When a certain good book mentioned leaving your parents to "cleave to another" and "becoming one," I used to think that was poetic license for moving out and having sex, preferably within a legally sanctioned, morally approved marital contract. I have discovered there is a deeper truth.
Most of my insights in this life have come to me because I made mistakes, big ones. And sometimes I didn't learn the lesson until years later, when I finally understood what my mother was trying to tell me. We seldom agreed but she was no fool.
For couples in love, according to songs the planet over, there's always a sense of "us against the world." My mom was more blunt. She told me I had blinders on. She tried to talk to me about my husband, in the early years of marriage, and I know his parents tried to talk to him about me. Of course, such talks always made us angry with our parents and more ingrained in the "us against them" mentality, clinging to one another as if drowning in a sea of opposition, with only each other to hold us afloat.
Such comparisons are lovely until you find yourself having to deal with what seems like pigheadedness in someone you used to understand. You thought you knew this son or this daughter. They were completely reasonable and intelligent people. Then, one day, but only if their significant other is involved, they put on their dark glasses and howl at the sun. And, it isn't just one or the other, it's a pact between them. Sometimes you wonder why they can't see that they've just turned into werewolves, but they can't. I couldn't. Nobody can, not if they're truly bound.
I love our children, all of them. I love the ones that married into the family, that we adopted, that adopted us, and the ones who were miracles of modern medicine. They're all important to me. But, there's a steep learning curve to an empty nest. Suddenly, half the news reports on TV have no relevance to you. You're never going to deal with schools again, won't need to know the latest toy recalls, or explain the birds and the bees. You've done that and, good or bad, your work is finished. All that's left is cleaning up the house and spoiling the grandkids. And you have to stay on good terms with the parents if you want access to the progeny.
Being the mother-in-law is always a precarious position. One sure way to fail is to point out the daisies that are opening up and turning their heads, or to mention that your neighbors are cutting their grass, or that everyone else is having to squint. When your son or daughter is insisting there's a moon, best to look at the trees and listen for hooting, 'cause you're never gonna change the basic truth that love is a rose with gigantic thorns, and it's far too easy to get stabbed through the heart.
My mom was really good with owls.