by Sami Yacoub
part of Our Children and Marriage Series:
Our Children and Marriage 3 Our Children and Marriage 4
The responsibility of raising kids is the greatest responsibility in life, but it is by no means the easiest!
I’m one of those who believe that this responsibility begins ever since the baby is in its mother’s womb, and proceeds practically with the first feedings, and develops as the child grows.
In this series of articles we’re going to focus on how to prepare our kids to make the most critical decision of their lives, namely, the selection of a marriage partner. It should not surprise us that this preparation process begins as soon as a child can choose between two things- even simple ones- without their parent’s help and without the pressure of wanting to please surrounding adults, but rather based upon thoughtful consideration. This brings us to one of the most important aspects of parenting: developing decision-making skills.
Developing decision-making skills in children depends heavily upon the family environment we provide. The walls of the home represent the character-formation lab and the future launching platform. What a child sees in mom and dad is what fuels our parenting and character-building efforts with the credibility and motivation needed. For example, one of the strongest influencers on children’s view of marriage is the degree to which their parents firmly believe in the sanctity of the marital relationship; one of complete dedication to one’s spouse and an appreciation for their deep uniqueness, bringing them to a point of commitment to the permanence of marriage till death do them part. When kids grow up within this framework of thinking, they will recognize how marriage makes man and woman into one flesh, not only in sexual intimacy, but in all aspects of life.
We have a tradition in my family that we have followed for years: even though we joke a lot in our house, we never joke about the permanence of marriage. One of our friends was shocked by our son’s response when she jokingly said, “Your father travels a lot. He might have a second wife!” and our son firmly responded, “We never joke about such matters at home.” Some may view this tradition as too conservative, but we realized that it has added a further dimension and weight to our sons’ view of marriage.
And now the question remains: If there are conflicts every now and then in our marital relationship as is the case in every marriage, am I still entitled to discuss the topic of successful marriages and selecting a marriage partner with my kids?
Every stable and fruitful marriage must be tested every now and then. This test may come in the form of differences in opinion, or deeper conflicts that may require external assistance. This should not keep us from teaching our kids about good marriages. Our kids watch us when we disagree and agree, when we get angry and then calm down and apologize, and when we reconcile and forgive. Our kids watch how we get closer to each other as the years go by, until we are completely united. All this will remove any ambiguity they may have about the natural maturing process of marriage, and will help them form practical romantic expectations.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This is precisely what sharing life together means. If iron is to be sharpened to fulfill its purpose, it needs to be sharpened against something this is at least as firm as it is, if not stronger. During the sharpening process, the heat is turned up, and sparks may ensue, until one is formed like the other. Part of the marriage maturation process is stirring the other’s love for challenge to become a better person. Nothing matches this ability to make two people as one, better than challenging their thinking and encouraging them to utilize their talents, and allowing them the opportunity to exchange views in an atmosphere of confidence and safety.
Don’t let your own failures keep you from trying to start over in beginning to discuss with your spouse those areas that have remained untouched, or beginning to change your attitude towards your spouse. Take initiative in clearing up the air of misunderstanding regardless of the causes. By doing so, you will be able to provide for your kids a transformed and new example, where your conversations about their future marriage are not hindered. As iron responds to the iron sharpening it, your spouse will respond positively to you, and your kids’ vision about marriage will be formed with every warm family conversation about the future.
Copyright © 2011 Focus on the Family Middle East. All rights reserved. Originally Published in Watani Paper 12.6.2011