By Roma Khetarpal
“You kids need to go home and rest. Just drop us off right here, curbside,” said the mother of the bride to the newlyweds. It was the day after the wedding, and the couple, Naina and Juan, were at the airport dropping off Naina’s parents. After four days of festivities, everyone was exhausted. And so they bid each other a quick good-bye.
“Text us when you land,” shouted Naina as her parents went into the terminal. They checked their luggage, but as they reached the top of the escalator and were heading toward security, a familiar voice called out, “Ma, Pa, hold on!”
Naina ran up the escalator, gave her mom and dad a hug, and burst into tears.
“I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to have you as my parents,” she said. “You have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love these last few months, and I can only hope that I raise my children with the same dedication.”
You see, the challenge of this beautiful wedding—which I was honored to be a part of—was not the fusion of families, traditions, customs, ceremonies, music or menus. It was the guest list! Like all Indian parents, this mom and dad were eager to pay for the wedding. That was their dream. As is common in our South Asian culture, they had assumed that they could invite whomever they pleased just as the bride and groom could. If they were paying for it, they had the right.
“Yes, you absolutely do,” agreed Naina. “But I only know a handful of these people well enough to have them at my wedding. I’ve been gone from home for more than 15 years. Most of these people I’ve never seen since. Even the kids that I grew up with… I’ve lost touch with all but a handful.”
Teary eyed, she continued, “Juan and I really want this to be an intimate wedding. Not the traditional typical 500 people affair. I know you have dreams for me. I’m grateful for your offer to pay for the wedding. But we would be more than happy to pay for it ourselves to have the wedding of our dreams,” said Naina.
“That really got me,” said the mom as she told me the story. “I thought to myself, we are paying for the wedding because we want to and not because we have to. Does that mean that it puts us in control? I had to take a minute to soul-search, and the answer came from deep within: It is their wedding, not mine.
They should plan it as they want. Times have changed, and we have to change with it. My husband and I both agreed, and we happily gave up that power as we prepared to give up our daughter to her new life.”
Here are the three big akeaways that I took from this beautiful life lesson:
- Money does not give us the right to be entitled parents.
Paying for our children’s weddings, education, clothes, or cars does not entitle us to decide whom they marry or invite to the wedding, what path they choose for a career, how they dress, or what color car they like. We pay for these things because we want to, not because we have to. This is not a favor we do; it is simply the circle of life. Being in control is the opposite of what mindful parenting stands for—supporting, understanding, and being empathetic, despite our personal agenda. Our first responsibility is to be honorable—accepting and respecting our children’s choices, emotions, and individual personalities. This is how …
- We can showcase our unconditional love for our kids.
Loving our children with no strings attached, without any conditions, is the hardest choice for most parents to make. But the more we practice, the better we get at it. My husband and I always told our kids these four words as often as we could: We got your back. Unconditional love is following through on that sentiment, regardless of any mistake or lesson to be learned. Loving without condition should always translate into supporting without condition. Therefore…
- We need to detach from personal expectations.
More often than not, the expectations that we pin on our children are a projection of our own unfulfilled dreams or emotional burdens that we have carried from childhood. I cringed when I recently heard a father say to his son, “We have a lineage of doctors in our family. I fulfilled my father’s dream by becoming a doctor, and I turned out just fine. You have a wonderful life because of it! I’m paying for medical school or nothing!”
Our job as parents is to support our children toward their own dreams, not ours! Expecting them to follow our lead robs them of being in-dependent—dependent on themselves. When we let go of expectations, we allow our children to blossom. We allow them to discover their own likes and dislikes. We allow them to make mistakes and grow from them. Expectations are always attached to disappointments. Don’t set yourself and your kids up for failure.
As Professor Brené Brown says, “Expectation are resentments under construction.” So do a personal expectation inventory, and let go of what does not serve your children and your relationship with them.
As my friend pointed out, “Times have changed, and we have to change with them.”
Not just happiness but also true joy comes when we lovingly let go of control. This is when we make room for our children to embrace their own life and their own dreams. This is how we leave lasting impressions and emotional legacies worth passing on to our children.
Read more of Roma’s posts here.
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