Marriage is becoming a risky business by the hour. Instead of enlarging the family, it is reducing it. When your son or daughter marries, you expect grandchildren as dividends. Now, your initial investment gets liquidated in a pool of blood, without recourse to you. One infuriated sick and weak girl just grabs a kitchen knife and carves up your son in a flash, ripping out your heart and dreams of being surrounded by happiness in your old age. One silly boy in a moment of uncontrollable blinding fury stabs your daughter in the throat, leaving you reeling in that kind of pain no parent can recover from. Wives killing their husbands.
Husbands killing their wives. How did our innocent babies become murderers? How did we miss it? What did we do wrong, or failed to do that is filling our doorsteps with shoes of mourners and our once happy homes with wailings and gnashing of teeth? Did the Bible not promise that our children will surround our tables and that we will not cast our young? So, what is going on? It is bad enough that more and more young marriages are failing. It is already a sad testimony that more women are becoming breadwinners and telling our sons when to snore in their own beds. But this added blood and gore and loss and unending pain… Or are you not worried?
Sure, the latest tragedies happened far from you but they are really closer than you think. If you still think these recent spousal murders do not really concern you, take a look at your daughter, your son and tell yourself you can vouch for the spouses they will end up with. And if your children are already in their 20s and of marriage age, swear you are not a teensy bit concerned about the suitors milling around them. That fine-boy-no-pimples full of smiles and politeness, does he have anger issues? Is he a keeper, a reaper or a taker? That babe who is already calling your son ‘Ayo mi’ (my joy) or ‘honey’, can you trust her with your greatest treasure, your brilliant caring son?
There is no retirement age for parents. We are parents for life. Our job is cut out for us and we must do it with all our heart and might. There is really no short cut. This is our calling until we are called home by He who chose us for this assignment as daddies and mummies. Of course, the temptation to hand over our daughters and our parenting jobs over to our in-laws the day we give them out in marriage will always be there. But it is a temptation we must resist as soon as the effects of red wine champagne wears off. Yeah. Wine-carrying, celebrated destination wedding ceremonies with the captains of industry and 10 governors in attendance is what it is, just another party. The marriage itself begins the following day. And let’s not forget that the young bride and groom had lived a protected life up until their wedding day. They were chauffeured to primary and secondary schools, assisted in picking their universities. Their NYSC postings were arranged by daddy. Their first jobs too via daddy’s connections. This is the first time they would be taking huge steps on their own. They probably will still be using daddy’s mechanic and mummy’s travel agent and caterer. Don’t bother denying it. We are all guilty of over-parenting. We all look forward so much to the days our children will get married that we forget there are things we must do, that is, beyond the small chops and assorted meals from here to China.
Raise your hand if you did a proper background check on your son’s wife before the wedding. Seriously? Yeah.
Let me stress this point then. You must investigate your daughter’s suitor, your son’s intended. Don’t be overly excited by the diamond ring he gave her or the rich family she comes from. You must do your research. You must ensure you are not handing over your treasure to a pig who’ll go play in the mud with it. Most parents hardly ever do that background check before calling the wedding planner. Is he abusive? Does she throw flower vases at television sets? Does his father beat his mother? Is her mother cantankerous? Before you fix the wedding date, make sure you are not funding a ceremony that will put your child in an early grave. That is the pre-wedding warning.
However, marriage is the critical point. While I think it is a sin to meddle in your children’s marriage, I also think it is a crime to push our children into the deep end of the pool without providing life jackets. Parents should let new couples totter, falter, fall even but be there to help them back on their feet. Watch from a distance but watch you must, keenly, discreetly, wisely. The fear of failure and what the society would say make a lot of new couples die in silence. Without being intrusive, nudge your daughter or daughter-in-law to speak freely. Call her to accompany you to a party you don’t want to attend alone. Start a topic that will help her open up. It could be a new television series, a movie with a relationship or marriage theme. And being a busy politician or high flying executive is not an excuse. I open such topics with my girls while they are helping me pick an evening dress, do my make-up or while we are watching a movie that I had picked for that purpose. I have also had such intimate talks with my son as he drove us to church.
Fathers, let your son-in-law accompany you to events, golf course, church, mosque. What’s wrong with an occasional barber-date together? Get your grooming Saturday in sync. It helps you see through what they may be trying to hide without asking probing questions. You have gained an extra child and that should be an advantage.
Stop by unannounced occasionally too and make such visits brief, very brief. Take along gifts. Those unannounced visits help you to catch them without rehearsed speeches. Hug the wife, she will wince or grunt if she has been kicked or punched. Does she have puffy eyes, discoloured cheeks or walking with a limp? If every time you go there, there is always a story why a piece of furniture is broken or cracked, one of them may be violent, hurling coffee mugs at the television or kicking flower vases.
And if you discover that one of them is abusive, don’t expect them to sort it out on their own or with their pastor. An abusive wife or husband is a sick person. He needs help. She needs to see the appropriate doctor, it is an emergency. If the abusive partner refuses to get help, retrieve the one that belongs to you to safety. My mother used to counsel that a safe small corner on earth is better than a big space in the grave. You cannot fold your arms and hope she will stop slapping your son while she graduates to stabbing him. If he has pushed her down the staircase once and you leave her there, who will you blame when your church elders arrive with sober faces to break the news of your daughter?
Of course I know my pastor, and many other pastors reading this, will object to my ‘retrieve-your-child’ solution but I prefer my pastor chides me to him telling me ‘it is well’ later. God forbid. If a sick spouse gets help, the marriage can get back on track and everybody gets a chance to live happily ever after. And read the Bible too.
This is an opinion written by Funke Egbemode, Managing Director of the New Telegraph Newspapers