for release Friday December 16, 2005
by Melodie Davis
As They Wed
Are there any young adults getting married at your house? No, we don’t have any, but I’m at that age where a lot of friends have kids getting married. And some have already offered very good advice in terms of relating to children as they choose and wed their mates.
Families are usually reunited with adult children, fiancés, or new in-laws through the holidays, and sometimes things don’t always go as well as we’d like. So I hope this will be a timely subject. Most parents aren’t as bad as the couple portrayed in the comic film “Meet the Parents,” but we all share certain commonalities: an attitude of “no son is good enough for my daughter” (or vice versa)
I was amused and impressed with one father’s informal (and unintentional) test he gave to the young woman his son brought home from college for his parents to meet. The young woman was studying sociology and also worked with children in a foster care setting. In making conversation with this young woman, the older man asked, casually, “So, at the end of the day, what is a child’s most important need?
Kendra paused only a second before answering, “To be loved.
This father thought it was a very good answer and said to himself, “She’ll do.”
I have never had a mother-in-law (deceased before I met my future husband), so maybe this is a good time for me to be writing on this topic—before my own ideals are tested.
One woman said that when her daughter got married, she talked to her daughter’s new in-laws and told them, “I want you to love Joy like a daughter, and we want to do the same with your son.” When you can think of your daughter-in-law or son-in-law as if they were a child of your own—that changes the situation. You can begin to put their needs before your own.
This seems to me like good advice because it is easy to feel insecure as kids enter into marriage, and you worry, what if they like their new in-laws better than us? They have a nicer house, better job, are more sophisticated. Maybe your child won’t want to be with you anymore.
“You can’t be afraid of letting go,” said this woman. But in allowing your children freedom to love other people, the circle of love expands, rather than growing smaller.
Fathers especially may feel that if their daughter loves another man, they won’t still love Dad. While it is difficult to share adult children between families over holidays, it is essential to communicate, take turns on “who gets who” on which holiday, and plan ahead. Many miscommunications happen when things get planned at the last minute. I know this is easier to say than do, because many times we procrastinate talking to a loved one about holiday plans because we anticipate a squabble or disagreement.
William Coleman wrote a beautiful little book of essays on marriage called Before I Give You Away (Bethany House Publishers, 1995). He acknowledges that a father begins to “give his daughter away” (if that’s not an outdated concept) way back in high school, at things like graduation, or the senior awards program, or the last play or musical they perform in.
“In my heart that’s when I said goodbye. I whispered farewell to my little girl. From that day on you would become my friend. We would always look at each other as equals. Equals with a love so deep that nothing could ever wash it away. Losing you to another man, that’s small potatoes. No one is losing anything. You are stepping up to be united with a terrific person. The love of your life. That’s nothing but happiness. What parent would want to pull you back and try to hold on to you? … What you and Phil share together as husband and wife is a relationship you and I could never have. And the relationship we enjoy as father and daughter is something you can’t experience with Phil. Both of them are love, but they aren’t the same.” (Coleman, p. 17-18. And you can reverse the genders in this illustration if you have more sons than daughters!)
What do you think? Send me your advice for parents as their children get married and I’ll share it in a future column. Send to: Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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