And I’m not really picking on dads because the lopsided conversation you just heard could, sad to say, just as easily been done by a mom.
Parents, hear this clearly. Your children are not interested in your happiness. Nor should they be. They are children. Their job is not to make you happy or to even be concerned about your happiness. Their job is to be children -- to be obedient, yes, but to be children, not adults.
What your children are concerned about, even if they can’t verbalize it, is their security. To them, mom and dad are the world -- almost the entirety of it. When mom or dad is gone, their world is shaken -- and shaken badly -- and not just for a little while, but for a long, long time.
Research over the last 30 years or so indicates we have a mental health crisis among our adolescents. Rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and suicide attempts have consistently been going up.
According to a recent study published in Translational Psychiatry, more than 36% of teenage girls in America are depressed or have suffered a recent major depressive episode. The rate for boys is 13.6 percent.
According to Mona Charen, writing this month for the online National Review, tests given over as many as seven decades reveal a concerning trend. “Children, adolescents, and young adults have all experienced dramatic increases in anxiety and depression of the past several decades.”
To what do we attribute this alarming change? It’s not social media or the economy. Turns out -- a real shocker here -- adolescent depression and suicide are strongly correlated with divorce and single parenting.
Frankly, I don’t need an expert to tell me the answer. It’s too obvious. What’s been the big social experiment over the last 30 to 40 years? No-fault, no-contest divorce. Throw-away marriages made legal by the insanity of lawmakers across this country who bought the lie that people should not have to stay in a marriage that makes them unhappy. Related to this is the idea that marriage isn’t necessary in order to have children -- so families never form.
If you boil both of these down, it’s all about adult desires. The grown-up tantrum complete with wails of “I’m not happy. I deserve to be happy. I must be happy and I must be happy right this minute,” which eventually and all too frequently ends with conversations like the one with which I opened this commentary.
For Christians, this should be “Family Living 101,” right? Unfortunately, too often for even people who claim to be born-again Christ-followers, this matter of adult desires trumping everything else is a problem. Our divorce and cohabitation rates aren’t anything to brag about these days.
Here’s the bottom line. God’s plan for marriage and family really does work. Our ridiculous human attempts at improving on God’s divine design are dangerous and damaging. Men and women marry; then they have children. That’s God’s good order. Then once married, and especially if children are involved, dad and mom do everything they can to stay together, if for no other reason than the well-being of their children, not just in the short-run but for the long-run.
Parenting isn’t really about the parent. It’s about the children. If we really believe children are a gift from God, if we really believe they are not trophies or toys or political pawns or a means by which to relive one’s childhood or a way to show someone who’s boss, then we take seriously being a parent. We grow up. We put away childish thoughts and ways. We put other people’s needs and desires ahead of our own. We endure the hard times, while we work to honor our marriage vows in every way. We seek to make others happy, not ourselves. In doing so, we honor God and we give our children the very best opportunity to grow up whole and healthy -- and that should make a parent very happy.