Yesterday I was talking to one of our married daughters about how much my role in her life has changed. I was saying how often I second guess myself and the comments that so quickly and naturally fly out of my mouth, because all of a sudden I get this feeling that it’s not helpful. She tells me I need to relax and that she doesn’t take everything I say THAT seriously. And there you have it folks: parenting redefined.
We have a helpless babe placed in our arms at birth with no manual, no instructions. We just know they need to eat, have their diapers changed, etc. We spend the following weeks, months and years getting to know this person inside and out and meeting the needs that arise physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We survive the teens years. We laugh over them, we cry over them, agonize over them and spend countless hours praying over them.
Then Mr. or Ms. Right comes along and our child’s affections make the transfer away from us and to this new love. That phase could fill an entire book in itself. How do you navigate that relationship when your child is physically still living with you, but his/her head and heart are FAR from you? Sometimes it even gets ugly. But you keep trying because that’s what parents do.
So supposing you get them down the aisle without killing them. We’re happy, relieved and rejoicing in the fact that we managed to keep the relationship intact. All is well with the world. The lines are more clearly defined now that they are married and their household officially established. Because it’s better that way.
Not long after the wedding dust has settled, you realize that EVERY child you have represents an in-law (that’s 8 for us)…a whole new person who’s grown up with different parents, cultures and traditions who’s now part of your family and as you navigate continuing to get to know this person (because it honestly takes a long time), you realize that more is change is on the horizon. This change involves letting go of expectations, including holidays, birthdays, and all other days deemed “family”. It also means learning to communicate on a whole new level…one where sometimes you bite your tongue. HARD. But at the same time you attempt have an honest, open relationship with honor and respect. Because it really is better that way.
You also watch the new couple navigate early marriage. You watch them shine, you watch them make mistakes and you try not to butt in because it really is better that way.
Cue in grandbabies. You have experience, you have wisdom. You’ve got this because you have BEEN a parent…for a long time, right? You’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt. EXCEPT your suggestions and comments aren’t always appreciated or wanted or asked for or needed. And you know what? I remember BEING the unsure young parent and just wanting to figure it out myself. It was HARD. And now, even with all of our experience, somehow our attempts to “be helpful” don’t feel particularly adequate or appropriate. So we back off because it’s better that way.
Everything feels up in the air and we wonder where it’s all going to land, because we honestly don’t have a lot of control. So we think it through again. Pray through it again. And let our role be re-defined because it’s part of the journey. It’s not always easy, but God doesn’t let us ever get too comfortable. He’s good that way. Yes, I could dig my heels in and refuse to be willing to grow and learn to let go, but I would sacrifice relationships and my peace to do that. It’s simply not worth it. And you know what? Our daughter was right. Sometimes we take ourselves WAY too seriously. Martin Luther said, “You have as much laughter as you have faith”. So let’s remember to laugh along the way. Because it really is better that way.