Time for change

Your children getting married means readjusting family roles

Spring is my favourite time of the year. I love the feeling of new growth and new beginnings. The clock changing and the longer evenings seems to banish long faces with the blossoming of flowers and shrubs, there’s a blossoming of hope and a sense of good times ahead.

There’ll be a few new beginnings in my own family soon with one of my sons getting married. There has been a lot of excited preparations for the big day – never underestimate the amount of effort three girls will put into a sibling’s wedding. Everyone is involved in the organisation, with another son working on the booklets for the wedding service, my sister making the wedding cake and my husband rowing in, generously offering to source and arrange flowers, which is a bit of a new departure for him.

I’m really looking forward to seeing my son and his lovely fiancée setting out on their life together. However, mingled with the happiness and joy is another feeling. I think a lot of parents, especially mothers, might identify with the sense of loss and nostalgia that the marriage of a son or daughter sometimes triggers.

It only seems like yesterday since this adult child was taking their first steps. How many times did we pester them to tidy their room and to be home by 10pm? We’ve always been there at the end of the phone to pick them up, comfort them after every fall and send them on their way.

Hard to believe

It’s a little hard to believe that we’re suddenly taking on the role that our own parents once filled as mother and father of the bride or groom. We’re not really sure how we fit into this new place in our child’s life as the child we parented and were responsible for is now following in our footsteps as a confident, self-assured adult, setting up an independent life with his or her own spouse.

There’s a Jewish tradition where both parents walk their child down the aisle and stand beside them while they are married. I think it’s a lovely ritual where the parents stand by while their child’s transition into their new life takes place.

It’s a time for parents to help and support, but also to know when to step back a little too. You’ve patched up the cut knees, waited up for the sound of the key in the door, gained a few grey hairs while waiting for exam results with them and were counsellor extraordinaire when they turned to you in times of trouble.

Now, they’ll turn to their marriage partner to fulfil their needs, to share their dreams and to be a loving companion on life’s great adventure. No wonder quite a few mammies, and a fair few dads too, shed some quiet tears when their darling son or daughter says “I do”.

When an adult child gets married, how do you adapt to the changing nature of your relationship? Mammy’s boy or Daddy’s princess have become a devoted husband or a loving wife. Where an unmarried adult child is pretty available to join in family gatherings and is usually around for major holiday celebrations, a married son or daughter has to break away and form their own family traditions.

They’ll bring the best of both their experiences to form their own new and unique memories and traditions. It doesn’t mean they’ll never come for Christmas dinner again or be around for birthdays and anniversaries, but, as parents, we have to be a little understanding when their new family comes first.

I never liked the old saying, “A son is a son ‘til he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all her life.” I’d prefer to view my son’s marriage as something that doesn’t just change his life in a positive way, but which adds a new dimension to my life. Conflict can arise in situations where a parent can’t let go and views a new spouse as a competitor for their son or daughter’s affections.

We’ve all heard stories about men who still drop in to their mother for dinner on the way home from work or women who are married for years, but can’t make a decision without consulting their mother. While you’ll always be there for your adult children, sometimes, it’s better to let them plough their own furrow.

Solid relationship

Generally, if you have a good solid relationship with your child, you’ll be called upon when your help or input is needed. Otherwise, it might be better not to offer too much unsolicited advice.

Maybe the best thing to do when your son or daughter gets married is to be happy for them and to share in their gladness. They’ve met a life partner who they love and want to share their life with, they’re embracing a tradition that many choose to bypass and they see the value of taking a leap of faith and entering into a lifelong commitment.

If there are still worries and concerns for their future, maybe it’s time to trust in God and his plan for our child. Even if we are no longer parenting in the flesh, our moral support, prayer and faith in their abilities are invaluable gifts to them. Our parenting role has changed, but the anchor we provide will always be there for them as they navigate the years ahead.