Unyielding ties to propriety may damage more vital links
Q: My 28-year-old son and his 21-year-old fiancee just learned they are expecting a baby at the end of the year. They were planning a wedding next September. Am I the only person left in the world who feels a little disappointed, a little worried about what they will be getting into (she is still in college), and absolutely sure that the right thing for them and their baby is to get married earlier — before the baby is born? This is not a one-night stand, and they are not teenagers; the wedding was already being planned. I am told that I am out of the loop because I expect them to be responsible. I didn't think values, ethics, character, etc., went out of style. They are getting married early, but I am being left out in the cold.
The Old-Fashioned Thinker
A: Values, ethics, character, etc., have not gone out of style. Many people merely believe they wear better without all the starch.
You may not agree that pregnancy has any place outside a marriage. You're certainly not alone there.
However, given that what's done is done; that these are consenting adults who were and still are committed to each other; that the essential facts of the couple's plans remain intact, only the schedule changed; that plenty of "proper" marriages implode; and (perhaps most important) that they're not behaving recklessly or maliciously — you may find that judging them now serves only to alienate people who would be mutually better served by accepting each other as-is. Sometimes you don't get to decide whether you have strong adherence to unwritten rules and a close, inclusive family. Sometimes you have to choose one.
If a friend is in pain, the offer of comfort rarely comes too late
Q: I have a friend whom I have known for a while now — we don't live in the same city but talk over the phone about once every month or two. Well, a couple of years ago, we were generally just chatting about our plans to have children when she mentioned that she had had a miscarriage and started crying. For some reason, I totally froze and just managed to mumble out a few words of comfort, after which we moved on.
We are both childless and have not had a conversation about children since then. I still feel terrible about the way I reacted to her pain, and wonder if I should say something now, or just let it be.
A: Say something. Maybe you don't normally share profound feelings, and certainly this is a profoundly difficult subject. However, as long-distance friends who maintain regular contact, you confirm your value to each other faithfully on a monthly basis. That alone says your regret will be important for her to hear. So speak it, gently. "I'm sorry to revisit a painful topic, but I feel I've owed you an apology for years." If you're worried about "dredging up" grief, don't be. Where there's grief, there's grief, whether you bring up the subject or not. Better to risk acknowledging a sadness that isn't there than to ignore one that is.