Two things inspired this post. The first was a comment or two from the Widower Wednesday series referencing the ire of in-laws and adult children whose widower was daring to date without their permission. The second was a news item concerning Sir Paul McCartney’s recent engagement to his soon to be third wife.
All I can really say is, “Huh?”
When I hit adulthood, it never crossed my mind to seek my parents approval of anyone – friends or potential partners. I was an adult. Free to companion as suited me, my life-style and needs. My parents certainly never concerned themselves with my opinions of their friends or even of the relationship they had with each other – the latter of the two clearly being none of my business.
But it seems there is a segment of the adult world – both parent, grown kids and even extended family – who feel that getting judgey and expressing it in all manner just-plain-juvenile-and-wrong is completely fine and normal.
McCartney sought the approval of his grown children before deciding to marry again. Perhaps he felt the need to verify his choice after the particularly disastrous 2nd marriage to a gold-digger a few years ago, or maybe the big kids informed him that all future step-mothers must be vetted by them. Who knows. But why? Why?
If my mother were to date or even marry again (and I would start preparing for the Second Coming in either case because it would surely follow on the heels of something so mind-bogglingly unlikely – you’d just have to know Mom in person, trust me), I would smile and say nothing – to her anyway. DNOS and I would have plenty to roll our eyes about in private to be sure, but we were raised better than to presume on our parents’ intimate relations.
Rob’s mother recently remarried and he kept his mouth shut throughout the process that led her online to a Catholic dating site and through a whirlwind courtship that made ours look downright puritan and leisurely by comparison. She’s an adult and sound of mind and it’s her life.
FIL shaped up to be a good match but even if he hadn’t, it wasn’t the place of her children to wade in – unasked – and jump up on the nearest high horse to pontificate about it.*
Back in my message board days of new motherhood, I belonged to a group of women who were all first time mothers. We’d met at BabyCenter and took our cadre off to a private group once our kids arrived. Through the course of several years, we shared our lives and a couple of the women lost their mothers and had fathers who dated and remarried. Oh, the angst. Some of it was grief driven and I understood that, and none of them got up to any antics because they were too well brought up for such trailer park drama, but it’s not uncommon for adult children to over-think and have a hard time letting go of the idea that parents aren’t just Mom and Dad trapped forever in the context of our childhoods. They were grown ups long before us and continue to be long after we’ve cultivated big girl and boy lives of our own.
The “being raised properly” thing is likely the culprit. The past couple of decades have seen parents being less the adults and more the friends and allowing children too much input into how a family is governed. Recipe for entitled-to-meddle-in-your-lives-adult-kids, in my opinion. Heavy emphasis on the word “kids”. Some people never let go of the selfish impulses and world view that drove their parents to distraction when they were physically children and is now quite the lodestone now that they are only physically adult.
Edie and Mick were somewhere between taken aback and actively stunned when Rob announced our engagement to them. They knew about my existence, our dating and that was about it. They felt a little out of the loop, but that’s because technically they were. That’s what happens when you go out into the world and focus on your own life: you stop paying a lot of attention to what your parents are doing. In some ways it reminds me of my middle school students who were always incredulous when details of my life slipped into their line of vision. They couldn’t conceive of me outside the role of teacher. Kids have the same stilted vision of Mom and Dad. We are JUST Mom and Dad. So there was no reason for the older girls to know about Rob’s life and he was equally oblivious to their grown up lives too.
But Shelley and Rob raised their girls well and our new family formed and continues to evolve without any reality show drama.
The issue that extended family or friends may take with a new relationship or spouse though is different. Whereas children’s feelings should be taken into account – though not necessarily catered to because the idea that one’s children – especially those underage – have some mystical idiot savant ability to ferret out bad actors is one I wish would simply vanish. Children are not the equivalent of drug sniffing dogs when it comes to people’s character. They are far too self-interested for one and way too young and inexperienced for another.
One’s in-laws or friends, unless they are point-blank asked for an opinion, should just keep their opinions to themselves. And even when asked, they should remember that no one really wants opinions. When you are asked for an opinion what is really required is validation. So validate with a smile because no one gives even the tiniest fuck what you really think. Really.
I am continually astounded by people who put up with people who behave like the cast of Jersey Shore. I don’t have any tolerance for it. Neither my younger brother CB or my youngest sister Baby act out with impunity and when my older nephew got snotty with Rob on his first visit, he was squashed. It didn’t prevent further fires, but he knew I wasn’t putting up with it and I didn’t. We actually packed up and checked into a hotel during our 2008 visit when N1 unleashed one of his classic tantrums and I unceremoniously kicked CB out of the house the afternoon Dad died because he launched into his famous imitation of his substance addled teenaged self. Though I loathed Dr. Phil, the oaf got one thing right – you do teach people how to treat you. The choice to be a doormat in your own existence is entirely yours.
Rob has had to set both his SILs straight about what he will and will not indulge as far as their grief issues go, but by and large, our road has been baby butt smooth compared to the horror shows of some of the women I have encountered in the comment sections here and there.
Stalking, verbal harassment, poisoning the opinions of small grieving children. Not okay. If the party related to these people is not acting, that’s telling, and if you are not drawing hard lines in quick drying cement, telling as well.
We have this idea that drama and the “course of love never did run smooth” means that a relationship is meant to be because adversity is good for romance. That’s just sick twisted Hollywood garbage. As the credits roll, the actors are snug back in real lives and the people on the screen are make-believe.
*Rob’s youngest sister was a bit blistery when she first met him – after the engagement and slightly ahead of the wedding – but Rob didn’t back her up. We all sat, rather uncomfortably, around the table while she had her say. Gee handled the episode with more grace than I would have.