Learning from our parent’s past mistakes and navigating the ‘special bond’ we have with our children

Jan 29, 2023
Source: Getty

With the recent release of Prince Harry’s book Spare, it gave me time to reflect on the relationships within families. These can be quite complex especially when our children have grown and have kids of their own. 

I am sure many of us would have heard the phrase “your son is your son until he takes a wife, but your daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.”

I have three kids of my own, two sons and a daughter in the middle. As my children were growing, always kept this saying in the back of my mind, especially when my sons brought home their future partners (not knowing that at the time!). 

Both sons met their future partners when they were about 18 years old and their partners were about 16 or 17 years old, and am extremely lucky to have them as daughters-in-law.

But before my boys got married I ensured I never said anything derogatory or critical of their choice. In fact, I would always be my son’s “their side,” and I have carried that through to today, over 30 years later. Now, they have children of their own.

Another saying is that a mother has a “special bond” with their sons and fathers have it with their daughters.

I find this saying to be true within my family structure as I am the middle child with an older sister and a younger brother. I remember my brother was always my mother’s favourite, and that was fine as I had my dad. But this continued into adulthood and I have learnt from her mistakes.

My brother married twice, and both wives “never measured up”. Mum would be lovely to their faces but once she was talking to me and my sister she would run them down maybe because she was British and watched too many episodes of Coronation Street!

Mum would also put us siblings against each other. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother and cared for her until she went into an aged-care facility at the age of 93 years. 

Our kids, no matter what their age, can be frustrating and at times cause us grief, but we love them unconditionally and will always be there for them.

I try to be a good mother-in-law and grandparent to my children and grandchildren and always believe that your daughters-in-law are the gateway to your sons and your grandchildren.  You shut the gate and you lose them.

I have friends who no longer see their children or grandchildren due to family breakdowns or arguments.

It is difficult if your son or daughter have children and have separated from their partner, particularly if the reason for the separation was family violence.

I have mediated many parents and grandparents on how to move forward without the children having to carry the burden or to feel guilty about who to invite to their school graduation.  The parents may have separated but the children still need to have that connection with each parent and their grandparents.  Many grandparents were/are a ‘significant other’ in their grandchildren’s life. 

When I am doing Parenting Plans with parents I always add that no derogatory remarks will be said in front of in the hearing of children, this is not just the parents but grandparents, relatives, or friends.

Being the child of “ten pound poms” I never had the opportunity to have grandparents or any relatives come to visit or cousins to play with.  So I always try and get my children and grandchildren together at least a few times a year (distance is a problem) so once I am no longer here they can all look back on happy memories.

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