This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.
Selma and I were married seven years before our first child was born. I thought I knew my wife, but when children entered the picture, I realized there was a lot more "marrying" to be done.
Scripture says our children are a reward (Ps. 127), and ours have been a blessing. But the truth remains: Parenting presents challenges and opportunities for growth in the strongest marriage.
Depending on their ages, children require lots of time, and rightfully so. Kids grow up quickly, and you need to be fully engaged in teaching, loving, encouraging, and disciplining. But in the midst of the busyness of child-rearing, there needs to be some time for Mom and Dad.
Easy? No. But it's essential. That short walk together now and then while older brother watches little sister is a must for your marriage during the craziness of raising a family.
Kids are wonderful. They have an unending supply of energy — and you don't. A wise marriage leader once said tired bodies make for tired sex. And we could add that tired communication, tired arguments, and tired partners lead to an overall tired marriage.
Couples, this is where you've got to rise to the challenge. A 30-minute rescue can revive a parent ("Honey, I've got the kids for the next hour. You go soak in the tub."). Maybe it's a date without the kids or a simple break from the routine. The key is to carve out small bits of time to recover the energy spent on kids. Your marriage will be stronger when you do.
You've heard it said, "Always present a united front to the kids." To be truly united, meet in advance of any family discussion to hammer out just what it is that your parent team wants to present.
For example, if one child feels she deserves a later bedtime than her younger sister, start by discussing it with your spouse. Rather than one parent immediately responding, make it a shared decision. The planned approach provides daily communication opportunities to build confidence in the marriage team.
The parenting years are excellent times to show respect (directly and indirectly) for your mate. Choose to focus on positive attributes of your mate when speaking to the children. Let them know how crazy you are about their dad or mom. Statements like, "Isn't it cool that Mom spends a lot of time with you?" or "What other dad would take time off to watch his daughter's tennis match?" communicate a powerful message to your children — and to your spouse. Whether or not your mate is present when you give the compliment, the respect you communicate is obvious.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a healthy marriage. Parenting gives you numerous opportunities to show off your marriage to your kids. And it builds confidence in your relationship.
As your kids see you and your spouse working hard to clearly communicate with each other, working through conflict and forgiving each other, holding each other, or going on a date without them — they witness a growing marriage. When the time comes for your child to find a mate, he or she will most likely emulate what was modeled.
• Spiritual Closeness:
No couple has done this parenting thing perfectly. The wisest thing you can do together is to present yourselves to the Lord. One night Selma and I were on our knees, praying in our bedroom, when Jennifer (then in high school) walked in. She later shared with Selma what a strong impact that experience had on her.
Don't miss the opportunities that come with parenting. Rise to the challenges, and let God grow your marriage in the midst of raising children.