Maria and Arnold can make lemonade out of this very sour lemon by using it as a teaching moment.
The greatest gift we bestow upon our children is to live an exemplary life, one they can emulate. But let’s be honest. Who among us hasn’t at one time or another done something we regret and that we hope no one will ever discover. We are all guilty of poor judgment—driving while drunk, walking out of a store without paying for a candy bar, doing illegal drugs, a seemingly innocent office flirtation that went too far, or taking an unreasonable risk. We’ve all done things that ended with our asking, “What was I thinking?”
It’s easy to slam Arnold Schwarzenneger and, believe me, I am not his defender. Having said that, I believe him when he says he’s truly sorry and I don’t believe that it’s just because he got caught. Like any dad, he loves his children and he is no doubt dying a thousand deaths that his kids have to bear witness to the consequences of a very poor choice. He’s asking himself, “What was I thinking?” The enormity of the price-tag for whatever momentary “benefit” he got has only begun to sink in. Not just for him, but for his entire family, including the innocent boy who will forever carry the moniker “Arnold’s love child.”
So, now that Arnold has very publicly screwed up, what, if anything, can he and Maria Shriver teach their children? If we can discern anything from what little bit Patrick and Katherine (two of the children) have had to say about it, Arnold and Maria appear to have already laid the groundwork for lessons learned. Both kids have Tweeted that they love their family very much. That’s a good start. The lessons to be learned are these:
We all make mistakes. Every one of us. Compassion, forgiveness, and understanding are necessary in every relationship. How Maria handles this situation is very important to the lessons her children learn. She does not have to take Arnold back into her loving arms and it’s not likely that she will. He has big-time betrayed her trust and if she’s some kind of pissed off, who can blame her? However, by taking the high road, she can show her children that, despite the consequences and the enormity of the betrayal, Arnold is no different than the rest of us. We all make mistakes. Their love for their father should not be conditioned on his perfection.
There are consequences to our choices. One completely stupid choice on Arnold’s part has irrevocably altered the course of his and his family’s life. If there is anything for all of us to learn from this tragic situation, it is that we should think twice, maybe thrice, before we do something we know we shouldn’t do. And that doesn’t extend just to things that are dishonest or immoral. I caught Oprah one day when she did a show on this very subject. One heart-breaking story involved a mother who had left her four children in her van for the two minutes it took for her to run into the house. She even thought about it, knew she shouldn’t leave the kids alone, but, because it was a pain in the neck to get all four kids out of the car and back in again, she convinced herself it would be okay for just a few minutes. One of the children played with the cigarette lighter and the car caught fire. Two of the children were severely burned. I think about that Oprah show every time I’m tempted not to wear my seat belt, to drive faster than I should, to drive after one glass of wine too many. What if the worst thing imaginable really did happen? I would be asking myself, just as Arnold is, and just as I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, “What was I thinking?”
We must take responsibility for our actions. This one falls squarely on Arnold's shoulders. Up until now, he hasn't exactly stepped up to the plate. Time will tell if, now that the cat is out of the bag, he will show his children how to man-up.
So, yeah, Arnold made a really dumb choice and, boy oh boy, is he paying for it. I hope, however, that from this very sour lemon, Arnold and Maria make a little lemonade for their kids and if they do, then they will have been good parents who, through a difficult situation, will teach their children some of life’s greatest lessons.
Shela Dean is a Relationship Coach, Speaker & Amazon Bestselling Author of Frequent Foreplay Miles, Your Ticket to Total Intimacy, Frequent Foreplay Miles for the Remarried, the author of the popular Everyday Foreplay blog, and the creator of her trademarked ReDate Your Mate program designed to help couples climb out of the rut and regain their Relationship Mojo.