Some years ago our eldest son, 23 years old, got married to the love of his life. If the wedding was any indication, they would have had a great time together on their honeymoon in Vanuatu. They came back glowing and it wasn’t just from the sun. Young love is such a beautiful thing. For the record it is important not to forget it. The number of children living in our home at the time shrunk from five to four and the house was notably quieter. During the weeks that ensued each of our son’s brothers and sister expressed some degree of sadness at the loss of their brother.
Our 11 year old daughter, who was also a bridesmaid on the big day, insisted on making a speech at the wedding reception. In her speech she gushed saying that she was very happy to be gaining an older sister. With four older brothers she was delighted to have a sister to help her bring out the feminine point of view to set everyone straight. We were and still are delighted with our new daughter-in-law. She is absolutely wonderful.
Several of my friends, who know just how close our family relationships really are, asked me at the time how it felt to be a father-in-law. I think they expected me to burst into tears at losing our son. These friends were present at the wedding ceremony, but they were not present at the many meals we shared with our son’s girlfriend / fiancée over the previous years. They were not there the many times she accompanied us on tour singing and playing music. Those moments were precious, but even then we knew that change was just around the corner. Such is the price of growing love.
The oldest book of wisdom readily available to man says, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh’. Being a good father is to set a plan for redundancy in place. Becoming a father-in-law is a sign that the first part of that redundancy cycle is complete. I guess there is the whole challenge of becoming a good father-in-law that I am still learning about. Has anyone got any tips?
Let me bring you up to date. My oldest son is now 34 years of age and my oldest daughter-in-law is 33 years of age. One of the joys of being a father-in-law is that sooner or later you usually become a Grandfather to your grandchildren and that is when you suddenly become useful again to your son. The redundancy cycle is now suddenly broken because you are needed for child minding duties. Such was our pleasure on Friday night when my wife and I volunteered to help keep young love alive for a date night for mum and dad. Young love has to be nurtured until it becomes old love. As Andre Maurois said, “A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”
Caring grandparents can play a vital part in nurturing young love. It was a delight to tuck my seven year old twins into bed and read books with them and tell them stories about when their daddy was young like they were. They are always wide eyed with excitement to hear such stories about their Dad from their Grandfather.
There is a saying that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. I would like to add a third: death, taxes and change.
Being a father is a constant process of change. Becoming a father-in-law is part of that change. The next change is becoming a grandfather. Who knows I might even get to become a great grandfather if I keep taking my vitamins and going to the gym?
While talking with my friend Dr Bruce Robinson who wrote the book, ‘Fathering from the Fast Lane’, he shared with me that even he did not prepare enough for the change of his children leaving home. We need to consider that our fathering role is one of constant change and the ultimate commitment is to release our children to their marriage partner as they begin a new life together. The letting go process will be repeated many times over in your life as a father. The funny thing is the more you let it go the more it comes back to you. It is very hard to out-give love.
You don’t have to do anything this week. All I ask is that you think about the last page in Rob Parson’s book, ‘Sixty Minute Father’. He relates the story of a poem about a dad teaching his young daughter to ride a bike. I have quoted it before and I will quote it again.
Tomorrow though I will run behind
Arms out to catch her, she’ll tilt, then balance wide
Of my reach, till distance makes her small,
. . . . . . .
I stop and know
That to teach her I had to follow
And when she learned . . . I had to let her go.
Yours for happy father-in-laws
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