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  • Jun19Wed

    The Outlawed In-Law

    Knowing your place after your kids get married. June 19, 2013 by Major Kathie Chiu
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Photo: ©

    The beautiful bride gazed adoringly at her groom, glowing and radiant in love. Her father put his hand on their two hands and pronounced them husband and wife and, just like that, it was done.

    As mother of the bride, I welcomed my new son-in-law with joy, but wanted to say, “That's my daughter! You'd better treat her right!” and I'm sure my husband felt the same way. As Christians and officers, we're still human and instinctively protective parents.

    Sheena was the first of our two daughters to get married and her sister, Sarah, followed in her footsteps not quite a year later. They were both only 20. I remember feeling uncertain about everything happening so quickly. Over the next few years, we would make a few blunders in our new relationship as we worked out what it meant to be parents of married children. It took a while to realize that it was none of my business what jobs they chose to work at, what they did with their money, how many children they planned to have and what names they would give their children.

    I didn't learn this easily and the transition from a parent with a say to a parent who needs to mind her own business was painful—not only for me, but for my daughters and their husbands as well. I remember panicking when my daughter announced a second pregnancy. I wondered how they were going to survive financially. Wasn't it too soon after the first? I wasn't aware of my facial expression at that moment upon hearing the news. But several years later, I found out that my reaction had hurt her. Now a mother herself, she has a deeper understanding of why I panicked the way I did.

    Navigating the in-law “minefield” is not easy for parents or their adult children. I've managed it with two wonderful sons-in-law, but I still have three boys to go. You've heard the saying, “A son's a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is your daughter the rest of her life.” There is some truth to that, according to many of my friends with sons. Yet there are many couples who maintain strong ties with their mothers even after marriage. How do you get to that place? The same way I got there with my daughters and their husbands—by keeping several things in mind:

    • Too many cooks in the kitchen. When you're invited over for a meal, never criticize their cooking or point out that your son or daughter prefers to have their food cooked a different way.

    • Respect their taste. If they buy something that seems like a waste of money, keep your opinion to yourself. Yes, the curtains may look ghastly, but they're not yours!

    • Respect their rules. Don't interfere with the way they raise their children or take sides in their marriage. The only exception to this rule is if someone's health or well-being is at risk. Even then, be careful to share thoughts respectfully—away from the children—and ensure they know where you're coming from.

    • We are family! Tell your children's spouses that you love them and are proud of them. I try to remember to do this regularly—not because I need to impress them, but because God has given me a deep love for my sons-in-law. I am proud of both of them and they need to know it.

    The biggest challenge is giving my worries and fears about my married children's lives over to the Lord and trusting him with them. That is usually the primary cause behind meddling in-laws. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And know that God cares for our children even more than we do.

    I'm not sure how it will be when I have three daughters-in-law added to the mix, but I intend to love them as much as I possibly can. Even though I have no idea who they might be, I'm praying that God prepares them for our large, lively, loud and loving family, and that he also prepares me and my husband to be instruments of God's goodness to them.

    Major Kathie Chiu is the corps officer of Victoria's High Point Community Church.

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