Unlike trying to answer the question of whether the chicken or the egg came first, the question of what came first, and what should still come first, between a couple’s marriage and their children actually has an answer. Doesn’t it? Well, in theory the marriage always comes before the children. Now that obviously isn’t true in the real world, but even when circumstances occur in a different order the question is still imperative. What comes first, both at the beginning of a marriage and throughout? In essence, what is most important?
If priorities dictate actions and you look at our society as a whole today, would you argue that the marriage or the children come first? What takes up the most “free” time in our family’s lives? What do we spend most of our disposable income on? What is the daily routine planned around? Are decisions made with the marriage foremost in a couples mind, or do the children hold that position? At night after a day of work, be it outside the home or in, who dictates the schedule? How many nights a week do children’s functions control the schedule versus how many nights a week does the marriage control it? When conversations are going on between husband and wife, do they immediately stop if a child has a question, or must children wait until their parents are through speaking? This may seem a long list, but the list certainly is even longer. The bottom line is, what is the priority in the home; is it the marriage or is it the children; and what does either choice foretell about the future of the family, couple, and even the country?
Well, let’s examine briefly what the children coming first looks like. When the child wants to be involved in something then the parents must shift finances, time and energy away from other possible activities and toward what the child desires to be involved in. Dinner takes a second seat to baseball practice. Afternoon work schedules are lengthened or cut short in preparation or participation of the parents in ensuring their child gets to art lessons. Saturday’s, and perhaps even Friday nights are filled with preparation for, traveling too, and participation in softball, basketball or tennis tournaments. And depending on the event, Sunday’s are also given over to watching the child’s activities.
Now, when the marriage comes first, life works out a bit differently. Events that the child wants to be involved in are accepted or rejected based upon whether the event fits into the couple’s schedule. This certainly can be abused to the point of not allowing a child to be involved in anything, or having the time to spend on a parent’s phone or computer supersede the child’s involvement in softball or violin lessons. The evening routine for the family though does not take a continuous second seat to the child’s wishes. Dinner is still served around the dining room table more often than not. Getting off work early or late is done in preparation for taking your wife out for a date or for taking the family on vacation. Saturday’s are filled with working together as a family, working out together with your husband, or sitting and watching the sun set from the back porch. Sunday’s are still spent in a chair or a pew listening to a man teach or discuss the life of a Man who cares deeply about every member of the family.
Perhaps this seems inconsequential, or perhaps this seems like not that difficult a choice. Either way, what do these choices tell about the future of the children, the family, the couple, and the country? On the one hand you end up with children who grow up assuming that they matter more than any adult, and therefore when they become adults, more than anyone else. For if a child sees their own interests supersede that of their parents, what other adult can possible hope to convince them of making someone or something else more important than themselves? The family becomes merely a conduit for delivering the child to their desired activities or destinations. Once the child can attain those desired activities or destinations on their own, what need do they have for the family? The couple, the marriage, becomes little more than a business partnership with one spouse coordinating the logistical moves and another financing those logistical moves. And when the packages needing that logistical support leave the family warehouse, what need do the business partners have for each other. Even if they acknowledge the need for each other, they must attempt to develop a new relationship at the middle to end of their lifetime, and as is so often quoted, “it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” The country falls here somewhere now, and to what end can a country hope to come to when the cornerstone of their society has become not a couple committed to each other for life, stable and dependable, supporting and assuring, but a child certain only of their own importance and the need for the world to bend to their desires and wishes immediately upon the announcement (and discovery) of those wishes?
On the other hand, when the marriage comes first, you end up with children who grow up knowing that their parents take center stage in their life, and with the knowledge and desire to seek out a partner of their own who will hold them and their relationship in that same esteem. You end up with children who understand that there are in fact other people who have individuals in their life who matter more than they do to them. By default the child also learns to cherish above all others the person who decides that they are that person who matters most to them. You end up with children who understand that at times the needs of their spouse are best met by following the needs of the country, that their country has legitimate claim to their allegiance and devotion. And that that allegiance and devotion will serve those they love most. This again can be abused by ignoring the needs of spouse or family at all times for the service or “betterment” of the country. You also end up with marriages that survive the loss or departure through maturity of their children. Marriages where the adults do continue to cherish and hold on to each other above all others and for the entirety of their mortal lives.
In the end, when children claim the most important position in families, above marriages, you end up with children who place their own importance above that of parents, family, and country. You end up with couples that leave, ignore, or dysfunctionally interact with each other after their children have left the house, and you end up with a country whose stability is reduced and resources are squandered trying to repair at least emotional if not physical damage to her citizens. Opposite of that, when marriages retain the position of most important position in families, above children, you end up with children who are assured of the stability of their family and parents and are thus able to better prepare for and lead their own lives, contributing more to their own spouse, their children, and their country.