My hands shook as I pinned a rose on my son's tuxedo lapel. "Are you ready?" I asked.
"I am," Matthew said. "I'm glad today's finally here." Eight months prior he'd proposed to his sweetheart and she'd said yes. Together they'd planned and prayed about this day. Friends and family had gathered, and the ceremony was about to begin.
I stepped back and surveyed my boy, the groom. He towered over me, tall and confident. He's ready, I thought. But am I? Am I ready for our relationship to change forever? Am I prepared to assume a role of lesser importance in my son's life?
A collage of images flashed through my mind: The newborn letting out a lusty cry. The preschooler holding a wiggly garter snake by its tail. The child digging a "hole to China" in our family's vegetable garden. The grade school student perfecting his science fair project. The teenager driving our family's Suburban alone for the first time after earning his license.
I'd baked this boy's birthday cakes and bandaged his scraped knees. I'd read his bedtime stories, cheered at his baseball games, and boasted about his academic awards. I'd driven him to trumpet lessons, paid for his braces, and cried when he left home after graduation. I'd played the role of leading lady on his life's stage throughout his growing up years, but that was about to end.
In a few minutes, my 22-year-old son would take his place at the marriage altar. He would watch his veiled bride walk the aisle toward him and take her from her father's arm. He would hold her hands, promise to cherish her forever, slip a gold ring onto her finger, and seal his vow with a kiss. His heart would be knit to hers, and rightfully so. Leave and cleave - that was God's plan, and I didn't want it any other way. Still, the question remained: Am I ready for this change?
Tips from a Mom's Perspective
Three years have passed since my son's wedding. Ready or not, our relationship and my role have changed. I'll always be his mother, but I'm no longer the woman with whom he shares his inner thoughts. I'm not the one who cares for him when he's sick. I'm not the one who waits for him at day's end.
Matt has established his own family unit, and I'm now a member of the supporting cast. It's my job to encourage him and his wife, to respect them, and to give them the freedom to make their own way. Perfecting my role will take a lifetime, but I'm learning as I go. Here are a few lessons I've picked up so far:
• Hold family traditions loosely. My responsibility isn't to insist they follow the same script as our family did, but to encourage them to write their own as desired. Take Christmas traditions, for example. They're under no obligation to spend it with me and my husband, opening gifts on Christmas morning as in Matt's childhood. I might feel disappointed if their plans don't mesh with mine, but accepting their new traditions graciously is a challenge that comes with a mother's changing role.
• Treat my daughter-in-law as the leading lady in my son's life. Never compete with her for his time and attention. Never criticize her to him or anyone else. Never tell her how to run her household or raise her children unless she asks for advice. And never exclude her from family conversations by referring to events or people in the past without an explanation to help her understand. If my relationship with her is positive, then my relationship with my son will also benefit.
• Learn when to speak up and when to shut up. It's best to keep my opinions to myself if my son and his wife make choices that I question, especially if those choices concern insignificant matters.
• Respect their time and space. This is critical when living in the same city, and more so when grandbabies join the scene. I'd love to see them every day, but they have a life of their own, and it doesn't revolve around me.
The list goes on, based on a common denominator - love. On my son's wedding day, I recall hearing a voice whisper from within: Ready or not, the time for change has come. Love Matthew enough to let him go. Love this woman who has captured his affection. Cherish her as a daughter, embrace her as a friend. And all will be well.
"Are you ready?" asked Matthew as I straightened the rose on his lapel.
"I am," I said. "But please, I need one last hug."
June 15, 2010
Grace Fox is the author of four books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman's Guide to Peace in Every Situation (Harvest House Publishers). She's also a popular international speaker at women's events and the national co-director of International Messengers Canada (www.im-canada.ca) , a ministry that offers creative short-term and career opportunities in Eastern Europe. Visit her website at www.gracefox.com. Read her devotional blog at www.gracefox.com/blog.