Wedding season is winding down, and the fact that it has come and gone may seem like it has nothing to do with you, at the ages of 17, 14, and 12. In some ways you are correct. You are just now starting to figure out the adults you will become. There are educations and degrees to get. There are experiences you must go through to figure out who you are, what you are made of, and who you want to be. This must happen so that, insha-Allah, you will be able to fully love another person without losing yourself to him or her. Life has yet to form you. This will take time. But time moves so quickly, and so I want to say this to you now.
We have been to a lot of weddings. Many of them blur together. You might think the ones that stand out are the ones where the bride had the most elaborate dress, or the food rivaled the cuisine served at Dévi in New York City, or the officiant gave the most beautiful speech about love and partnership. These are all memorable things. But they are not the weddings that stand out the most for me.
In the movie “27 Dresses,” perpetual bridesmaid Jane says, “You know how the bride makes her entrance and everybody turns to look at her? That’s when I look at the groom. Because his face says it all you know? The pure love there.”
Your mother? She’s the one looking at the parents of the bride and the groom.
The “best” wedding I remember is one at which I did not have a particularly good time. The vegetarian option for dinner was nearly inedible. The groom thanked other guests who had traveled from “so far away”—when we had come from twice the distance. Though we knew plenty of people at the wedding, we were seated with strangers.
My sweet babies, you know there is a “but” coming. But the love surrounding that couple was palpable. Their closest friends and family were beaming. They told stories about the couple that made everyone laugh, and cry. There was so much joy in that room – genuine happiness for a young couple about to embark on their lives together. That bride and that groom entered their marriage nestled inside the protective cocoon of their friends’ and families’ love.
This is no small thing. This matters more than you can know. And it is my deepest desire and prayer that I give this precious gift to each of you.
Some people will argue that this is easy for me to say because you haven’t yet married a man whose sense of humor I find abrasive, or a woman who doesn’t identify as a feminist. They will say that the choice of a child’s spouse impacts the entire family. That parents know what’s best for their children in all things, including whom they should marry.
In some ways, they would be right. It is easy for me to say this now, and that is part of why I am saying it now, with the promise that you can hold me to it (barring, obviously, an abusive situation, in which case you know I will rush to help you and won’t rest until you are safe).
I also believe that the choice of a child’s spouse can affect the dynamic of a family. But? So can sustained parental opposition to a child’s husband or wife.
As for knowing what’s best for you, I have made every parental decision with this as the standard. I have held you so carefully and protectively in my embrace. My love for you has rushed out of me with the force of water cutting stone. And for this, I am both blessed and lucky: You are all smart, and thoughtful, and kind. But when it comes to knowing what’s best for you when choosing your life partner, I understand that you are separate people from me, that by that point you will be more fully formed, that you will know yourselves. What this means is that I trust you. I know you will choose spouses that fit you, and I know that this is more important than whether or not they fit me.
I have been to weddings, hearts of my heart, and I have watched the families—those who are full of joy and those who are not. I know which kind of wedding I want for you. And on that day, when everything has already been said, I want to stand there and beam at you (likely through tears—you know your mother) and hope that you can read my smile: I’ve got you. I will hold your union both solemnly and joyfully in my heart. I will not make things harder for you.
Marriage is so very challenging under the best circumstances. As your parent, I commit to not making it more so.
My beloved children, whenever you have struggled in these years of your childhood, when you have been sad or scared, I have wished, to borrow from the words of Hafiz, that I could show you “the astonishing light of your own being.” May you each marry someone who feels that way about you. May your family and friends commit to making that light brighter and never to dimming it. And may I let you have that union, in peace and love.
With all my heart,
Editor’s Note: Jennifer Zobair is a biological and adoptive mother, an attorney, and a writer. She is the author of the debut novel, Painted Hands (St.Martin’s Press, 2013) and the co-editor of Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay (forthcoming from I Speak For Myself/White Cloud Press, 2015). She lives with her husband and three children in the DC area. Connect with Jennifer on twitter @jazobair or through her website at www.jennferzobair.com. The views expressed here are her own.