Leaving the nest is challenging for both parents and children in different ways.
Young people starting out in life do not conceive of anything standing in the way of their plans. They are setting off on a great adventure. They have confidence in the future. They laugh off the difficulties and are convinced that everyone will help them achieve their dreams.
But as soon as they move to making their dreams a reality, they come across unforeseen questions, objections that seem to spring up, and new considerations they never imagined.
For young people, it’s not easy either
Contrary to what the poets sing about and what a young couple believed in the naivety of their nascent love, it doesn’t take them long to come face to face with reality. And among all these realities are their parents.
It is not easy to be parents of young lovers. No matter how much the father may know about it, or how well prepared he is, or how much he tries to resist it, no father really finds any young man to be charming enough for his daughter. As for the mother whose boy who is going to leave her for another woman, what torment! On the parents’ side, there is a lot of work to be done, as difficult as it is necessary, to combine an indispensable vigilance with a benevolent spirit of welcome. Welcoming the stranger that their child (who is still a child in their eyes) has chosen to marry is always unsettling for parents, because, let’s admit it, it is not always the one they would have chosen.
But from the point of view of the young couple, it’s not easy either. When we begin to take on real responsibilities, responsibilities that are binding for life, we aspire to take them on in complete freedom. This decision exacerbates sensitivities and gives rise to susceptibilities. A remark is quickly felt as a reprimand. A reflection can be taken as interference. Regardless of the parents’ goodwill, young people invariably feel that any intervention on their part is a threat. All the more so if they are still materially dependent on their parents. And this dependence weighs heavily. It is clear that something will have to be done. But at what cost? And then, the parents of one inevitably become the in-laws of the other. Two lifestyles meet, two ways of approaching the issues. The sparks from these two well-carved flints fly. And some of these sparks ignite the gunpowder.
By choosing each other, fiancés leave their families. The Bible says it and the Lord Jesus takes it up again: “A man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mt 19:5). Leaving means uprooting yourself. Indeed, it is a matter of leaving one flesh for another flesh, tearing oneself away from the mother and farther to join oneself to a spouse. It is hard. On both sides. It would be dishonest to say that it always goes smoothly.
What attitude should the parents take?
The role of parents is to welcome, and especially to liberate and encourage, this uprooting without focusing on all the difficulties it entails. The spiritual attitude that corresponds to parents is to “give credit” to their young ones, and this can be understood in several senses — material credit, psychological credit, and spiritual credit!
As for young people, they have to learn to compose their world. It is their time to feel whole, convinced that they are right in every way. They are confident they will be able to be self-sufficient, not needing anyone. Sometimes they push distrust beyond what is necessary. It is because they are so afraid that we will prevent them from carrying out their project, that we will interfere in their lives, or that we will take over their responsibilities! And it happens that this fear is often justified. They may have good reason to be vigilant. In many cases, but not all fortunately, it is difficult to make it clear that one does not marry their in-laws. How can a person make others understand that if they want peace, they will not willingly accept it at the end of a conflict where they feel defeated? How is it possible to start a good life based on a dubious compromise, imposed by material necessity? How difficult it is to show that if a couple accepts wise advise, they must reject whatever threatens their reasonable project based on love.
Every birth is a struggle. What is true for one person is true for a couple. The difficulties faced by fiancés and their parents are common to almost all families. Perhaps knowledge and understanding are the pathway to consolation. All the more so since in these areas, no one is 100% sure that he or she is right, so it is best to remain cautious. So why not live this stage of life as a Passover, a trial sent by the Lord, a road to growth, a school of mutual respect, an act of trust in the power of life? When, in families, we have had the prudence to establish authentic, long-lasting love, if we add in a fair dose of common sense, everyone comes out of this ordeal the better for it.