Do the Children Come First?

I’m going to call this a guest post because that lets me pretend that I’m cool enough to have guest posts. In reality it is a repost of my brothers. He blogs here and most of his blogging focuses on mortgage rates and the bond market (whatever the heck that is) and is therefore more boring than dirt not always my favorite thing to read. But when he posts about family he just gets it so right that I feel compelled to share it.
Oh, and don’t skip his blog just because you are also unaware of what the bond market is or does, just browse the archives you’ll find some really really good stuff.  I should also mention that his wife, Jeanette, is currently pregnant with their 8th child so he does actually have some experience with this parenting stuff.

Last week the best woman in the world, my wife, spoke at the Utah County Women in Business Conference as part of a panel of experts on family/business balance. She talked about traditions and how to handle things when your plans get disrupted by sick children, and things like that. She is, indeed, an expert on these things. The panel was well received, as was the presentation by Miss Utah, Jill Stevens, about her experiences in Afghanistan as an Army medic. It was great stuff. Estrogenous, but great.

After the presentations, as Jeanette and I were headed out to the lunch, we were stopped by a lady who said she’d been hoping to catch my wife, because she wanted to ask her a question. “How,” she said, “do you keep your marriage fresh with so many children? I’m just a newlywed myself, but I worry about that. How can you do it?”

We smiled at each other, because hey, part of the answer was right there in front of her. I go to my wife’s presentations, even on workdays, even when things are so hectic we can’t see straight. She’s more important to me than anyone, and there’s only one way to show that.

But there are other things, too.

A couple days ago I read an article about out-of-control birthday parties for children. Some of this stuff you cannot believe. There are the parties where the 1-year-old sleeps through the proceedings while 60 – that’s SIXTY – guests open their gifts to him. Parties where the kids are registered at, where the invitations specify that the gifts be worth at least $35, where the mothers complain that the gifts aren’t even worth the cost of the event. Well, imagine that.

There are hundreds of sites devoted to filling every moment of children’s time with activities from Tae-quan-do to cello lessons. With spending thousands of dollars a term on prep schools to get them prepared to go to Harvard or Yale. The modern generation of parents is obsessed with pouring half the national GDP into spoiling their children. If I were a psychologist, I’d suggest that this is a manifestation of repressed guilt over neglecting the things parents know are truly important. But I’m not, so I’ll just point out that if you don’t buy a kid’s clothes at Nordstrom, it’s much easier to not have to have both parents working.

Anyway, one of the things we told the lady was that we protect each other by being very explicit with our children that they are just not that important. Let me repeat that: our children have been told, in so many words, that Jeanette is the most important thing to me and that they aren’t. You’re welcome to call us and get the whole speech – I’m sure my kids can quote it to you – but the gist of it is that the kids are rentals. We get them for a while, then they’re gone. Only Jeanette is forever.

Now, the lady wasn’t shocked to hear this, but she was a bit taken aback. There’s a lot of crap out there about how kids have to know that they are the most important thing in the world, because otherwise it impacts their fragile self-esteem. This is a wet load of steaming horse manure. What kids need is stability, not lies or a false impression of their importance in the world. Our kids don’t feel less loved because they come second. Quite the contrary. They feel much more at peace because they know that the foundation of their world – which is the relationship of their parents – is solid and doesn’t crack.

We do not have perfect kids. They have inherited many of the worst characteristics of their father, and the only flaw in their mother (not much ability to sing). But our kids do not do drugs, and they don’t sass their teachers or Heaven forbid their mother, and they can work hard. They get good grades, and they love each other. They fight rarely and never yell. They sleep three, even four or five to a room and don’t complain. They wear old shoes and old hand me down clothes without whining. They play hard and they pray hard and they know their parents aren’t perfect, so if they want perfection they better look to Christ. And they do.

What do children need today? The same things they’ve always needed. Love and attention, and a stable place in the world. Some sticks and a ball to play with. Important work to do and adults to do it with. A roof and four walls, food and water. Interesting things to learn and interested people to learn from.

And that’s it. Everything else is gravy, and probably gets in the way of one of the things above. How do we keep our marriage fresh? We remember that the marriage is the entree, and children are the salad on the side. And we make sure our children understand this.

Of course, we love salad. 🙂

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sallygirl
    May 26, 2008 @ 23:10:55

    These are the words that I wish came out of my mouth instead of the ones I say that sound less coherent but mean the same thing.


  2. diana banana
    May 27, 2008 @ 04:37:19

    he totally blogged about me once…best post ever!

  3. Jabe
    May 27, 2008 @ 10:30:22

    Yeah, that’s a smart man.

  4. chronicler
    May 27, 2008 @ 14:15:03

    What a great brother. I understand the bond market and what it does, but I think his forte is what he spoke about in this post. He need to give this “talk” to a big group of people!

  5. bythelbs
    May 27, 2008 @ 20:39:50

    Great post. I think my husband would agree. It’s easy to forget sometimes, though, when you’re all wrapped up in the caring for your children thing. Your brother sounds cool. Not as cool as you, of course.

  6. suburbancorrespondent
    May 28, 2008 @ 15:13:48

    Love this post!

  7. Girl, Dislocated
    May 28, 2008 @ 20:15:06

    This is the first time I have EVER come across that perspective, and I can’t believe it’s not more widely held! It makes so much sense!

  8. Tausha
    May 28, 2008 @ 21:31:14

    Loved the post. Wise man he is. Also-i laughed at the spider post. Gotta love your kids when they do such funny true to life things. Glad that you blogged that , you would hate to forget it. have a great day

  9. Minuteman
    May 30, 2008 @ 08:44:38

    Thanks to all for the praise. I can use all I get.

    I seriously think this topic hits a nerve out there. That’s a fine thing to see. It’s controversial, of course, because everything these days is “for the children”, but folks, the best thing for the children is PARENTS. The. Best. Thing. Not toys, not a pony, not a quality school. Parents. If you ignore this, your kids are going to suffer.

    It’s kind of like gardening, another subject about which I am fairly passionate. You can’t do anything to make the plant grow. All you can do is water and dig and prune and amend the soil and hope for sunshine. Same thing with kids. You can’t make them turn out to be interesting and responsible people. You can only make sure the environment they grow up in isn’t making that task harder.

  10. Mother of the Wild Boys
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 19:40:15

    Wow, what an awesome point your bro has…I agree that he should speak to groups about this. It should be a class that people have to take before getting married (and after!)

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