“A Man Will Leave . . .”
“ONE day our son came home,” recalled Tom, “and you could tell something was on his mind. He sat down with my wife and me and said, ‘Well, folks. I’ve met the girl I’m going to marry.’”
God foresaw scenes like this when he said: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Appreciate, therefore, that your child’s leaving is somewhat of an inevitability.
This, of course, does not mean that children should leave home prematurely. But as the psalmist said: “Like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the sons of youth.” Sooner or later the arrow leaves the quiver and is launched into life.—Psalm 127:4.
Like a released arrow your adult child is basically removed from your jurisdiction after he leaves. When married, he becomes head of his own household. Your daughter comes under the authority of her husband.—Ephesians 5:21-28, 33.
The Bible shows it may be hard for you to get used to this new independence, though. Jesus’ mother, for example, apparently felt she retained some authority over him—even after he was grown and anointed as Messiah! At a wedding feast Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” (Suggesting, ‘Do something about it.’) But in firm, yet kindly, words Jesus reminded her of his independence—and performed his first miracle.—John 2:2-11.
The patriarch Jacob also had trouble letting his son go. His beloved wife, Rachel, had died giving birth to the son he named Benjamin. You can imagine the emotional attachment he must have felt to this son! So when asked to let Benjamin go on a trip to Egypt, Jacob objected, “A fatal accident may befall him,” and kept him home.—Genesis 35:16-18; 42:4.
But while it is normal to want to hold on, the wise course is to accept his adulthood and his independence.
“Look How You’re Hurting Me”
‘But must they go so far away?’ some parents object. ‘Why can’t they be independent and still live near us?’
It can hurt when such a move occurs. For example, the Bible says that Rebekah was asked to travel a considerable distance in order to get married. Her mother and brother pleaded: “Let the young woman [Rebekah] stay with us at least ten days. Afterward she can go.” How hard it was to let her go! Rebekah nevertheless said: “I am willing to go,” even though it may have meant her never seeing her family again.—Genesis 24:55, 58.
Your grown child may also have a legitimate need to move far away, such as a job prospect. Undue resistance can be destructive. To illustrate, one young wife recalls: “When we first were married, we wanted to spend a lot of time together. But mother didn’t understand. Instead of letting go a little and letting us come to her, she started smothering us.” The situation further deteriorated when this couple planned to move away. This led to full-scale hostility between mother and daughter. “Where does it say that the obligation of honoring your father and mother is absolved when you take your vows to your husband? Where have I failed you as a mother?” the mother bitterly demanded. The effect of this battling? Besides causing serious marital strain for the young couple, a wedge was driven between mother and daughter. Communication was cut off for months! And they used to be so close.
The book No Strings Attached observes: “If you react to your child’s withdrawal through martyrdom (Look how you’re hurting me, see how you’re hurting your father/mother, how can you do this to us), you will probably push your child further away.”—Italics ours.
The father of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable realized this. When his adult son demanded independence, the father did not berate or bombard him with threats of failure. Rather, he kindly let his son go. This understanding attitude likely was a big factor in the son’s eventually returning home. Consequently, letting your adult child ‘flex his muscles’ of independence may be the key to retaining your friendship with him.—Luke 15:11-24; see also Philippians 2:4.
“What Does He See in Her?”
“You really want the best for your kids and when you see they have married well, you’re happy,” observes Norma. Her husband, Tom, adds: “I’ll be very frank. I didn’t feel that we were going to take all that time raising our daughter and just pass her off to the first person that came along.” Nevertheless, children at times bitterly disappoint their parents in their choice of a mate. How might you react?—Compare Genesis 26:34, 35.
Would it not be best to put forth every effort to accept this new member of your family? Some studies indicate that parental approval may be a key factor in the survival of a marriage.* True, your child’s choice of a mate may surprise, or even baffle, you. Yet, marriage is honorable in the sight of God.—Hebrews 13:4.
Rather than ‘straining the gnat’ and becoming obsessed with a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law’s faults, try to be objective. See him or her through your child’s eyes. Surely this person has good points! And remember, your own son or daughter is far from perfect. One parent who had doubted his child’s choice of a mate conceded: “One thing that helps is a certain amount of humility. I remembered one day that my parents hadn’t really approved of my marriage and how wrong they had been.”
A parent’s dislike of a child’s mate can be rooted more in jealousy—fear of losing a child’s affection—than in reality. But jealousy can destroy a good relationship. (Proverbs 14:30) So avoid alienating this new son or daughter. Get acquainted. Guard against attacking with unfair criticism, manufacturing issues or needlessly drawing battle lines. Let go a little, and “as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable.”—Romans 12:18.
One source states that ‘twice as many romances terminate early in marriage when both mother and father are opposed to the match as when they approve.’
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But does your child’s departure mean that you are no longer a parent?
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‘We wanted to spend a lot of time together. But instead of letting go a little, mother started smothering us’
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Parents do not always approve of their child’s choice of a mate