It Takes A Village

Marrying after divorce with kids is difficult. I know several men who have kids after a divorce, or a custody arrangement and who never marry again or seem to never have relationships with women again. I wouldn’t know anything about those difficulties because I have an amazing wife. Despite how amazing she is, every relationship has challenges and asking a woman to be a parent to kids that she didn’t make is challenging. Yet, my wife Savanah loves my kids like they are her own. Now that we have a son of our own, the challenges have increased.

Before we had our son, I could tell that my wife had challenges associated with being a step parent. Without doing any research into the matter, simply from experience alone, my view of the differences between bio-parents and step parents has been shown to me through micro level interactions that appear to be less “compassionate” (for lack of a better word). As if biology does naturally provide an inherent ability to be compassionate despite the challenges. Perhaps a bio-parent has a resilience against becoming angry quickly, a bend toward mercy, grace and forgiveness over strict punitive responses to negative behaviors. Maybe this is why so many kids are abused in foster care? I am guilty for sure as a biological parent of failing to be merciful, and being overly punitive, or raising my voice. For instance, I can become very angry after several minuets of my children climbing or jumping on me. Or if my children simply refuse to listen to me, if they look me in the eyes while I am telling them not to do something and they continue to do it. How does an adult deal with this? What are some parenting approaches that can be applied?

My wife can see the forest for the trees. She has told me many times that I don’t have good boundaries with my kids that I let them sorta do whatever they want. She is partially right. Thanks to her analysis of my relationship dynamic, I have begun to create more expressed expectations and boundaries, especially in public. Hasn’t every parent experienced an unruly child in the grocery store? What I really try not to do in public is react in a manner that will escalate my child. My child is famous for what I call the “civil disobedience act”, upon hearing “NO” from her parents she falls to the floor and refuses to walk and begins to whine. I do not tolerate this very well. I usually pick her up and carry her to the “mothers room”, which thankfully as a man, is usually not occupied by a nursing mother, but is a more luxurious experience. She sits in the comfy chair and continues her whining. I remind her of the expectations while in the store and I literally leave the room. Standing outside of the closed door to the mothers room next to the layaway department and the store employee, who jokes with me that he is glad he only had boys. I pop my head in and ask her if she is ready to walk and meet up with the rest of our family. She usually isn’t and then will begin to bargain for some reason, usually for wanting something, not always material things. I am always confused how she can make these connections, trying to exchange good behavior for her view of a reward. Eventually she is wore down by my persistence and consistency, and we leave the mother’s room calmly. At the end of the day, I am her father and the past has taught her and I the nature of our relationship, the trajectory we are on will prove a difference exists between step parents and bio-parents and that is okay. She is surrounded by all forms of love. Thank God not yet Eros.

The family is naturally made between a man and a women and for good reason, we make a good team and we serve our children well. Blending a family, asking a women to be motherly to children she didn’t make, or asking a man to be fatherly to children that are not his, is a unique request. It’s totally modern and not found in nature (I think). Imagine the dawn of the Industrial Age, and the end of the Victorian Period. Orphanages, dead parents from whatever malignity or war ended their life. Children left with no one to rely on, divorce and step parenting not yet a wide spread concept and especially not remarriage, save for the gentry, or royalty. Think King Henry the 8th and his battle for the right to divorce, despite being for arrogant reasons. Think ancient customs of divorce and marriage, think the Bible. The freedom to divorce has destroyed marriage. Imagine, however how the world would be without it?

New human relationships have been created out of divorce. The concept that it takes a village to raise a child is true. Imagine a village of people in a distance time, picture thatched roofs and near naked humans living in harmony with the land. How defined where the sexual relationships of the people? How nuclear was the family? Sociologists and anthropologists have described cultures of the past as being sexually non-monogamous. Imagine the depth of the “child raising village concept”, if the mother or father of a child was themselves not sure who the father of any child was? Perhaps this child next to a woman who has slept with all the men in the village, actually is yours? But no one knows for sure. How nurturing would the members of the village be if they by default could assume that the child was their own biological child?

In this same way, despite our evolution, but perhaps because of it, modern mankind is returning to the humanity and innocence of the proverbial village. Out of the dark ages of shame, religious objection, fear, and excommunication. Into the light of a new era that resembles a past when mankind was innocent. Blended families create a wider and deeper village then what the nuclear family ever could alone. Even with a host of “service providers” present in the corporate (anti)-communities we live in. Blended families create something like a village around children and adults. New state wide legislation is forwarding the efforts to diminish the shame and fear of divorce. It was once thought of as a blasphemous deed, which it is. Yet today, legislative efforts are making it possible for a divorce not to be a death sentence for men. Family Courts nation wide, used to decide by default, in some sick and twisted logic toward mothers first, fathers second and children last. Now legislation exists, and is the Law in some states, that the children come first, which means the default direction is fifty/fifty join custody. This is a testament to the power of the village. This is a testament to the acknowledgment that two adults can make decisions, yet wish not to be shackled to one another. This is a testament that perhaps monogamy isn’t natural. However, marriage as we know it may one day be rendered utterly useless. With marriage numbers dwindling, I would wager that this is likely the case. I couldn’t imagine life without my wife, nor would I want to. Yet, I am a man of science and understand that life on earth changes, has changed and will change. Maybe our children will never know what family court is, because it will be abolished. Long Live The Village of Human Innocence.

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One thought on “It Takes A Village

  1. The Step Family Dynamic is something that I have never experienced, but I have to say that I do appreciate the step-moms and step-dads in this world. It’s definitely not an easy role to fill and it’s a very thankless position. I also admire them for coming into the role being the extra-wheel parent, so to speak. It can’t be easy with relationship co-parenting dynamics. Step parents are amazing!

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