“Is it really so wrong that I go to my parents for advice before going to my husband?”
“I mean, they’re his family, not mine. Do I really have to go?”
“I dread the holidays. It’s exhausting. Holidays to us mean being in the car and being shuffled from house to house as an attempt to appease everyone. Not only do we not succeed in pleasing everyone, but we can’t even enjoy the time we have because we’re worried about the next place we have to be.”
These are real statements that have been made to me over the last few weeks. With the holiday season quickly approaching, many issues regarding parents and in-laws seem to be at a peak.
I may not have the perfect answer for every situation, but I do know the Bible gives us two commands concerning parents and grown children:
Leave and honor.
*Disclaimer: Because I’m a wife, I will often use statements like “your husband.” To any guy who may read this, I trust you are intelligent enough to translate that to “your wife.” :)
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24
That’s right. Grown children are commanded to leave.
Leave doesn’t neccessarily mean geographically. “Leave” here is really referring to the sense that your spouse becomes your first family. When you go back to your parents’ house, it shouldn’t be referred to as “home.” For fellow Daddy’s girls, it means your husband should now be #1 on your speed dial. For momma’s boys, it means seeing your wife’s talents over running down the list of things your mom did that she doesn’t do.
Based on relationships I’ve seen, it’s detrimental when one person in a marriage refuses to “leave.” Hurt feelings, resestment & bitterness are inevitable.
I was very fortunate to have a father who encouraged me to leave and cleave to James. When James and I were dating, my dad happened to call right after James and I had gotten into an argument.
Ready to blow off some steam and hear that I was right, I started telling my dad what happened BUT…
He cut me off.
Seriously. Stopped me in my tracks. Wouldn’t let me say another word. He told me it was between me and James and it needed to stay that way. He wouldn’t be put in the middle.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I’m so thankful for a wise father.
He was right. Anything I would have said would have been anger speaking. Here it is just six years later, I can’t even remember what we argued about. But that one statement from my dad helped me realize my dad’s commitment to teaching me to honor and cleave to the man who would one day become my husband.
So to parents with grown children, do whatever you can to help your children “leave.” (And trust me, I can’t imagine how difficult this is. In fact, I’ve already written a letter to myself to open the day my boys get engaged to remind me of this very thing.)
But I promise if nagging, guilt-tripping, demand-making & complaining aren’t part of your vocabulary with your kids, they will not only feel less pressure, but they will want to come home.
In fact, when my parents and in-laws encourage me in my marriage, that’s when it’s hardest for me to leave.
Fellow married friends…is your spouse your #1? Does your husband feel elevated and prioritized over the family you grew up with? Are you creating memories for your child where he/she will remember special times with just mom and dad?
I’ll give you an example. Personally, I loved Christmas morning growing up. In fact, it’s probably the favorite memory I have every year of time with my parents and my sister.
But instead of trying to re-create that tradition as an adult, I am excited for our own family traditions with Noah & Cole. I’m excited for them to wake up on Christmas morning in their own beds with us.
It doesn’t mean I love my parents or in-laws less. It doesn’t mean traveling on Christmas is wrong. But just as we recognize the value of our boys getting time with grandparents, aunt & uncles and cousins, we also unashamedly make our family of four a priority.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live longand that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” – Deuteronomy 5:16
Leaving does not mean abandonment.
Leaving does not give us permission to disrepect our parents.
Leaving must always be balanced with honor.
Because no matter what issues may have come up, your parents raised you. They wiped your bottom and fed you when you couldn’t. They endured sleepless nights when your tummy could only hold enough food to keep you full for a few hours. They provided for you. They drove you everywhere. In short..
They sacrificed for you.
The same is true for your in-laws. They may not have done it for you, but they did it for the man you love. They shaped him into who he is today. He wouldn’t be the person he is today without the experiences he had growing up.
God placed you in your household for a reason, and he did the same for your husband. God does not make mistakes. It was intentional. He always has a purpose.
Your parents are yours for a reason. His parents are his for a reason. All four parents are in both of your lives for a reason.
And all four deserve to be honored.
There’s a big difference between raising children and having raised children. There’s a big difference between being “Daddy’s little girl” and the woman he gave away on her wedding day.
But as much as we tend to shy away from change, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
I didn’t grow up with parents who tried to be “the cool mom” or my “BFF.” They were my parents when it was time to parent me. There were times when I thought they were harsh and overbearing, but now, I really know they were protecting me and doing what was best for me. My in-laws did the same for James.
They don’t have to parent us anymore. Because they didn’t try too early, now, we can be friends. We can have long serious talks over coffee. We can gain from their wisdom without feeling the teenage allegience to roll our eyes or rebel when they speak truth.
I love that my parents and in-laws get to love and spoil my boys. It’s not their job to discipline them or raise them. They simply get to love on them, have fun with them, pray for them…and when a behavior issue, or a 24-hour flu virus, or a dirty diaper ;) arises, they get to give him back.
So if you’re a parent struggling with issues concerning your grown child, ask yourself:
Have I encourged my child to leave and cleave to their spouse?
If you’re a grown adult struggling with your relationship with your parents/in-laws, ask yourself:
Is my home wherever my spouse is? Do my actions reflect my spouse is the most important person in my life?
Do I honor my parents and my in-laws?