Maybe by now you have heard of the high school girl suing her parents for child support and college tuition. The story is somewhat convoluted, with a bit of a “he said, she said” finger pointing sort of flavor to it. No surprise. The blame game is as old as humanity. But the judge in the case recently found that yes, indeed, parents have a right to enforce rules on their teenagers, and no, those teenagers do not then have the right to run away and sue their parents if they don’t like the rules.
Sounds alright, but a detail in all of this debacle jumped out to me, and one that I think isn’t getting due attention. According to the court documents, in the months leading up to the girl running away from home the parents had been separated, after a rather extended period of marital strife.
Let me rephrase that for emphasis: The parents had a long period of unresolved conflict and were separating over it, and then their daughter ran away. Correlation does not imply causation, but am I the only one seeing some strong connection here?
The girl’s risky behavior (drinking, truancy, eating disorders, etc.) seem to have started quite a bit before the separation business, but one can assume that if the parents had arrived at the point of separating, the marriage had been suffering for a long time already.
I don’t know all the details. I can’t stand in judgment over the parents for having conflict; every couple has conflict. I can’t stand in judgment over them for separating, necessarily, if their intent all along was to work toward reconciliation. The Bible even allows for temporary separation, though it is pretty clear on the way that time should be spent and how it should be concluded. Sometimes a brief separation can actually be healthy for a couple if they have serious issues they need to work through and need to be able to not deal with each other in the interim.
But that raises the question, why are there “serious issues?” What selfish motives and abrogations of love and respect led them to the point where separation was the better course of action? Could it be that those things – perhaps more significant than irresponsible boyfriends – inspired this teen’s acting out?
As I said, not knowing the details, I cannot speak to all the factors and issues involved in the lives of this young lady and her family. I am very sad for them that they are going through this. It is heartbreaking to see a family go through something like this. But I believe it illustrates the principle that your marriage has an impact on your children.
We can all agree that we want what is best for our kids. That’s why we expend so much time, energy, and money on providing so many opportunities for them to learn, grow, and succeed. Yet, sometimes the time, energy, and money we expend on our children detracts from the time, energy, and money we could be expending on our marriages. We have to realize that if our marriage is suffering because we are focusing too much on our children, we are no longer doing what is best for our children, even if we feel like we are.
In the court documents the young lady’s mother states that “she was given just about everything she ever asked for, even if it meant we had to go without.” Does that statement apply to your time as well? I guess I don’t know how the parents would answer to that.
Whether or not these particular parents were depriving their marriage for the sake of their kids, I think the key takeaway for us is to see how important it is that your marriage is a solid foundation for your family. In Malachi 2:15, God says that he made the man and woman one “because he was seeking godly offspring.” In other words, the unity of the marriage produces good things in children.
By all means, give your children your time, your love, your affection, your attention, and your devotion. But only after you’ve built between each other the solid foundation your children need to see in your marriage.