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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lessons from Jon and Kate

So my wife convinced me to watch a bit of reality TV last night - yes we watched the premier of Jon and Kate + 8 - or as I like to call it "The Train Wreck that is the Modern American Family".

We've watched the show before though it has been well over a year since we've seen it. Admittedly I have liked the show in the past. We decided to watch because my wife had been reading a lot of chatter over the last few weeks in the parenting forums and such and we were curious to see how this family that seemed pretty wholesome only a year ago has presumably begun to fall apart. Boy were we in for a treat. I say that with all sarcasm intended. It was as though I was watching a microscopic view of how American families fall apart.

Lesson #1 - Learn from the Ants - Ants have learned that if someone puts a magnifying glass on their back they best run for their lives or they will get burned - yes the cruelty of a five year old has taught ants the lesson that they do not want their lives under a magnifying glass - because no ant has made it out alive. Why? Because there body cannot take the excessive heat created by magnifying the sun on their small little bodies.

So the ants have learned and yet we have invented Reality TV where people voluntarily put themselves under a magnifying glass in order to make a buck. Well as Jon and Kate and their children are learning - when someone puts a magnifying glass on your life for all the world to see - you will get burned. Your family simply cannot take the public scrutiny and the heat is too much for our fragile souls to take. Certainly there are some families who have seemed to make it out okay but this is not the case for the Gosselins. I'm not sure how many times Jon said during the show that he didn't sign up for this or similar phrases - sorry buddy not only did you sign up for this you put a big sign on your back saying "point magnifying glass here!"

Lesson #1 was the least of the lessons learned by watching the above mentioned train wreck but I figured I'd include it in case any of you were considering trying to sell you family's private life to the highest bidder. $75,000 an episode sure sounds nice until you look at your family five years later and see what all you have lost.

Lesson #2 - Stop "DOING IT FOR THE CHILDREN" - I'm sorry but if Kate said "I'm doing this for the children... I wake up for the children... I'm here for the children... I'm out speaking for the children..." and so on one more time I think I may have had to go to confession.

I don't know when this disordered view of marriage and family entered the picture - but I am so tired of hearing this phrase. The children first, spouse second philosophy of family is destructive at best and a completely disordered view of marriage and family. I would argue that it is this philosophy or ideology that has been one of the leading culprits to the decay of the American family and the main reason that as generations raised under this philosophy continue to reach adulthood more and more of them have decided that marriage and family are not for them.

You do not marry for the children - in the traditional sense - most couples marry before they have children and I'm willing to bet that the reason those couples were so hot for each other in their dating and courting days is not because they thought it would be fun to live in the same house and raise some kids together. They married out of love for one another. Sure, I'm sure children was a part of the deal - something they discussed and agreed upon. But how many people do you know who looked into the love-of-their-life's eyes and said - I'm so in love with you because I know one day it will be great to be strangers living under the same roof and raising children. Marriage is first and foremost about the love of two people towards one another. Children are the fruit of that love. This is how it should always remain.

In the Catholic view of things marriage is a Vocation - a calling that is meant to be primary. Primary meaning of course what it always means - the thing that comes first (of course this would be first after of course the thing that always should come first which is God). I am nothing if I am not first a husband to my wife. My being a father is only as a result of the love I have for my wife. Together we of course should raise our children and take care of them. However, my wife must always be first - I must always seek to love her and care for her and together as the fruit of our love we should then care for our children.

People seem to get offended by this idea of loving our spouse first. But it is scriptural - remember that Jesus said "to love one another as I have loved you." - Shortly after he says "go and bear fruit that remains." (cf. John 15:9-17) He is speaking to the apostles about their vocation. Their vocation was to spread the message of the Gospel and continuing Christ's work on earth. In the vocation of marriage this command still remains - to love one another first. Then to bear fruit that remains.

We must come to understand that our vocation is not to our children - that is only secondary to our vocation to love our spouse. Raising your children is a vocation in itself but again it is the vocation that results from first loving your spouse.

When we order our marriages after "doing it for the children" it will lead to disorder for us and for our children. Our children act only in response to how we act and without seeing husband and wife love one another something is missing.

I don't know much about Jon and Kate Gosselin - only what I see on TV - but what I can tell is that they forgot to love one another first. In the proper order of love Jon and Kate should have stopped when things got rough and focused on one another. Instead they continued this path of "doing it for the children." Towards the end of the show when Jon and Kate are asked what happens from here, both of them responded with something about being in this for the children.

It was sad to see, there on that couch is your spouse dying inside over the hurt that you both have caused. This is the person you fell in love with. The person that at one point in your life you could not live without - you loved this person so much you changed your entire life to become one. Here they are sitting next to you dying inside - and all you can do is respond that you love the children. No thought that perhaps you have to save your spouse - your marriage - your primary purpose.

I pray for Jon and Kate - though they are on TV and have all that money and fame - they are still people who deserve to love and be loved in the proper way. I pray for them and for all couples that they would remember why they got married in the first place. That they would choose to love one another and lead one another to heaven.

I do not propose that I am somehow an expert at this marriage thing. Only three years into it I've made a lot of mistakes and gotten more wrong then right. But I am guided by one purpose to love my wife to heaven.