Coming home from a 6:00 am men’s group at our church, my husband put his book on the kitchen counter. “Wow! This morning really made me think about how I grew up and the impact moms have on their kid’s lives. They played a video of a Mom’s letter to her son and I felt like they were reading a letter your mother might have written you.”
He certainly had my attention.
Drying my hands on the dishtowel, I knew I wanted to hear more. For my husband to come home that excited about something was an anomaly. He was obviously having an A-ha moment of better understanding our family tree. After 34 years of marriage, four children, and over two decades of parenting blunders, he was beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“The letter was unbelievable!” he continued. “The mom was obviously pulling out her arsenal of threats to get what she wanted.
“In the process, she was destroying the relationship with her son and his family. I felt like I was watching a video of our own lives being played out after we got married,” he continued.
As my husband kept sharing the story from class, we began taking stock of our children and our relationships with each of them. We transitioned to talking about what a healthy separation process looked like.
Daggers to a mother’s heart.
Is there really such a thing as healthy separation?
Many of us grew up with mothers from whom we have never successfully separated. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying that having a relationship with your mom or dad is a bad thing. It can be awesome.
But can it be unhealthy?
If you have to choose between Mom and Dad’s advice or your spouse’s desires, do your parents win? Does your family of origin trump your own family’s needs?
Hmm–something to ponder.
As parents we have to figure out how to relinquish control of our kids in a healthy way that will allow them to be men and women of strength and character.
Pausing long enough to take inventory, I was reminded of all the unhealthy things I had done in years previously to convince my family that we needed to honor my parents’ requests. Or maybe better phrased—demands.
How many times had I felt caught in the middle between my mother and my husband in decisions we made for our kids? Or my mother and my kids?
And, I’ll admit, sometimes my mom won and my husband lost or grandma won and my kids lost.
Heaven forbid that I disappoint my mother.
Sad, but true.
Several years prior to this conversation with my husband, I had taken a marriage class called Daughters of Sarah. In light of our dialogue, I was now looking at a couple of scriptures from the course in a different light.
…And the wife must respect her husband.
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
I wonder if God was potentially thinking about how my mom, dad, or in-laws might get in the way of my husband and me being united in our parenting decisions?
One of my sons had recently married at the time of this conversation with my husband. I remember well my quiet time that day.
“Lord, please help me not get in the way of my son’s marriage.” I cried out. “Help me to be an encourager–a cheerleader for them to make decisions together without my interference. Help me to allow them to spread their wings—to have their own family that doesn’t feel like I’m a mom butting in to their business.”
“And, please Lord, with the children that are still at home in my care, help me to make decisions on what I think best rather than taking the advice of others. Help me to put my husband’s suggestions in a higher place of consideration over my mother’s.”
I have started taking that prayer seriously. When my mother starts to chime in about something my kids are doing–my response?
“Mom, I love you dearly, but this is a decision for our immediate family. Be the grandmother and watch from a distance; that’s your role now.”
And if you have married children?
Why not write the couple a letter or note?
- Tell them how proud you are of both of them.
- Assure them you will never take sides in their arguments.
- Explain all you are learning in the parenting process.
- Let them know that you view both of them as your children.
- Assure them that you accept their creation of a new family unit–independent from you.
- Promise that your goal is to make sure that your actions do nothing to come between them.
As parents, we can influence both generations if we are willing to take healthy steps to ensure that each of us is playing our God-ordained role.
DARE YOU to take stock of your relationships with your parents to determine if they are having a healthy impact on your tweens and teens.
DOUBLE DARE YOU to have conversation with your spouse and decide how to let your twenty-somethings go in a healthy way.
Still Learning to do the tough stuff!
“Let go…and let God”,
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