submit it should not be, except in circumstances of addiction, abuse and neglect.
No big surprise that parenting is a challenge. Parenting post divorce can be more so. In the life of parents with adolescents, our worlds often revolve around our kids. But to be healthy, we need to take time for our romantic relationships, for cultivating our friendships and for our own physical, spiritual and emotional well-beings. Well-intentioned single parents are challenged by doing it on their own, or by even bigger obstacles associated with navigating their new, blended families. These challenges can be sources of pride, but they can also be overwhelming and the catalyst for unhealthy enmeshment.
In summary, if being an active parent is a good thing in marriage, I submit it should be a good thing in divorce.