You have the benefit of life experience. Now that you have a daughter to call your own, you share your life experiences with her, in the gentle hopes that she too – may learn from one of your painful mistakes. Time and time again, you find that despite the warnings, the advice and the sharing of your own secrets – your daughter doesn’t listen and instead has to find out for herself, often through heartbreak, that just maybe you were right. (Of course, she will never admit it) In the back of your mind, she reminds you so much of yourself, headstrong and determined. And yet, as parents, the majority still continue to talk, advise, share stories and give input to help lead their children in the direction of happiness; regardless of the fact that it often falls on deaf ears.
And then they grow up.
Suddenly the issues aren’t about the mean girl on the playground anymore or grades in school. Suddenly, you are trying to decide what to tell your daughter about marriage, sex, and relationships. The tendency of course, is to offer information that is intended to ‘save her’ from some sort of hurt. As a mother, it is easy to want to send up the flares and share all the dirty little secrets about marriage and relationships that you learned throughout the years. You so want to blurt out that her boyfriend, so handsome and kind, is really only interested in one thing. And that when he gets that one thing, he will soil her name with rumors and spat on her reputation. You want to speak your mind, say things such as, ‘men are pigs,’ ‘you don’t need a man to make you happy,’ ‘you need to take care of yourself,’ ‘you cant trust any men,’ ‘all men cheat,’ ‘men are liars,’ or even something like, ‘marriage is a farce!’
But what would any of this accomplish?
As parents, it is easy to forget that while we think our kids aren’t listening, they really are. The more negativity we put into their mind, the more we drill the lesson that life is not fair, and that things like love and marriage are overrated, ignorant and foolish – the more we deny our child the opportunity to find happiness of their own. If their younger years are filled with the warnings and bashings of a bitter mother, we take away their ability to see, and therefore find, the good in life. And even the good in a partner.
And in an even more ironic and awful turn of events, by sharing our thwarted opinions of marriage, men, and relationships – we actually are teaching them to settle – should they find themselves in a marriage that is anything but amicable. Should they find a husband who is abusive, disrespectful, mean, or not worthy – they will believe this is how it is supposed to be, because this is exactly how mama said it was! And they will find no incentive to leave or seek out anything better in their life.
Do you want to be responsible for that?
Sure, it is a parental duty to teach kids about life. It is the job of mom and dad, to make sure that our children don’t grow up with a fairy tale in mind when it comes to being married and having a family. This is why it is important that children see that sometimes even their own parents, who love each other very much – don’t get along, have an argument or get mad at one another. This is also why it’s super important not to hide how you and your spouse communicate, and how things are resolved. This way, they see firsthand that while mom and dads relationship isn’t perfect, it is a meet in the middle, respectful exchange, where love exists. And it is most important that regardless of what happens in your marriage – you don’t utilize your daughter as a sounding board or therapist. That is why you have friends and family; not children.
Truth is that it isn’t fair to fill your daughters head with ideas that marriage is all bad.
Yet, what you should tell your daughter about marriage is this. You should tell her that ALL relationships take work. You should tell her that it isn’t the walk in the park, it isn’t always romantic, and it certainly isn’t always perfect. You should tell her what marriage SHOULD be like (so she can strive for that), give her tips to make hers work, and throw out a couple of the ‘relationship red flags,’ so that she is never a sitting duck to be taken advantage of.
You may want to point out that the bridal magazines depict a wedding, not a life.
Explain to her that she will be letdown, and she will letdown her spouse at times – and that mistakes, errors in judgment and conflicts don’t necessarily mean two people don’t love one another. Ensure that she somehow records a deep mental note of how she feels RIGHT NOW, as she is madly in love – so one day she can look back and remember why she got married in the first place. You might even nudge her to have the all important essential conversations with a man before getting married, about things like money, sex, expectations, gender roles, religion, ideals on raising children, wants, desires and personal needs…so she won’t be shocked later.
And certainly, you might want to share the SHORT version of some of the lessons you have learned from your own experience with marriage.
Perhaps the most important thing to tell your daughter about marriage is that it should make her happy. Marriage should be a good thing in their life – even with its imperfections. Tell her that while marriage is definitely not a piece of cake, it can be more right than wrong!
As parents, it is always important to be impeccable with our words when we speak to our children. They are listening, and they ARE taking their cues about how life is and should be, from what we do and say.