QUESTION: Our daughter’s boyfriend is a party guy and has derailed our daughter from her college studies. Although we’re helping her with her tuition and books, she also works 20 hours a week for the remainder of her expenses. She is 21 and never tires of telling us she is now of age and that she’s a “big girl” and can make her own decisions when we try to tell her how partying will keep her from meeting her educational goals in a timely manner. Many of her final grades have dropped to just average, so we feel our concern is justified.
Is there a convincing way to help her understand what she is doing?
– Concerned Parents
Dear Concerned Parents,
Not having all the facts before me, I am reminded of an experience I had many years ago when I was dating a woman at my college. I was invited to her home for dinner one evening when her younger sister came home from her school in the mid-west. She arrived on the back of her boyfriend’s Harley Davidson, wearing black leather with all the accompanying baubles, a sight her mother was neither expecting nor used to from either daughter. Without missing a beat she embraced her daughter and welcomed the boyfriend in and the evening resumed. That was over 40 years ago but I still remember that incident as a moment of real grace. She gave her daughter permission to explore, diffusing the rebellion each of us goes through at that age. I still have a relationship with the family to this day and have watched both women grow into wonderful wives and parents.
Finding that stillness within is a Universal Spiritual practice. When we can connect to that deeper spirit of God within we experience His Grace. In that moment we can choose love over fear and experience the treasure of reconciliation in all our relationships. In our teaching of Science of Mind, principle Ernest Holmes says that “…love does not overcome hate or fear by argument or force, but by some subtle Power of transformation, transmutation, sublimation invisible in its essence, but apparent through its act.”
Remember, always do it with love.
Gary Bates, Practitioner-in-Training
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta
Dear Concerned Parents,
I was just having this conversation with my children. I was telling them that I am responsible for them until they are 18 and they needed to respect and follow my rules. I then went on to say that if I am paying for college, I still have the right to expectations and rules and that I expect them followed in order to receive that privilege.
However, I feel the obligation she owes you is in keeping up her end of the responsibility educationally, not in every aspect of her life. In this situation, I would make my beliefs – as one who has been 21 – known to her, then she has to fail or succeed in her personal life. I do not believe you have the right to control who she dates whether she parties or not. However, she does owe you As and Bs if you are going to continue to pay for her education – which is a luxury.
I have a master’s degree and am in a doctorate program and no one but me paid for any of that. I worked hard, personally never partied during those years, and earned As. Sometimes things being given to us do not allow us to appreciate them.
Tell her you expect the higher grades or you will pull your financial support. This is a privilege to have her education paid for.
As far as her social choices, let her fall a few times and learn from her mistakes. We have all had to do that a bit to gain experience and wisdom.
Kimberlie Zakarian, M.S., LMFT
QUESTION: We’re engaged to be married next year, and now we’re having problems selecting the wedding party because everyone wants to be in the wedding and our parents are trying to decide for us. Insisting is more like it. We almost feel like we need family counseling before we begin planning the wedding. We both have great parents and haven’t really had any major challenges with them until now.
How can we let them know we love and care about them, but this is our wedding?
– Exasperated Bride-to-be
While it is your wedding, marriage often unites two families, not just two individuals. Family or cultural tradition may dictate family members be part of the wedding party.
When the bride and groom are young and the parents are paying for the wedding, they often feel they are organizing the event. The ceremony is one present parents give the newlyweds. I don’t know if that’s the situation here but, if so, it presents a great opportunity for you to exercise tact and patience with your parents.
You and your intended need to think carefully about what you’re comfortable with and calmly discuss it with your parents. You can be gentle but firm. You are setting boundaries for the ongoing relationship among adults.
If you are paying for your own wedding, of course you can make all the choices. Even then, consideration of your parents and other relatives’ feelings is a sign of maturity.
You can take pleasure in knowing your circle of friends and family is so happy with your decision to marry that they want to be a part of it. That bodes well for your future happiness.
Best wishes to you two and both your families.
You’re right, it is your wedding. However, if the bill is being footed by your parents, I’m sure they believe it to be their wedding too. Not to mention it is the day they officially release their children to form a new and separate family. Even so, this sounds like time for a dinner out and a real heart-to-heart. Everyone has to remember that this one-day event will be over as fast as it came, and it ought to be a happy occasion for the bride and groom, not some social awards program for cousins and kin. Having said that, there is no holy number of wedding participants – five, 10 or 15 bridesmaids, whatever makes sense in your particular situation is all left to your discretion.
The time leading up to your special day should be a pleasure though as you register for gifts, taste cakes, choose décor and plan your honeymoon. If your parents want to include more family in the event, maybe they could assign jobs (thus importance) to those relatives they have in mind. If your parents insist on being manipulative and unpleasant, perhaps counseling is not a bad idea. Or, you could always threaten to elope; God hears marriage vows in Vegas no less than here.
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church