Saturday, November 22, 2014

Father & Son Clash, Wife Resents Husband

I've already written my post for today, but I wanted to take this downtime opportunity to write a post I've contemplated writing for a long time. It has been delayed because the Lord had to work on sinful things in my heart before I could write with perspective.

I'll bet you've heard plenty of stories about fathers who allegedly treat their sons badly, and of wives who abhor their husbands because of it. Personally, I've never heard such stories about a father's relationship with a daughter.

What gives? Why is this such a hotbed issue in marriages? And why always over fathers and sons?

A woman we casually know divorced almost two years ago, mostly because of the way her husband treated their son. From her perspective, her husband didn't understand the son, he didn't try to nurture him, develop a bond, discover what was wonderful and unique about him. I can't say for sure, but she probably feared the dad was ruining the son, who was artsy, highly intelligent, and somewhat effeminate.

There were other marital issues, but this loomed largest. She complains about it to her girlfriends at work to this day. (She's an office worker in one of the buildings my husband cleans, and she used to be part of my now defunct homeschool group. I'd met her once back then).

Two years out from the divorce, does her son feel "rescued" from his "vastly inferior" father? No. He has a contentious relationship with his mother. Now 16 years old, he blames her for the divorce.

My husband and son have a contentious relationship. My husband has, if not bonafide ADHD, enough symptoms to make it pretty close. My 12-year-old son has moderate ADHD and OCD. These two are more alike than they'd like to admit and they clash. Neither sings the other's praises, and neither has much grace to offer the other.

My husband loves to read to the boys at night. In fact, it's how he contributes to our homeschooling effort. He does the read-alouds that go with their curriculum. If anything gets in the way of this time, my husband is disappointed.

However, it's also a challenging time because Peter, like most ADHD children, interrupts every 3 sentences or so to ask questions or make comments. My husband then, also having ADHD, has no patience for this; he has a short fuse. About every 5 minutes I hear, "Stop talking!" He doesn't have the discipline skills to come up with a strategy to get Peter to self-monitor, so every night it's the same thing. Neither learns from their mistakes, which is characteristic of ADHD.

When husband walks through the door at 7 PM every night, I look like I've been through an epic battle, and I have. I'm drained emotionally and I can barely manage a smile. Husband resents Peter for doing this to me. He can barely manage a hello for Peter, but for the other kids he does much more.

This disdain for Peter breaks my heart, and I think he should be capable of more grace than that. Peter didn't ask for a disorder that makes him question his salvation all day, or that makes him feel in deep sin if he brushed past my bra that was hanging to dry on the chart paper stand, or that makes him cringe as he sits next to his sister to teach her science.

He didn't ask for ADHD that makes him interrupt and have trouble sitting still at meals, and makes him follow me around and talk incessantly and ask for dogs incessantly. He didn't ask for a mind for which the grass is always greener on the other side because he can.  never. get. enough. stimulation.

Since the concussion that occurred in late August, both his ADHD and OCD are worse, but his academic status is back to normal. Just getting out of bed and doing it all again another day is challenging for Peter some days. My husband does get that I think, but if he gave it too much thought, he would get too mad at God.

You have an ideal picture in your mind of the father you want your husband to be, but remember, your son doesn't necessarily have that same image in his. Think of the story I relayed above. The woman's son wasn't complaining about his father. She was. When she divorced, the son wasn't mad at his father for upsetting his mother. He was mad at his mother for breaking up their family.

From the gossip in the office, it appears the son still isn't complaining about his father.

My own husband's father was far from stellar, but my husband spends two hours every two days on the phone with him, despite my husband working 54-hour weeks, on his feet doing custodial work. His dad is almost 92 and lives alone and needs these phone calls.

My husband bears his father no ill will, despite the fact that his father never said I love you to him, never once affirmed him, never asks about our kids, never even asks how my husband is, etc. The list is long of what this father never did for his son or with his son. (I should say there's some mental illness present.)

My point is, don't get in the way by forcing your ideal view of a father down your son's throat. The ideal father is just that...ideal. He exists, but mostly he will come out of a generational Christian home, or from the fruit of a long-standing discipleship relationship.

The other thing to remember is, what kind of dad did your husband have growing up? If you must judge his fathering, judge it based on the modeling he had, not on your ideal. Even if he's heard plenty of sermons on what a Christian father should be, it's hard to drop the patterns he grew up with.

My husband is an amazing father considering the lack of affirmation he grew up with. I am astounded at what the Lord has done! He comes home and never takes a minute to himself.

Yes, I wish he viewed children as a blessing and not as a stresser. Yes, I wish he didn't view his work as a relief from the stress of his children's problems. He and I view children differently, and that is one of the main things God has taught me. Read on to see what else I've learned.

What God has Shown Me:

~ It's not a triangle

We have to stop thinking of the problem as a triangle involving father, son, and mother. Instead, think of a vertical line image. Each of us is responsible to God for our relationships. I answer to God regarding my relationship with my husband, and my husband answers to God regarding his relationship with his son. If I make my husband answer to me regarding his relationship with his son, many things will go awry. That triangle reality is not biblical and we need to avoid it.

~ Don't Underestimate Your Son's Maturity

With you out of the way, your son will likely have the maturity to realize that yes, my dad has some issues, but all in all, he's a great guy. He'll love him, warts and all. As a tween or teen, your son will encounter some dads out there far worse than his own, and from that, some perspective will come. He may also encounter a few who seem better, and that's when your own maturity will come into play. Start building up his father in his eyes, if you haven't already done so. Learning to count our blessings always helps when the grass looks greener elsewhere.

~ Emphasis The Perfect Parent, Our Heavenly Father

My son and I have had conversations about his father, but not since the Lord has given me new perspective. I've explained that the lack of patience stems from his father's ADHD tendencies. Now, my conversations about parents focus on the fact that all earthly parents are flawed. We can never get it right. We can never love as perfectly as we'd unselfishly as we imagine we should. I ask that my children please look to their heavenly father for perfection, not to us.

I tell them that mommy and daddy get tired, frustrated, cranky and punchy. We say the wrong things, or the right things the wrong ways. Sometimes we fail to say things that need to be said. Sometimes as sinful as we parents are, we assume our children should be perfect and keep their rooms nice and be nice to each other and do school work without griping.

~ It Could Be Jealousy

Women tend to be devoted mothers, but not devoted wives once they become mothers. My husband misses me. He will miss me until the kids move out and he finally has me back. He loves his children, but they took me away, so in a sense, I think some men are jealous of their children (maybe more so of sons, because they have special relationships with mothers?).

If this might be the case, the answer is to concentrate on honoring and serving our husbands. I know energy is not limitless, but even making their favorite dessert, wearing their favorite bedtime thing, trying to go to bed at the same time they do once or twice a week...whatever. Doing one kind thing a week for them to start would make a difference.

God is a jealous God for his bride, The Church. The husband is jealous too for his bride.

~ Someday, The Children Will Be Gone

If you make your entire marriage about your husband's fathering skills, what will you do when the children are all gone and you and your husband hate each other, but don't believe in divorce? Nurture your marriage if for no other reason than that God expects you to live with this man forever. There is no way out, my Christian friend. I tell you, there are good things about the man sitting across from you. Find them out and give thanks for them.

~ Trust God to be the Making of Your Son

Even if things are really as bad as you allege, trust God to be the making of your son. Be a Christian soldier of a mother. Concentrate on that.

Really, do children succeed because of parents, or in spite of them? God can redeem anything for his glory, and he often chooses the worst examples of sin from which to shine his glory. Didn't the line of Christ include prostitutes?

~ Concentrate on the Plank in Your Own Eye

We women can be bossy and critical and as such, we keep missing the planks in our own eyes. Humble yourself before the Lord and get off your husband's back. I actually have way more flaws than my husband, if I'm honest with myself. There, I said it. Thank you, Lord, for the courage to do so.

~ Encourage One on One

If you get involved at all, let it be to encourage one on one dates between father and son. My husband and son get along well when it's just the two of them. Last time the two of them went to the park alone, my son told me later that night how much he loved his father. Warmed my heart. ADHD always minimizes in one-on-one situations.

I remember having to send this severe ADHD first grader down to the principal's office back in my teaching days. When I'd go to the office to use the bathroom later that day, the secretaries would say how charming the little boy was. Oh, how I wanted to roll my eyes. He retired me from teaching. This is the same boy who pulled a knife on two kids when he was in the second grade.

Yes, ADHD kids are charming all right...when they're one on one with you. It's when they have to compete for attention that they have problems.

~ Pray For Your Husband in All His God-Given Roles

One of the most loving, sacrificial acts of the mother and wife, is prayer.

Bless you, friend, if you struggle with this in your home. Trust God.


Tesha Papik said...

Really wise post, thank you!!!

April Bartlett said...

Good post. I needed some of the wise advice. However, my husband was raised in an atheist family with VERY poor nurturing. Then he went into the military. Our son is ADHD as am I. I have lived my whole marriage as Eliza Doolittle and my husband as Prof. Henry Higgins. Now my son is in that place. He actually wants us to divorce so that he can be away from his father. My husband is a teacher and great with his students but at home, well not so much. I have tried to encourage them both but I feel sometimes I am functioning from an empty tank. Any help there?

Christine said...

Let me pray about this, April. May God give you strength to meet today. I am so sorry!