A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a friend’s three-year-old. He and my little Spike, Spike are very best buddies. They really love each other (and they can fight too). Spike, Spike’s little buddy also has a little sister who is just about 9 months old. They were both over and I was helping Sun with her homework.
I just remember hearing the toilet flush and much giggling. Sun went in to see what was going on, because I had the baby. She came to report, after about 15 minutes. The boys had pumped out my conditioner (you know, one of those Costco size ones….) all over the bathroom floor and they were sliding around on the floor. They both had conditioner all over their feet. Spike, Spike’s friend had it all over the bottom of his pants too.
The positive side of this little adventure was that the boys had soft feet and the house smelled very clean and beautiful.
Neither of these boys would have done something like that on their own, but together, two little boy minds feeding off of one another, that was a different story.
My friend, Hannah, last week shared these thoughts about her twin boys who are just about two weeks younger than my Spike, Spike:
I guess my bum is already numb from working on the computer too long (editing photos from recent photo shoots, so productive!) so what the heck, might as well fit in a quick blog post. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I have twin boys that are 2. Let me say that again, I have 2 wild high energy boys that are 2! I am not sure if my life can reach any greater level of insanity really. A few weeks ago Brody got in the dryer and McKay turned the dryer on. Sean rescued him after he had spun twice. He heard the dryer turn on, Brody scream blood murder and then two consecutive “thuds”. He has not climbed in the dryer since. McKay recently decided he is not going to sleep any more. I don’t mean he is arguing nap time, he is fighting all sleep tooth and nail. In the last two weeks it has taken us about 3 hours to get him down at night. He is jumping, laughing, climbing out of his crib or throwing a fit. Tonight we moved Brody in to his sister’s room temporarily, kid proofed McKay’s room, set up a toddler bed and gated him off. Of course, I went in every 5 minutes and offered to open the door if he is willing to stay in his bed. After 2 hours of this, he finally agreed and stayed in his bed. We are hoping this sudden toddler sleep training won’t last too long, heaven knows we need sleep and sanity. We told the pediatrician we will end up joining the circus soon if we can’t get things under control. McKay loves the street and we’re lucky he hasn’t been hit. Brody is a climber and we are lucky he hasn’t fallen and been seriously injured. When they turn 3 we are having a “twins stayed alive” party. I mean seriously, the thought that we are entrusted with that type of responsibility. Keeps us praying. My house is a complete disaster. Every day Sean and I both clean yet it still constantly looks like a tornado has hit. I would like the FlyLady to visit MY house, I don’t think she was a full time working graveyard shifts mom of twin toddlers and a school aged child while putting her husband through school, if she was, her SINK would not have reflections in it!!!
But think about what two toddlers can do together. The mischief is multiplied exponentially, because of their shared synergy. This is a principle the Lord employs all the time.
He has us go visiting and home teaching in two’s. Some of us have partners who don’t participate or maybe our ward hasn’t organized us into partnerships, but that doesn’t change the Lord’s counsel about it:
The structure of visiting teaching in the ward is determined by the bishop and Relief Society presidency after prayerful consideration of local needs and circumstances. Where possible, the presidency assigns sisters into companionships of two. Because visiting teaching focuses on individual sisters, Relief Society leaders do not organize women in groups for the purpose of visiting teaching.
Think about that! I’m sure you have all experienced visiting with someone in their home and teaching a principle of the gospel and then your companion speaks up and testifies of the truth of that principle in her own life. (You men can apply that to your home teaching experiences.)
The Lord organizes missionaries into companionships. The significance of two witnesses seems extremely significant. Seriously, one person telling you something, you can brush off or chalk up to their opinion. But when the second person validates that, you begin to think deeper about it. Now when the third witness comes along, then what? (Another post for another day…)
Even in times of old, the Lord has two. Moses and Aaron, later Moses and Joshua, Lehi and Jeremiah (did you know they were contemporaries, in the same land?), Nephi and Sam, Helaman and Pahoran, Mormon and Moroni, and I am sure there are others.
But here is the two-some I would like to emphasize: Mom and Dad
The Lord has organize families with two parents at the head—a mother, the heart or mercy part of the equation; and a father, the protector or the justice part of the equation. When parents are unified, despite their differences, think about the impact those teachings have on the mind of the child. What importance is signified by having the same witness from two very different parents?? Now, I understand that not all families can fall into the ‘ideal’ category. (You can read my opinions about that by clicking here.) Nonetheless, we should still all be striving for the ideal.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks shared these thoughts last October, 2012:
There are few examples of physical or emotional threats to children as important as those arising out of their relationships with their parents or guardians. President Thomas S. Monson has spoken of what he called the “vile deeds” of child abuse, where a parent has broken or disfigured a child, physically or emotionally.11 I grieved as I had to study the shocking evidence of such cases during my service on the Utah Supreme Court.
Of utmost importance to the well-being of children is whether their parents were married, the nature and duration of the marriage, and, more broadly, the culture and expectations of marriage and child care where they live. Two scholars of the family explain: “Throughout history, marriage has first and foremost been an institution for procreation and raising children. It has provided the cultural tie that seeks to connect the father to his children by binding him to the mother of his children. Yet in recent times, children have increasingly been pushed from center stage.”12
A Harvard law professor describes the current law and attitude toward marriage and divorce: “The [current] American story about marriage, as told in the law and in much popular literature, goes something like this: marriage is a relationship that exists primarily for the fulfillment of the individual spouses. If it ceases to perform this function, no one is to blame and either spouse may terminate it at will. … Children hardly appear in the story; at most they are rather shadowy characters in the background.”13
Our Church leaders have taught that looking “upon marriage as a mere contract that may be entered into at pleasure … and severed at the first difficulty … is an evil meriting severe condemnation,” especially where “children are made to suffer.”14 And children are impacted by divorces. Over half of the divorces in a recent year involved couples with minor children.15
Many children would have had the blessing of being raised by both of their parents if only their parents had followed this inspired teaching in the family proclamation: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. … Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another.”16 The most powerful teaching of children is by the example of their parents. Divorcing parents inevitably teach a negative lesson.
There are surely cases when a divorce is necessary for the good of the children, but those circumstances are exceptional.17 In most marital contests the contending parents should give much greater weight to the interests of the children. With the help of the Lord, they can do so. Children need the emotional and personal strength that come from being raised by two parents who are united in their marriage and their goals. As one who was raised by a widowed mother, I know firsthand that this cannot always be achieved, but it is the ideal to be sought whenever possible.
Children are the first victims of current laws permitting so-called “no-fault divorce.” From the standpoint of children, divorce is too easy. Summarizing decades of social science research, a careful scholar concluded that “the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married.”18 A New York Times writer noted “the striking fact that even as traditional marriage has declined in the United States … the evidence has mounted for the institution’s importance to the well-being of children.”19 That reality should give important guidance to parents and parents-to-be in their decisions involving marriage and divorce. We also need politicians, policy makers, and officials to increase their attention to what is best for children in contrast to the selfish interests of voters and vocal advocates of adult interests.
Children are also victimized by marriages that do not occur. Few measures of the welfare of our rising generation are more disturbing than the recent report that 41 percent of all births in the United States were to women who were not married.20 Unmarried mothers have massive challenges, and the evidence is clear that their children are at a significant disadvantage when compared with children raised by married parents.21
Most of the children born to unmarried mothers—58 percent—were born to couples who were cohabitating.22 Whatever we may say about these couples’ forgoing marriage, studies show that their children suffer significant comparative disadvantages.23 For children, the relative stability of marriage matters.
We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.”24
I finally finished reading her book.
Here is what Judith Wallerstein says in her conclusions:
The sobering truth is that we have created a new kind of society that offers greater freedom and more opportunities for many adults, but this welcome change carries a serious hidden cost. Many people, adults and children alike, are in fact not better off. We have created new kinds of families in which relationships are fragile and often unreliable. Children today receive far less nurturance, protection, and parenting than was their lot a few decades ago. Long-term marriages come apart at still surprising rates. And many in the older generation who started the divorce revolution find themselves estranged from their adult children. Is this the price we must pay for needed change? Can’t we do better?
I’d like to say that we’re at a crossroads but I’m afraid I can’t be that optimistic. We can choose a new route only if we agree on where we are and where we want to be in the future. The outlook is cloudy. For every person who wants to sound an alarm, there’s another who says don’t worry. For every one concerned about the economic and emotional derivations inherited by children of divorce there are those who argue that those kids were “in trouble before” and that divorce is irrelevant, no big deal. People want to feel good about their choices. Doubtless many do. In actual fact, after divorces, one member of the former couple feels much better while the other feels no better or even worse. Yet at any dinner party you will still hear the same myths: Divorce is a temporary crisis. So many children have experienced their parents’ divorce that kids nowadays don’t worry so much. It’s easier. They almost expect it. It’s a rite of passage. If I feel better, so will my children. And so on. As always, children are voiceless or unheard.
But family scholars who have not always seen eye to eye are converging on a number of findings that fly in the face of our cherished myths. We agree that the effects of divorce are long-term. We know that the family is in trouble. We have a consensus that children raised in divorce or remarried families are less well adjusted as adults than those raised in intact famlies.
The life histories of this first generation to grow up in a divorce culture tells us truths we dare not ignore. Their message is poignant, clear, and contrary to what so many want to believe. They have taught me the following:
From the viewpoint of the children, and counter to what happens to their parents, divorce is a cumulative experience. Its impact increases over time and rises to a crescendo in adulthood. At each developmental stage divorce is experienced anew in different ways. In adulthood it affects personality, the ability to trust, expectations about relationships, and ability to cope with change.
The first upheaval occurs at the breakup. Children are frightened and angry, terrified of being abandoned by both parents, and they feel responsible for the divorce. Most children are taken by surprise; few are relieved. As adults, they remember with sorrow and anger how little support they got from their parents when it happened. They recall how they were expected to adjust overnight to a terrifying number of changes that confounded them. Even children who had seen or heard violence at home made no connection between that violence and the decision to divorce. The children concluded early on, silently and sadly, that family relationships are fragile and that the tie between a man and woman can break capriciously, without warning. They worried ever after that parent-child relationships are also unreliable and can break at any time. These early experiences colored their later expectations.
There you go. In the mouths of two witnesses, one a prophet of God, the other a family science scholar who has devoted her life to helping and researching about families in the divorce transition.
I hope all of us work toward the ideal—biological mother and father unified at home raising children. This is certainly the best place for children to grow. And to those of us who cannot meet the ideal for now, please keep trying, keep working, keep teaching and believing in the ideal even if for a time, you cannot reach that standard. Never forget the power of two!