My Spouse or My Kids?

My Kids or My Spouse?

You married for love. You married forever. But you never expected your marriage would involve having to choose between your new spouse an...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Empty Bird Cages

This is about the clearest, most fitting description of Christian salvation I've ever seen. Please read it and let me know if you "get it," agree, disagree, or even have your own "bird cage" story to share.

God bless y'all!
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There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit.

Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak....
"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.

 I stopped the lad and asked, "What do you have there, son?"

"Just some old birds," he replied.

"What are you going to do with them?" I asked.
"Take 'em home and have fun with'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease'em and pull out their feathers to make'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."

 "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take'em to them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh?? !!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.
The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"
The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free. Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story:

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden,
and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught a world full of people down there. Set me a trap,
used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.
Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"

 "And what will you do when you are done with them?" Jesus asked.
"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!!"

"How much? He asked again.
Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life."

Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage and walked from the pulpit.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Smother Your Stepchildren!

I rarely work with children. My specialty and my gift is working with couples, either current couples or former (divorced) couples who are trying to work out conflicts that interfere with their relating. But occasionally I will work with kids, if their parents really want it, and if the conflict is between the parent and child. Sometimes (like you didn't know!) it's just impossible to get your children to hear you. And it's often even more difficult with your stepchildren, right?

Well, this stepmom and her nine-year-old stepson were at "that point." Their communication had been reduced to either screaming at each other or sulking in their respective corners. So I agreed to meet with stepmom and stepson. Biological Dad refused to attend, saying this was a problem between them. Shrug.

When we began, "Billy" we'll call him, was sullen and silent - not uncommon in this sort of setting where yet another adult was present to gang up on him. So I let stepmom go first; to tell her side of the story. As she told how unfair and mean Billy was to her, he quickly found his tongue and warmed up to the discussion, also the typical response.

Stepmom, let's call her Meg, and Billy had been together since he was an infant. She married his dad when Billy was just nine months old. So they knew each other pretty well. She had watched him develop and he had learned many of his basic life lessons from her, as well as his dad. Their relationship should have been pretty solid, right. (We both know better than that, don't we?)

As Billy had grown up he had developed a confusion about his biological mom, who was rarely in his life, and his stepmom, who was there daily. He found himself conflicted about which "mom" he should be loyal to. And this lead to acting out against his stepmother. Meg was at first hurt and confused herself about this once sweet little boy's turning into a sulky enemy. As they battles wore on, her hurt turned to anger and resentment. And the war was on.

At the point we met, the relationship between Billy and Meg had been reduced to the screaming/sulking attitude mentioned before. Meg's attitude had become one of "I know he's not going to do what I say, so I try to just ignore him, until I can't stand it anymore and I start yelling at him to try to make him do what I want."

Billy was getting good at ignoring Meg, too, and them screaming back at her before he slammed his bedroom door for a good sulk. Dad was avoiding the tension and fussing at home, which left Billy and Meg even more in each other's company. Something was going to break is something wasn't done soon, and Meg was talking about a divorce and getting out of the situation.

After Meg and Billy spouted out their anger toward each other for a while, I asked Meg to let me talk to Billy alone. He told me in no uncertain terms that he hated his stepmother and resented his dad for marrying her (and leaving his mother). Billy's biological mom had been telling him for a few years that Meg didn't really love him and she was wanting him gone so she could have Dad to herself. (In other words, Mom was jealous of her son's close relationship with his stepmom, even though she didn't do much to foster a better relationship with him.)

We talked for a little while, then I asked Meg to come in and Billy to step out. I told her what Billy had said (I had gotten Billy's permission to do so), and she said she wasn't too surprised. The ex had tried the same thing with Meg's husband early on, but husband had seen through it and nipped in the bud quickly. I asked her what her true feelings for Billy were, and she said she loved him with all her heart and wanted a close friendship with him again.

"How long since you demonstrated that to Billy?" I asked her. She admitted that it had been awhile since he'd let her hug him or even listened when she said she loved him.
"So, while he has his bio-mom telling him you don't love him, you aren't showing him otherwise, right?" I asked. She thought about it and said, "I've fallen into her trap, haven't I?"

We talked about nine year old boys and their insecurities and fears. We talked about what she and Billy used to do; and we talked about possibilities for reconnecting. Then I asked Billy back in. Meg apologized to him for being so cranky and short tempered, and she said that she was going to dedicate herself to being a better friend and stepmom to him. Billy stared at his feet, but I could tell he was listening. He finally agreed to try to step screaming in the house and to at least attempt to be a friend to Meg. They shook hands on the deal and left to begin starting over.

Children - step or biological - can easily get confused about how their family feels about them, especially if there are other conflicts going on, such as fighting between the parents or a biological parent injecting trouble. However, all children want and need affection and acceptance.

My advice to Meg is the same as I would offer to you - don't get pulled into your child's childish attitude. If you want them to be nicer to you, demonstrate what you want by being nicer to them. And always, no matter what else is going on, smother them with love. You won't spoil a child by loving them too much; you won't lead them into expecting too much by giving them attention and affection.

When the flames of sulking, anger, and rudeness break out, smother them with a warm blanket of love.

God bless your whole family!
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Show your STEPfamily Pride!