MF: In marriage we choose each other and leave father and mother to form a new family. As newlyweds we managed to thrive in a small community with many members of Tom's extended family. We learned to set boundaries and turn exclusively to each other for advice. This worked for us. Some of the decisions we made did not sit well with extended family especially those around traditional family gatherings.
As parents of married kids we likewise need to step back and let our children rely on their spouse to make their own decisions. To this day, the hardest task for me as a parent is to not offer advice unless asked -- even with something as simple as purchasing a crib, vacation plans, or buying groceries. I may think my advice is generous or helpful, but unsolicited, it can come across as criticism. Unsolicited advice is parenting and not simply being there as a parent.
TOM: Setting expectations is parenting 101 -- eat your vegetables, don't feed the dog at the table, leave your muddy shoes at the door and be home on time. I am a people person and staying in touch with the kids is key for me. Letting go of expectations around communication with married kids is a struggle. We constantly have to remind ourselves:
- Everything you say to your child will impact their spouse
- To truly welcome your child's spouse is to love them unconditionally