As children, we weren’t good at much, but we were experts at annoying questions. “Are we there yet?” and “What’s for dinner?” were the staples of our daily discussions.
Now, parents have had decades to scheme their hand at annoying questions, and we are on the receiving end. Instead of wondering aloud every 15 minutes how much farther the toy store is, or if Captain Crunch might be able to replace lasagna, we get the hard stuff.
My theory hasn’t been proven because I am not a parent, but I believe there is an internal clock within every mom and dad that ticks to a detonating time bomb pace the older their children become. With most parents, the clock varies. When the clock expires it signals their time to repay all our annoying questions with firing rounds of their own.
For those that return home after college, the question is “When are you going to get a job and move out?” But for those, like me, who left home immediately and haven’t looked back, the question “When are you going to settle down and get married?” is what we hear.
My mom’s clock went off first. I wish I had recorded the day on a calendar so I could recall the exact moment and ignore it like Valentine’s Day or an ex-girlfriend’s birthday, but I can’t remember when the misery began.
Most moms are similar: loving, generous, kind, concerned and, of course, curious. We don’t mind hearing great things about ourselves from Mom, but there comes a point when “You’re such a nice boy, why hasn’t anyone latched onto you yet?” is internally translated to sound eerily similar to, “Is there something wrong with you?”
I don’t blame my mom. I blame the clock. Sometimes I don’t even think moms care who their children marry. Just as long as it is sooner, rather than later.
My rule for telling my mom about the woman I am dating is 10 dates. When she calls on a Sunday and asks what I did Friday night, if it was only date number nine, walking the dog or watching TBS reruns is my alibi. I see no reason in provoking daydreams of tuxedos, white dresses, photographers and flying bouquets.
My dad was different. His clock didn’t go off until I wound it. Several months ago I had a girlfriend and was comfortable enough with our relationship that I let my parents in on the secret. My guard was down, and I told my dad she was possibly the woman I wanted to marry. Not a good idea!
He had never met her, but by the time we hung up he was planning the honeymoon. Every time we talked thereafter he wanted an update as if I was the president, and he was a White House correspondent.
Then I had to be the bearer of bad news to both. Telling my dad we broke up was actually worse than hearing the “we need to talk” news from my now ex-girlfriend. I think my dad is still planning the honeymoon and really doesn’t care which woman tags along.
My mom still won’t speak to me.
As adults, we mature and grow out of annoying destination and dinner questions, but it doesn’t seem our parents will ever be set on returning the favor until their desires of a wedding are sufficed.
I’m not sure if the clock is altered when siblings marry, either. Unfortunately, neither of my two brothers have taken one for the team yet and sacrificed their lives of freedom for family cohesiveness.
My little brother tight-roped the prospect of marriage last year, and I was off the hook for a few months. Things went sour and during the grieving period mom and dad’s clocks let up on him for a while. I suddenly became the glimmer of hope and wasn’t too happy with my brother.
Four mornings a week, I study under a pastor that teaches conferences on relationships and marriage worldwide. One of my favorite lines of his is, “The only thing worse than being single wishing you were married is being married wishing you were single.”
My parents divorced when I was in high school, and I quoted that to them. Older people have selective hearing, though. Divorce in a parent’s marriage apparently doesn’t alter the clock, either.
I also tell my parents that Jesus was approximately 33 when he died as an unmarried bachelor. And despite what Dan Brown says, Jesus never left behind a legacy of biological children, and He did alright for Himself. In reading the Gospels it seems as if He was happy without a spouse and Mary and Joseph didn’t harp on Him to find a wife.
“You’re not Jesus,” my mom will say.
“Yeah, but … never mind,” I concede.
I bet your parents are like mine and their my-child-needs-to-get-married clock is ticking, too. If not, they’re probably checking their when-are-you-going-to-move-out-of- the-house? watch as you read this article from your childhood bedroom they hoped to have turned into a den by now.
But don’t worry. The hurry-up-and-get-married clock will begin ticking as soon as you move out and be immediately followed by the when-are-the-grandkids-coming? clock.
Those darn clocks.