By: Davida Brown
Before I married, I would dream about my husband, what he'd look like, his personality, how he'd treat me. I'd think about all the kids I wanted us to have, the lessons I’d be sure to teach. Growing up with married parents, I learned so much about the institution of marriage from them. Watching them, I figured out that marriage isn’t perfect, that everyone has a job to do to make sure the marriage works, that you have to compromise at times for the greater good. I can’t tell you when I discovered these truths. Did I understand this at 5, 10? Maybe it was close to adulthood. In any event, I vowed that my husband and I would teach our kids about marriage, how to have a successful one, and not through words, but through how we lived our lives as a couple every day.
I never imagined in a million years that a child 5-year old, my daughter to be exact, would start to figure out some of this married stuff so soon. I recently let Simone have a sleepover at my mom’s house so Derrick and I could have some intense quality time together, if you catch my drift. When I buzzed my mom the next morning, she shared a very interesting exchange she had with Simone. My mom asked her to do something (for the life of me I can’t remember exactly what it was), and she responded, no. Simone went on to say that she would wait until my brother Matt told her to do it. See Matt lives with my mom and no matter how many times I tell her Matt’s my brother, she insists that he’s my mom’s husband. She’ll say, “but he lives with Mama, so he’s her husband.” My mom told her she had to do the chore and my daughter continued to resist, claiming she had to hear it from Matt because he was the man of the house.
Putting aside the fact that Simone needed to be reprimanded for her defiance, I was struck by my daughter’s words. This exchange highlighted two important things. First, my daughter believes that when a man and woman live together, they are married. I don’t ever recall directly having such a conversation with my daughter, but I certainly have said on multiple occasions that her daddy and I love each other very much and are married. In fact, I call him husband quite often. Her perception of what the relationship is between a man and a woman living together trumped every other truth. No matter how many times I told her Matt was her grandmother’s son and my brother, she couldn’t let go of that perceived truth.
Second, my daughter believes that the man is the leader of the house and the one that should give direction. Now my husband is the head of our household and we have clearly defined roles as husband and wife. I give direction ALL THE TIME, but when things get testy, there’s no question who’s the boss. I support my husband and his leadership for our family, even though Lord knows I don’t always agree with him or his method. But, not to digress, I never would have guessed that my 5-year old daughter was perceptive enough to understand this dynamic. Her exchange with my mom really drove home the fact that our children watch everything we do and perhaps even more importantly accept the lessons learned from those observations as truths.
And it didn’t just end with my daughter. I had a conversation with my stepson recently and I made the comment that one day he would grow up, get married, and have a family of his own. He paused and said, “well, first I’m going to live with her and then get married.” I inwardly winced at his comment. See Derrick and I lived together before we married and my stepson had ample opportunity to observe that. While it’s common place nowadays for coupes to live together before marriage, Derrick and I in hindsight wished we hadn’t. It wasn’t consistent with our faith or the manner in which we were raised by our parents. To my chagrin, my stepson believes that “shacking up” is not only completely normal, but the correct path to marriage. So how do we unteach that lesson.
Marriage, it’s such a vital institution. In this day in age with all of the technological and media advancements, our kids are surrounded by people and images that will influence what they think about marriage. While we can’t stop that, we can make sure that we are the primary instructor on what this great institution is. So for all the married couples with kids reading this article, what lessons is your marriage teaching?