Jus’ Sayin’: I’d like to have an argument, please. In front of the kids.

Well, if this blog is going to be anything other than a list of treatments, I’m going to have to talk about other things. It is about life with Lyme, after all.  Hence, I’d like to offer thoughts every now and again on various topics (not politics) that I hope you might enjoy.

And remember, I’m “jus’ sayin’.” 😉

sad-man-in-bedI’ve heard it said–very truly–that you should “never let your kids see you fight with your spouse.” Taken literally, that is very good advice. Unfortunately, many people I know don’t take it literally and what results does far more harm than good.  Let me explain…

You shouldn’t “fight” with your spouse in front of your kids. But “in front of your kids” really has nothing to do with it. Of course, doing it in front of kids makes it a worse sin, but that isn’t the fundamental issue.  You shouldn’t fight with your spouse at all, anywhere, any time!  “Fighting” implies a level of not just anger, but unthinking, unloving hatred that has no place in our lives or in our marriages.

(As fallible, fallen human beings, most of us will cross this line in our marriages at some point or other. When we do, it obliges us to practice another set of virtues: forgiveness and repentance. But that is really another post.)

Note that I did not use the word “disagree.” Disagreements are natural for human beings, even (especially) human beings who love each other deeply. Disagreements will inevitably lead to “arguments”–by which I mean each side holds his/her ground at least long enough to find out which one is right. But, it is very, very important to note that while fights can start from arguments, no argument ever has to become a fight.

All too often, in our oversensitive world, we conflate “argument” with “fight”. My father was that way. No one could disagree with a word anyone else said in his presence without it being a “fight”. I loved my dad, but this is unrealistic nonsense. Disagreements are inevitable in life, and when they happen, working through them (arguing–or discussing, or whatever euphemism you prefer) is the only way to move forward.  After all, if you pretend that there’s no disagreement, you help no one. The disagreement is still there–niggling away at your heart and mind, building itself up for a real explosion that will result in a real fight. Worse, sometimes disagreements really matter, meaning the person who is wrong may actually be heading for real danger. Working through the issue and seeing all the evidence may be the only way to save themselves.

And this is why I say, “Yes! You should argue in front of your kids.” Where else are they going to learn how to do it in a loving, truthful way? From the internet and social media?  I’m sure we all want our kids dealing with disagreement like the average internet troll. School? Being told to sit down and be quiet isn’t at all helpful. The movies and TV? (Sounds of machine guns firing and bones breaking.) Not really. Apparently, we think so, since our mantra as parents is to avoid any and all conflict in front of our kids at all costs.

Is it therefore that surprising that we have skyrocketing divorce rates for several generations?

No, home the best place for them to learn how to deal with conflict, especially conflict in marriage.  Our kids should see us working through our problems and differences–especially the tough ones. They should see my wife and I butting heads. Through it all, they should see the deeper love and respect we have for each other that allows us to go through it and come out on the other end together. They will (hopefully) know what healthy disagreement looks like, how to disagree healthily, and (perhaps most importantly) how to identify and avoid people incapable of it. That’s part (but by no means not all) of what will set them up for a successful marriage when the time comes.

Note that I don’t think we should drag our kids through our darkest places. There are things that are, frankly, none of their business and others that they may not be ready for. Further, this places another burden on our generation–many of whom have never known what healthy disagreement looks like either. We have to become something worthy of respect in order to model it for our kids. And that ain’t easy!

In a very real way, the principle here is the same as the logic behind this blog: When people watch us suffering through a hard thing, be it disagreement or Lyme, has the potential to build others up or to tear them down. I’m hopeful for the former.

So, don’t fight in front of your kids. Disagree in front of them and work it out–if you love them.