The First Monday In January

David Schel By David Schel

No sooner had the sun set on the busiest month of the year for retailers, when the most active season for divorce lawyers had its kickoff the first Monday in January on what has sadly become known as Divorce Monday. It commences the biggest time of the year for divorce filings.

Many parents typically decide during the preceding several months to wait until after the holidays to tell their kids they are splitting up. They want to give the children one last holiday of togetherness – their last meal so to speak. From that point forward, however, the word used for prisoners will be applied to these children– custody.  That’s always bothered me, applying the same word to our kids as we use on criminals. And yet the analogy fits. I won’t even get started on the word “visitation.”

So let’s get this straight. It’s okay to devastate kids in January but it’s not okay to crush them in December? It’s okay to wreck their world a month before Valentine’s Day, a time of love and romance, but it’s not okay to level them a month before a time of toys and games? Can someone say oxymoron! If parents hold off on the divorce because they know it will upset their family, they probably should be reconsidering the decision to divorce in the first place. Devastation is devastating no matter what day it occurs.

Take comedian Chris Rock for example. He and his wife waited until right after Christmas to announce their split – apparently during the open season for divorce. After the tree was taken down and the lights  put away. His wife’s press release announcing the split contained the same tired line: “My children remain at the center of my life and their well-being is my top priority.” While I have no doubt the couple feel this way, they’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And it doesn’t fit. If your kids really were your top priority, wouldn’t you as parents be doing what children want?

And what do they want? According to Gwyneth Paltrow, who is on the cover of this month’s Harper’s Bazaar UK magazine promoting Conscious Uncoupling again, “Of course, there are times when I think it would have been better if we had stayed married, which is always what your children want….”

So if kids want their parents to stay married – then if parents don’t stay married – they’re not making their children their top priority. It’s that simple. Instead, parents are making themselves the top priority! This is far more serious than children not getting the pony they want – it’s about them not getting the family they deserve.

Before we know it, it’s going to be the Christmas season. In fact the stores were already gearing up for Valentine’s Day before New Year’s. That means parents need to tend to their marriages now and put a stop to Divorce Monday. It all starts with an attitude. And so as divorce papers are unwrapped during this month by too many unsuspecting husbands and wives – parents – please keep this in mind throughout the year:

The greatest gift a child can receive on Christmas morning is not found under the tree. Mom and Dad under the same roof on Christmas morning, sitting on the couch holding hands and sipping coffee together, having completed another year of hard — yet rewarding — work in their marriage is more meaningful to a kid than any toy, game or piece of clothing ever could be.  

Likewise, years later when those same little boys and girls are all grown up, the greatest gift they can receive on their wedding day would be to have mom and dad standing arm in arm, having done the hard work necessary to honor their commitment to each other and their children. Couples get lots of gifts on their wedding day, all of which with enough money they could buy on their own. Divorce strips them of the greatest wedding gift of all. A gift gone forever.                                                

Remember this, and the first Monday in January can go back to just being about the hope and promise signing up for a gym membership brings rather than saddling kids with the extra weight they’ll carry with them forever.

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