I could not help but smile when I read this paragraph in Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia:
As the word of God tells us, “a man leaves his father and his mother” (Gen 2:24). This does not always happen, and a marriage is hampered by the failure to make this necessary sacrifice and surrender. Parents must not be abandoned or ignored, but marriage itself demands that they be “left”, so that the new home will be a true hearth, a place of security, hope and future plans, and the couple can truly become “one flesh”. In some marriages, one spouse keeps secrets from the other, confiding them instead to his or her parents. As a result, the opinions of their parents become more important than the feelings and opinions of their spouse. This situation cannot go on for long, and even if it takes time, both spouses need to make the effort to grow in trust and communication. Marriage challenges husbands and wives to find new ways of being sons and daughters.
I smiled because it touches on what I have found to be one of the most challenging parts of getting married and having a family: negotiating your relationships with families-of-origin. I know this is a universal challenge, as I have spent uncountable hours speaking with other married men and women about their own struggles with how to interrelate their own marriage and family with their parents and extended family members. By coincidence, just after I read this portion of Amoris Laetitia I went to see the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which is all about that struggle. Not as funny as the first one, in my opinion.
Years ago, I knew a man who had a very controlling mother. When he was dating a young lady and got engaged, she was clearly jealous of the relationship and made the man feel caught between her and his fiancée. It was very painful to watch. His fiancée finally said to him, “It’s either her or me.” He was tortured by this ultimatum. But one day something absolutely remarkable happened. He and his fiancée were in a public parking lot and a man came up to them demanding money while threatening them at gunpoint. He said it was in that moment, when he realized he would take a bullet for her, that he knew his choice. He called his mother up that night and told her that if she was going to force him to choose, he was going to choose his wife-to-be.
My wife and I often say to each other that we want our children to fly, to discover their own life callings, grow and flourish, and that our greatest hope is that they always find in our home, and our love for them, an anchor, a refuge, a safe place where they can be themselves, know they are loved and supported; where they can share any struggle or any joy. It’s hard! My two sons will be in college this Fall. It’s hard! My daughters are flying through high school. It’s hard! I want them to stay, I want them to go. I want to hold on, I want to let go. I want them to want to stay, I want them to want to go. The words of that Sting song come to mind here: “If you love somebody set them free.”
Okay, so I know you will be very surprised but there’s yet another Twenty One Pilots song that now comes to mind as I am writing this post — House of Gold. My 89 year old mom loves this song. lol. It’s all about the tensions between a mother and a son. The mother wants her son to stay near home and promise to take care of her when she is old and her husband dies, while the son is anxious to set out into life to discover his unique calling. The son clearly loves his mother dearly and wants to promise her everything, but feels torn (literally!) as he also wants to go out and begin a music career (“be a bum so I just might become someone”). The music video is both comedic and macabre, and admits of no resolve in the end.
So with no other better idea as to how to end this reflection today, I will share the wild music video. Enjoy: