Every Friday my syndicated parenting column appears in a variety of newspapers around North America. Here's this week's:
In 2005, Maureen Faibish’s 12-year-old son was killed by a pit bull. She was remarkably philosophical about it. “It was Nicky’s time to go.” she told the San Francisco Chronicle . “When you’re born you’re destined to go and this was his time.”
Lest you become too admiring of Faibish’s big-heartedness, let me tell you the rest of the story. The pit bull in question was one of two that Maureen owned. She knew it was dangerous, so dangerous that she locked her son Nicky in the basement when she ran some errands. Nicky managed to get out, the dog got Nicky, and Maureen waxed poetic.
Isn’t one of the most fundamental instincts to protect your child? How did Maureen miss out on this?
A few years ago, a friend of mine was worried by frequent sightings of a rather large and hungry black bear near his home. He quizzed his wife on what she would do if the boys were ever playing outside and a black bear attacked them. She looked at him like he was crazy. “I’d run out there so fast and attack that bear right back, of course,” she replied. Just like Cindy Parolin, who in 1996 fought a cougar which was attacking her six-year-old boy in British Columbia, dying to save him. It’s human instinct to sacrifice ourselves for our kids.
It takes a lot to overcome human instinct, and yet it seems that somehow we are rewiring parental brains so that children’s security is no longer paramount. Take the losers some moms choose to date. Children are far more likely to be abused by mothers’ boyfriends than they are by biological parents. In fact, a girl’s risk of sexual abuse increases twenty-five fold if an unrelated male is living in the house. Some abuse studies don’t bear this out because they count step-fathers and fathers in the same category, but separate them, and you’ll find that step-fathers are more of a threat. And step-boyfriends constitute a downright dangerous category all on their own.
This isn’t to say that single mothers must stay single. Most step-fathers, after all, are great. I have many in my extended family who are not just safe, they’re protective. But it does mean moms have to be vigilant, and think of their children first. And that’s not something that our society is comfortable doing anymore.
The idea of compromising our own happiness for the sake of the children has gone out of vogue. For instance, I find the whole elective C-section thing a little strange. The “too posh to push” debate was raging a year ago, when it was found that more and more mothers were electing to have C-sections so they could be more easily scheduled into their date books. Some legitimate medical reasons do make C-sections attractive—regular deliveries can cause incontinence later on, and for some women who have suffered abuse in the past, a vaginal birth may be very traumatic. But that hardly applies to the majority who choose this route. We simply want motherhood in a way that’s quick and easy for us. Our comfort is our reference point, not our children’s safety and security.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of divorce. Some divorces are necessary, but about two-thirds are caused not because of abuse or infidelity, but simply because one partner doesn’t want to be married anymore. These parents typically tell themselves, “the children will be happiest if I am happy.” Tell yourself that all you want, but it doesn’t make it true. Unless abuse or addiction was
prevalent in the house, it turns out that kids do better in a home with two married parents, even if those parents aren’t happy together, than they do if the parents divorce. Parents’ happiness isn’t what determines a child’s happiness; a child’s security is far more important a measure.
We parents have a tremendous responsibility, because we are the foundation of our children’s world. Are we going to take that responsibility seriously, and sacrifice for them, or are we going to try to make our children fit into our own agendas? The answer to that question says a lot about our own character, and about the well-being of the children we brought into this world.
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Labels: columns, parenting