An Important Parental Obligation

Light of truth

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9

Rita sat at the dining table opposite her mother, tears running down her face. She had come to her parents’ house along with her two children quite unexpectedly that afternoon. Seeing her visibly upset, her mother quickly sent the children to their grandfather and waited anxiously for Rita to say something. The next instant everything came tumbling out—stories, tears and finally a heavy silence. For the first time Rita revealed her difficulties with her in-laws which started soon after she got married to Vinod. At first, they insisted that she find a job to augment their income. Just as things were settling in, the first child was born. From then on, it was sheer harassment. Her mother-in-law constantly cribbed about having to look after the child while the mother was away. When the second child was born, things became even worse. Rita often tried to find a solution to this with her husband but there seemed to be no way out. He could not convince his mother and Rita simply did not have the choice of giving up her job, even for a few years.

Her mother listened in silence to the whole tirade, her brows knitting together in anger. “Why didn’t you tell us anything till now? What about Vinod? Why hasn’t he done anything about this” That evening Vinod came to take Rita back. Her mother squarely confronted him. The battlelines were drawn. She issued an ultimatum that she would not send her daughter and children back till he shifted from his parent’s home to an independent house.

Vinod understood that the problem had taken a serious turn, and decided to speak to his father. As soon as he suggested living independently, his father was furious. “Just because your mother-in-law decides something, does she think we will dance to her tunes? Let Rita stay there for sometime. She will learn her own lesson.” He tried to argue but was helpless against the emotional outburst that ensued.

After a few days in her mother’s care, Rita began to feel uneasy. The children missed their father in spite of the attention of the grandparents. She told her mother she wanted to get back and that she would try to sort this problem out somehow. Her mother would not hear of it. “You will go back to that house over my dead body,” shouted her mother. “How dare they treat my daughter like this.”

Needless to say, weeks turned into months. Rita continued to live with her parents almost under house arrest. Vinod was torn between his duty to his parents and his love for his family. The marriage came to an inevitable end in a divorce court leaving two helpless and innocent victims –their two beautiful children—bereft of the security of a family.

One wonders in these cases, who the main protagonists in the entire episode were? Who was to blame for the unthinkable tragedy of a marriage falling apart? Does our concern for our children sometimes overreach itself and cause irreparable harm to their lives? Perhaps it would be wrong to even define this as ‘concern’. Marriages, as we all know, go through the rough and tumble of difficult situations. Left to themselves, most couples normally find a solution and steer their lives forward again. However, incases like this, parents tread a private space that is strictly meant only for the married couple, and this brings in disastrous consequences.

Vinod and Rita were literally caught between the devil and the deep sea. Parental respect came into direct conflict with family relationships. As Indians, parental reverence is deeply rooted in each of us. The Bible also strongly advocates this. The fifth commandment categorically lays this down and in the New Testament we find Jesus severely criticizing Jews for neglecting parental obligations (Mark 7:11). However, when it comes to marriage, Our Lord makes a distinction. Mathew 19:5 echoes the verses in Genesis when Jesus clearly states that man leaves his parents and joins his wife. The priority in relationships has been underlined distinctly. Both relationships are valuable and can be taken forward harmoniously. But if filial loyalty turns against marital accord, the couple will have to make the right choice.

Parents have one important obligation towards married children. In every way possible, they must encourage and help strengthen these newly formed relationships. In some cases, they are called to take a proactive role to see young families through rough patches. But in most cases, non-interference is the best medicine. To quote from a popular English song, parents “say it best when they say nothing at all.”

Rose Mary

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