It’s been a little more than a week since singer Bobby Brown left Whitney Houston’s funeral after a dispute over the seating arrangements.
Now I don’t know for sure if Brown holds any responsibility for Houston’s struggles with drugs and alcohol. But I do know this: By leaving that church, he showed the world his true character.
Apparently, Brown never got the message: Everything is not always about you. Surely, Whitney Houston would not have appreciated his self-centered display. But as a divorced father of 18-year-old Bobbi Kristina, a child who was and most likely still is reeling over the loss of her mother, his behavior was especially appalling.
I have street cred about proper behavior when it comes to children of divorce because I am a child of divorced parents. I’m also married to a man who was formerly married to another woman and fathered three children with her. You can bet I know a thing or two about the issue.
First rule of thumb for divorced parents and their spouses or significant partners: Always put your children’s interests ahead of your own. That means, Bobby Brown, if you’re at a wedding, confirmation, bar mitzvah, graduation, funeral or any public event at which your kids are present, don’t embarrass them or create a distraction. And let go of petty grievances if your actions might affect your kids’ well-being. That’s right. For the sake of your children, just suck it up.
While I’m certainly no saint, over the past decades in which I’ve been married, there have been occasions when I could have expressed outrage. Maybe I wasn’t asked to be in a family photograph. Or didn’t get mentioned in a speech. Or yes, didn’t like the seating arrangements. But you know what I did? Nothing. When each offense—real or imagined—occurred, I just shut the heck up, taking in the kind of deep, diaphragmatic breaths my yoga instructor sister taught me to do if under stress. I eventually got over every one of those concerns, which I now know were trivial.
My restraint has paid off. My husband’s three children (who are now adults) and I have mutual respect for each other and harbor no resentments. I think I can speak for them when I say we like, even love, each other.
There are more than 19 million children in the U.S. who live in single parent households. The parents of these kids—people such as Bobby Brown, must be conscious of the fragility of their children, who through no fault of their own are forced to grow up without a mother or father. I can say from experience that that in itself is heart-breaking.
Although there are certainly times for a parent or stepparent to be assertive and demanding in front of his or her children, an ex-wife’s funeral is certainly not one of them. It’s a time to be supportive. Caring. Protective. A time to put your kids’ feelings first.
If Bobby Brown wanted the world to know what a selfish, petty, immature creature he is, mission accomplished. Unfortunately, he also made one of the saddest days in his daughter’s life, even sadder.