I generally have an easy-going personality. I really do. It takes a lot to get me worked up — I usually have no problem letting comments slide right off my back.
But every time someone expresses surprise that my daughter is "doing so well ... considering everything" I get this little urge to punch that person in the face. The same is true for people who use the phrase "broken family" to describe our family. They mean well — I know they do. But people who say those comments make some pretty big (and quite negative) assumptions about my family.
Broken things need to be fixed. They aren't the way they are intended to be. If something is broken, something is inherently wrong. The same goes for the (well-intentioned) concern about how our daughter is "dealing with everything."
Here is the bottom line: We are precisely the family that God has called us to be, and our daughter's life is better for it. It's your idea of family that is broken.
A couple of months ago, I showed up at my daughter's school for a class party. There weren't many parents there, so the kids gathered around me. My daughter was explaining her family to her friends, "This is my dad. I have another dad too. And I have two moms." To which her friends properly responded: "You have two dads? No fair!"
Children get it. Children are jealous of the child who is privileged to have two dads and two moms — two bedrooms and four sets of grandparents to spoil her. It is adults who have hang-ups, not the kids.
Not every divorce works out well. Many don't, and that pain is very real and important. But we can't assume that divorced parents aren't parenting well together — working together for the well-being of the child. For many families, mine included, it can be the best solution.
And for the children in those situations it can be a real blessing. In many cases, (three or) four parents to surround you with love. (Three or) four parents to guide you and care for you. Just because there has been a divorce in our family does not mean that our family is broken.
How many children grow up in a home that is loveless and cold because mom and dad are staying together "for the good of the kids"? How many children grow up feeling neglected and ignored by one of their parents? Regardless of marital status, those homes experience brokenness.
What it means to be a family is changing in so many ways. So the next time you have a conversation with a divorced parent, stop and listen. Don't jump to conclusions about how they relate to their co-parent and what it means for their child. Just listen.
Our family is not broken. In the last three years, our family has grown larger. In the last three years, it has grown to be more loving and more caring. And that is not a cause for concern. It is a cause for rejoicing.
Can we — the church — rejoice with those who rejoice? Can we set aside our judgments and celebrate love-filled families that look different from what we expect?
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers