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Jewish World Review August 30, 2005 / 25 Av 5765

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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As a single mom, I know Marriage makes the best setting for raising children | After unexpectedly becoming a single mom, I had to face reality and choose a new neighborhood for my four young kids and me. It turns out I ended up in a little community with one of the highest rates of married households in the country.

And I think that's great — I want my kids to grow-up seeing what is best and good. (In June, I wrote about the destruction of my marriage.)

I thought of my situation as I read Sen. Rick Santorum's best selling new book, "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good," in which, among other things, the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania makes the case for the importance of the traditional family for raising children.

Does this book sound intriguing?

Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Santorum lays out the statistics for what surely we already know in our hearts: The best place for a child to grow up is in a home with his married biological or adoptive mom and dad. Just because that doesn't always happen doesn't make it any less true. I think we single parents give a gift to our kids when we acknowledge that truth. We certainly don't need to run from it just because it no longer applies to our own lives, and yet I hear many divorced parents who, I think sadly, seem to feel they have to do just that.

Peggy Drexler in her new book, "Raising Boys Without Men," echoes today's cultural message when she says it literally does not matter over the long term whether or not a boy grows up with his dad living in his home (she says they will naturally find male role models elsewhere.) Well, it may not matter to her, but it's a sure bet it matters in the here and now and later to the millions of boys (and girls) in that situation, including mine. (Ditto, of course, for absent moms.) Yes, some single-parent families may be healthier than some married ones, but there's a basic design for families that works best —and that's a married mom and dad under one roof. Is this really controversial?

I mean who among us, even the single parents, even Peggy Drexler, really don't care whether or not our own children grow up and get divorced?

I may be a single-parent, but I'm not a cynical one.

I think of people who have told me of their experiences in having cancer. (My mom died of cancer 10 years ago and I'm drawing on the experiences of her and her friends with cancer, here.) I never met anyone who said, "Having cancer is as good as being healthy." These cancer victims naturally viewed health as the ideal, whether or not they could or would fully achieve it again themselves.

But that doesn't mean these folks didn't deal positively with the condition they'd been given. In fact, some of the most amazing people I met during that time and since, those who coped best with their cancer, saw it as destructive and unnatural — AND yet believed that somehow it was G-d's (difficult) plan for them at the moment. Not one of them would have chosen their cancer, but they often spoke of learning through the suffering, of coming to savor life, and every day and every blessing and every joy more fully than ever before BECAUSE of their adversity. But, they always saw their cancer as the adversity that it was.

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We single parents can't give our children the gift of helping them to interpret and even grow from the adversity of divorce if we don't face it for what it is in their lives. I see so many divorced parents who seem defensive about the difficulties facing their kids, even amongst the millions who, like me, found their marriages ended totally against their will. Perhaps they feel they can't stand up for marriage when their own has fallen.

I don't think that's true at all.

I think we single-parents honor our children and marriage, including the memory of our own marriage, when we admit it's the ideal and what we wanted for our own family and what we want for our kids someday. Only then can we apply wisdom and truth to our own particular situation, and encourage our kids to face, and grow from, and find fullness and even new sources of strength and joy, in the midst of the adversity they've been given.

And THAT, it seems to me, is a gift that can last a lifetime.

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"It Takes a Parent : How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids — and What to Do About It"  

"Hart urges parents to focus...on instilling industry, frugality, sincerity and humility. She encourages parents to reclaim the word "no." Contrary to advice you may have received, you needn't give your child choices, or offer alternatives, or explain to little Suzie why she can't eat eight cookies right before bed-you're the parent, and sometimes you can just say no."

  —   Kirkus Reports

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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