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Radical non-Parenting

One of the hardest challenges of staying in relationship with married children is to cease parenting and to simply be a parent.  When children marry we do not simply welcome a new member into the family.  The marriage of a child radically changes family dynamics and relationships.  Tying the knot in marriage is as profound as cutting the cord at birth.

MFIn 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 criticismUnsolicited 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
These principles have allowed us to 'ease into' letting our married kids set the frequency and type of communication, including visits and special
celebrations with us.  They know our door is always open.  We have to remind ourselves that marriage doesn't come with a foolproof playbook and our kids are learning to 'leave and cleave' just as we did.  There will be mistakes, hurt and rejection.  We have found that letting go of our expectations has given our married kids the freedom to develop a wholesome relationship with their spouse.  It has also given them the confidence to enter into an even more intimate relationship with us.

Being a parent  to married children is challenging.  It is choosing relationship with your child and their spouse over the job of parenting.  It is loving them when they need distance and being there when they need support.  It is choosing to affirm them when you judge it appropriate, and refraining from giving unsolicited advice when you disagree.  As parents of married kids, we encourage you to retire from the job of parenting.  It is radical and requires a mega-dose of trust in each other and your kids. Being a retired parent can be the best job in the world.  Enjoy it together!


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