Fundamentals of happy, healthy families

“Nearly three decades of research evaluating the impact of family structure on the health and well-being of children demonstrates that children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being. Pediatricians and society should promote the family structure that has the best chance of producing healthy children. The best scientific literature to date suggests that, with the exception of parents faced with unresolvable marital violence, children fare better when parents work at maintaining the marriage. Consequently, society should make every effort to support healthy marriages and to discourage married couples from divorcing.” National Library of Medicine (NIH)

Let’s begin with the self-evident fundamentals of a happy, successful, and well adjusted family: children fare best when they are raised by both of their biological parents. This is the cornerstone upon which the entire family edifice either rises, falls, or develops into a healthy or an unhealthy unit.

Another way to view the issue is asking this way: “What family environment or structure is the most conducive for raising healthy, well-adjusted, and successful children?” The answer is simple, clear and unambiguous, backed by thousands of years of experiential observance from families throughout the history of human civilization: children fare best when raised by both of their biological parents.

This is hardly a controversial statement. It is so universally accepted to now be considered “self-evident,” defined as “not needing to be demonstrated or explained; obvious.”

“Families are the most central and enduring influence in children’s lives…The health and well-being of children are inextricably linked to their parents’ physical, emotional and social health, social circumstances, and child-rearing practices…” American Academy of Pediatrics

Unfortunately, children cannot chose who their parents are going to be; in various critical ways, children are at the mercy of fate, and they have no idea or control over who will be raising them. Tragically, an increasing number of children are being ruined by being birthed to parents who have no business participating in this most sacred aspect of life: bringing forth and raising children.

I believe most parents want to be the “best they can be” for their children. Their desires are to bring them into a family environment of unconditional love, undying support and encouragement, moral values, strong work ethics, happiness, the best education, etc.

What is the fundamental value or priority of parents when they decide to have children, beyond the items listed above? Is it solely about making the most money to ensure their children are always well-provided for, attend top schools, and reside in the most luxurious homes in the finest neighborhoods? No.

The main priority is simple: stay married. Don’t get divorced. Recognize that children have the greatest chance of achieving all the high hopes and great dreams of their parents only if they stay married and raise their kids in a strong, loving, and intact two parent family structure that endures for those parent’s lifetimes.

I’m speaking of a general principle here, and with all general principles, there are bound to be exceptions. For example, when I write, “Don’t get divorced,” this is a general principle true for all marriages at all times for all people. But sometimes divorce is necessary, two examples being adultery or spousal abuse of such magnitude the partner being abused is at risk of harm by staying in the marriage.

We’re not discussing rocket science or knowledge exclusively acquired through earning a Ph.D. No, we’re discussing common sense, basic principles that all regular individuals grasp and acknowledge, irrespective of their IQ levels.

Here’s further insight into this perspective: Any deviations from this model—where children are raised by their two biological parents—are seen as a decline, a departure from the ideal. It’s viewed as depriving children of the optimal circumstances they need to thrive to the fullest extent.

What do I mean by this? An example is single parent families. Single parent families are a deviation from the accepted standard, the norm we have already established as the model for the best environment for children to be raised in.

Some foolish parent might then think, “Okay, I will just marry someone else, and my new husband will take the place of that loser I first married. My kids will have a new dad, better than the first one.”

Wrong. Remember the model? “Children are best raised by both of their biological parents.” A step parent is a deviation from the model, a step down from the ideal, a walking away from what is best for the children.

Now, it might be that, in the situation just described, the “new” dad may in fact be a superior man from the children’s father. The new dad may be better educated, make more money, posses a better temperament, even be a better role model, but that is missing the point: remember the model, the ideal: children are best raised by both of their biological parents.

The mom in this scenario may no longer love her first husband and the father of their children, but the children have an inseparable spiritual, physical, and psychological bond with their biological father which simply cannot be erased or supplanted by that mom bringing a new man into the family—regardless of this new man’s strengths or superior “qualities.”

I know a woman who has two children with a guy (I don’t think they ever married). I met this man once, and though he was not my type (lazy, didn’t work and provide for his family, sat around the house, etc.), I liked him. Though he was not a good example to his children and, quite frankly a loser, he still loved his kids and his kids loved him. And this is the critical part: he loved his kids and his kids loved him.

If memory serves me correctly, she finally had enough of his laziness and nonsense and kicked him out of the house. I understood why she did this and couldn’t blame her, but then she did the worst thing possible: she not only kicked him out of the house but she began kicking him out of the lives of her two children. Slowly but surely, she began to erase this father from the lives of the children.

As the months passed, the dad and the kids spent less and less time together until there came a day when he no longer visited or called them. Recently, she remarried, to a hard working man who, in virtually every other aspect compared to the deadbeat dad, is superior.

Except for one crucial point: her new husband is not the biological father of the children. And those two kids, somewhere buried deep within their hearts and souls, still love their dad and yearn to be with him. Though I don’t know these two kids to be able to say I know this for a fact, but I’m a son of a loser father myself, an abuser, and though my biological father was a monster in many ways and one not worthy to be called “Dad,” I still, on some levels, miss and regret never having at least some type of relationship with him.

“Fathers are important for children’s mental health.”

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

This mom made a mistake by erasing the father from the two kids. Those children have a right to know their dad, possessing an inviolable bond with him which can never be removed. Though I did not disagree with her kicking him out of the house because of his refusal to get a job and provide for his family, I strongly disagreed with her not encouraging both him and their children to maintain an ongoing, vibrant connection.

And her convenient, disingenuous excuse of “Well, they don’t want to see their dad; it’s their choice. I can’t force them to see him” is not persuasive. Some parents, and mothers in particular, will often use this subterfuge in seeking to justify the negative reactions children will often express toward the non-custodial parent, not realizing—or refusing to realize—their (the custodial parents) negative feelings against the other parent, even if suppressed, will certainly bleed out to the children in some way or fashion, negatively influencing and certainly discoloring the children’s emotions against the disfavored and often absent parent.

Unless a custodial parent is truly clueless and genuinely ignorant to the powerful effect their negative and even unspoken feelings have on the children, my opinion is they know what they are doing to covertly undermine the relationship the children have with the non-custodial and/or absent parent.

Let me emphasize my previous point: children have a right to have a relationship with both of their biological parents. This is not a privilege for these children, it is a right. No parent has the arbitrary right and authority to separate a child form their other biological parent, especially if they use deception, gaslighting techniques, manipulation of memories, and other deceitful tactics to unduly influence the child or children to reject, hate, or disown the other parent.

But the dangerous reality of today’s family culture is many parents—millions of them—have and exercise the power to turn a once loving child against their other parent. Millions upon millions of children in the United States today have been unduly influenced by their other parent to hate the parent who provided half of their DNA. This is not only terribly damaging to these unfortunate children, but is criminal as well.

And what kind of a parent would do such a horrific thing to a child? I noted in a previous blog entry that though I no longer have any love or respect for my ex-wife, I would never coerce our children into hating and rejecting her. They love her and they have a right to have a relationship with her; I have always recognized this and would never think to deceive and lie to convince them they should have nothing to do with her.

Yes, I’m human, and there’s a deeply wounded and vengeful part of me that would like nothing more than to see my ex face the consequences of her actions and experience the same pain she’s caused me for 20 years. However, I understand that seeking revenge would ultimately harm my children and hinder their development as compassionate individuals, just as their rejection of me has done.

Regardless of the kind of person my ex has become, she is still their mother, and they have a right to maintain a relationship with her that is separate from my own thoughts and feelings toward her.

Another crucial question is this: what is in the best interests of the children? I return to my original point: children are best raised by both of their biological parents. A truly wise, loving, and caring parent will always and forever keep in mind “the best interests of the children.” And the foundation upon which the best interests of children are laid is “children are best raised by both biological parents.”

This is the lens through which the behavior of either parent can best be viewed through. How can one determine which parent is truly keeping the best interests of the children front and center in practice? It is simple: the parent who most closely puts into daily practice the foundational truth of a strong, enduring, and healthy family: children are best raised by both their biological parents.

Unfortunately for myself and my children (far worse for my children), I married a woman who neither agreed with this fundamental truth nor seemed to possess any self-awareness of how important this truth was critical for our children to grow up in the best environment for their success as adults. There is no doubt choosing her for what I thought was going to be my “life partner” was the biggest mistake of my life.

Life is full of unexplainable paradoxes, mysteries for which none of us can adequately answer nor understand. One such paradox is this: while her divorcing me (twice) has ultimately proved to have been one of the most freeing and positive aspects of my life, it proved to be the worst possible outcome for our children who have been forced to suffer the consequences of my ex’s decision to end our family unit. What each of them have suffered—and continue to suffer—are magnitudes of grief far greater than what I suffered. The very event that set me free—divorce—sentenced our children to a lifetime of bitterness, hatred, mental illness, depression, and a host of other ills directly related to these two divorces and their subsequent fallout.

The greatest detriment for our children? I was unable to be a part of their lives. They lost the influence, advice, wisdom (what little I have), support, and love of a dad who cherished them more than life itself.

And, of course, I have lost out because I have no contact with any of them, missing most of their life achievements, milestones, and events: birthdays, holidays, school graduations, and one of the greatest blows to me, my middle daughter’s recent marriage: I was not able to walk her down the aisle, a crushing blow to a father whose pain and regret of such a momentous event in both of their lives which is almost too painful to describe. I was not even invited to her wedding.

What did this do to my daughter, not to have her dad walk her down the aisle, to participate in perhaps the most important and consequential event of her life? Surely she knew of the significance her choice was to not even provide me the dignity and respect owed a father to have me there at her side on that day. What twisted and evil thinking was birthed into her to convince her to do something like this? What lifelong regrets and crushing guilt will she carry within her once tender and loving heart towards me as the years pass and she realizes what she has done?

Truly our life choices have consequences, whether for good or ill, benefit or disadvantage, happiness or grief, success or failure.