Around the time Babies launch, they usually date – and then marry. Now if dating leads to marriage, then parents of Babies tend to scrutinize every dating choice. It is at this time, parents start researching Arranged Marriages. That rarely works out unless it is already an integral part of your culture. So then, we are left with the role of Bystander. While they are underage, parents do have more control over who Baby spends time with – at least we want to believe that. However, there is no control over who piques the interest or plucks the love strings in the heart of your beloved Baby.
Counseling, cajoling and commanding are the most commonly used tools when Baby’s eyes are glazed over swooning about for a less than desirable Other. Your baby deserves the best. You can choose the best. Baby usually does not appreciate your choice. Now if Baby appreciates your taste and choices in characteristics of a future mate, and follows your advice carefully, then read no further. All is well and you can look forward to a long, smooth, trouble-free relationship with your future son or daughter-in-law. But that is as rare as a hen’s teeth.
The majority of the time, parents don’t choose Baby’s mate and have very few options when Baby chooses a worrisome future mate. You calculate the fine line between discharging your parental duty and pointing out the obvious. “Sally, you are buying a lifetime of trouble with this one because ______.” You fill in the blanks. This assumes you know what you are talking about. Beware the clouding that comes to the parental (especially mother) brain when entertaining the worthiness of a future daughter-in-law. Yes, you are going to lose that boy Baby to this woman. Can you really see clearly?
Let’s say you can see clearly. You see traits or qualities that you don’t believe Baby can see. Go ahead – discharge your duty – before the ink is dry on the marriage license. Say it. Point it out. Check for understanding of what you have said. If you believe your words have been received and understood – you then sit down and shut up. Say no more. Go shopping for the beige mother of the bride/groom dress. Plan on shutting up for a long time – try forever. No criticism of Baby’s mate will be received with any gratitude. If Baby finds out years later you were right, and Baby is completely miserable, you still just say, “I’m so sorry.” – or – “I wish you well.” Nothing more.
Your next project is to welcome your new son or daughter-in-law into your family. Often, the traits you found so disturbing, may be the traits that you share with this future baby-in-law. This is the person your child chose and loves. And, perhaps even more important, this is the person that loves your child and is therefore deserving of your care. You are now his or her greatest supporter. It is all quite simple, really.
Most humans are free to make big choices, and then to live with them. There is a reason why we get to make those choices and it is called agency – the ability to choose. A parent has very few years to influence a child. After that, the agency thing kicks in with robust force. You were able to make your mistakes and then meander through the consequences, reaping the rewards of growth and hard-earned wisdom. And so will Baby.
Just keep the love lines open.
Photo credit: Tammi Jensen Photography