Monday, April 08, 2013

Thoughts About Marriage

My children's friends are all getting married.

Matt pointed this out to me the last time we talked on Skype.  Kevin, Brandon, the other Brandon, Lyndon, Keith, and now Justin, all happily passed into the land of matrimony.

Amy's cousin Jessi and friend Phebe are also married.  And her Bible school friend Krispie got married yesterday, and her Jamaica co-workers are getting married.

And now the cousins and friends Emily and Ben's ages are dating.  Emily's friend Esta married Matt's friend Justin.

My children find it kind of an odd experience.  Especially when Keith had a child, Matt couldn't quite get his head around the fact that his cousin, who got into numerous insane scrapes with him, was a DAD.

Emily, who doesn't approach things subtly, sees it as a fine information-gathering opportunity, asking her cousin,  "So, I see you were holding hands this evening.  How did you decide that?  I mean, did you talk about it, or did it just sort of happen?"

I think about this now and then, that my children aren't getting married like other people's.  Not obsessively, let me emphasize, but in that grand-scheme-of-things way that you do at 50, when you realize that you and your children are actually part of sweeping trends and patterns of society.

We skipped out on a lot of Sweeping Trends in the past.  Mom never got into Women's Lib,  a few of us actually waited for marriage in the carefree pre-AIDS era, and we had a lot more than 1.2 children.

But now I look back and realize that at least some of the trends and statistics applied to us.  My high school class of 29 came almost entirely from intact families with married parents.  My classmates started getting married soon after high school.

Now, I go back and many of those classmates who were married then are divorced now.  Their children are in a variety of living arrangements.  Their grandchildren are few, and often don't have married parents.

Just like all the statistics you read.

My Christian/Mennonite friends and relatives mostly married young.  It was just what people did, the normal pattern, but it was considered a bit proletariat for the ones who saw themselves as more intellectual , and it portrayed a certain flair and independence if you weren't all into getting married and sort of slid into it later, yawning just a bit, like, well ok, but I could be happy single, just so you know.

While I was teaching school and living with Noah and Fannie, a wonderful old Amish couple, my friend "David" took my other friend "Sadie" on a date which of course portended many more to come, then marriage.  Fannie thought David was a better man than his brothers because, "Aeh macht sich room."  That is, he takes action.

I thought, "Dumb and Backwards."

And now it's 2013.  Fannie had a point.

It is a good thing for society and for the church, in a large overall sense, when young people commit to each other in marriage and have babies and raise them in a solid, stable environment.

If you read much in both secular and Christian media, you'll note the slightly-alarmed articles and blog posts about the decline of marriage.  Young men are playing video games in their mom's basements instead of taking initiative and getting on with their lives.  Young women are holding out for perfection. Christian parents expect young people to stay chaste until marriage but also to delay marriage until their careers are established.  Guys can't find the right girls.  Women don't feel like the good guys exist, or if they do, they aren't pursuing.  All are frustrated.

Meanwhile, I have conversations with my adult children and find that sometimes the slightly-anguished articles on Boundless fit their situations exactly.

Not that they're sitting in corners pining. As a friend told me that her children said of us, "The Smuckers seem like the type that don't get married until later in life because they're too busy having fun."  And I know it will probably all work out just fine when the time is right.

But still, I think mine would be ready if the right one appeared.

And I wonder why so many young people find this part of their lives so discouragingly difficult.

I've heard a single adult say, "It makes me wonder if something is fundamentally flawed about me."

A legitimate question, and yet as my grandma used to say, "Sis ken heffly so grum us muh net un deckel finna kann."  Or, There's no pot so crooked you can't find a lid for it.

I recently brought up the subject in a Facebook chat with a cousin whose children are the ages of mine and also unattached.  It was soon evident that we could have a long conversation.  It can be a painful subject, especially when the journey for our kids is pot-holed with disappointments.

My cousin said, "I just pray and pray for the children... and their future mates!! believe me someone is getting prayed for constantly... who those people are I have no idea!!"

I wrote back, "Laughing and saying AMEN."

She said she has two friends in a similar situation.  I could also think of at least two mom-friends who have talked to me about this.  Among the six of us we have probably 45 children.

I had a thought.

Surely you know what whoopie pies are.  Those Amish cakey-soft-chocolate cookies put together sandwich-style with a gooey white filling in the middle.

When I bake whoopie pies I am not very picky about blopping them on the cookie sheet and they end up in all shapes and sizes.  So I match them up carefully before I add the frosting.  Ok, small and round with small and round, medium oval with medium oval, large and lumpy with another large and lumpy.

I always feel like a matchmaker and hope they'll be happy together.

So.  Maybe all of us moms should get together and bake whoopie pies.  So to speak.  We could make a list of eligible young people and match up personality types, education, interests, and plans.  Ok, yours and mine are second cousins, so that won't work, and Carol's Sam wants to be a missionary in the Congo and Emily would never make it with her health issues, but we could put Emily with Arlene's Kevin who doesn't talk much but likes to read and listen, and Matt with Sandra's Katie because she's practical but smart enough to understand his work, and maybe Sam with Amy because she's tough enough for the jungle.

Then we'd go home with our lists and they would all friend each other on Facebook and start chatting and it would all work out wonderfully and they would be so relieved to have the prep work done for them.

Others have explored variations of this idea before, like millions of people in India whose families arrange their marriages, and Isaac and Rebekah, and also Shari had some related thoughts over at Confessions of a Woman Learning to Live, here and here, and so did my third cousin once removed Merle Yoder at Find Me On the Road Less Traveled.

In the Christian world, we've tried dating and I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and courtship and Real Courtship that bordered on semi-arranged marriages, and some of these seem to have worked and some did not.

The current system, whatever it is, works for some but not for others.

What do you think?  Is it time for us moms to get out our KitchenAids and aprons and Hershey's Baking Cocoa?

Or should we just be like ice cubes and chill?

[P.S. Claification: I try not to pressure my children because so much of this is out of their control.  I take my cues from them: if they're content, So am I.  But if they're struggling, I can't help but struggle with them. And want to fix it.]

Quote of the Day:
"Mom still uses words like 'peeps' and 'chill,' that were popular on Xanga ten years ago, and she doesn't seem to know they're not cool any more."


  1. Kathryn Martin4/08/2013 3:40 AM

    Wow,Dorcas,you are so funny.I loved the reference to my grandma Fannie.That was SO her!A practical lady if there ever was one.In answer to your ? about match-making,I sortof like your idea.I mean,definitely there is a lot of prayer involved,but no-one (besides God,obviously)knows there kids as well as mom & dad.My daughter puts a lot of stock into what her dad & brother's think,so maybe I'll just have one of them choose for her:) Interesting post.

  2. Dorcas Byler4/08/2013 4:37 AM

    I have been highly successful in the matchmaking department, and also a complete failure. Of course, since my daughter just turned 15, I am not eager to get in the fray about her. I am sure, however, that were she of marriageable age, she would prefer that I keep my "oar out of it"--to quote Marilla.

  3. Your Whoopie Pie analogy just makes me smile....but I'm wondering, since my oldest is not yet 13 could I jump ahead of the game and find a mom friend and together we could agree to both raise 'medium rounds' now....:)

  4. so many great lines!
    this is awesome sauce..
    my fav: "and it portrayed a certain flair and independence if you weren't all into getting married and sort of slid into it later, yawning just a bit, like, well ok, but I could be happy single, just so you know."

  5. One of your funniest yet. My parents started praying for our future mates (a la Stormie O'Martian and "Power of a Praying Parent") at birth (or what seems like it). The first 3 are married off, with my oldest brother even marrying the exact one my parents chose for him from childhood.

    I didn't marry my "match" because I had known him from infancy, and let's face it, when you've seen someone eat play-dough, it's hard to get excited about him later in life. But I got someone even better eventually. :-)

  6. Dorcas Layman4/08/2013 10:23 AM

    Dorcas, Sure go ahead, get together and bake whoopie pies! But the reality is that there are not enough men for the women in our churches. I know that marriage is good. But is it okay if some of your children don't marry? I recently wrote a booklet, Devoted, which is my attempt to write a simplified theology of singleness. The Bible has as much to say about singleness as it does about marriage!

  7. This one makes me laugh, Dorcas; perhaps because I can identify! We have six children. Of that number one is married and one is 15. The remaining four have literally been all over the globe and are "unattached". When their father and I were their ages we were dating, were newly weds, had just moved north to begin our "life work", and had just had our fourth child!! Of course I'm thinking, "Heavens, we were only children!" But yes... very different from their experience so far!

  8. Susan Miller4/08/2013 12:35 PM

    So many places to go with this blog that I can't quite sort it all out, without perhaps writing a blog of my own! :) Just know I chuckled (right out loud to myself) more than once reading thru that as well as the comments. And then I got distracted. Kathryn Martin??... (first comment) as in my cousin who I've often wished would have some computer/internet contact with (cause I'm horrible with letters & phone calls)... If you read this Kath, we need to connect somehow & catch up with each other!! Facebook, email, or do you have a blog? K, I'm done. Back to letting people read some more interesting comments about the blog. :)

  9. Please don't let my mom hear about your "Whoopie Pie Matchmaking" experiment idea. She would be ALL FOR THAT, and I'd get matched up with the first veil-wearing non-relative that she finds. Wait, she's already trying to do that.

  10. I find myself in much the same place (with the exception that one of mine is married). My children however don't seem to want any 'help' in choosing, so I pray a lot, and imagine possibilities--which, by the way, don't usually materialize. :)

  11. I. LOVE. THIS!!! I haven't blogged in months and months and just finally did a post because my daughter got engaged. The first marriage around here in forever. The Whoopie Pie thing - I'm all for it, or better yet, we could do regional "Whoopie Pie Clubs" because I'm in the Midwest. Someone recently asked my daughter, "So where do you live?" and she said, "At home," and they said, "Who else is there?" and her answer was, "Everybody". Mine don't seem all to rushed either and I think the same thing about dating and courtship, there is no "one size fits all" that's for sure. Thanks for giving me a chuckle.

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  13. Oh, P.S. Tell Emily "peeps" and "chill" are so cool, but it's presh that she thinks they're not. That's totes adorbs. :) (Sorry I deleted the last comment - I called her Jenny).

  14. Hmm Whoopie Pies...very good analogy. We could actually maybe have like Tupp*rware parties w/ pictures and things...

    So ask your daughter if "cool" is out these days too? All these phrases come back again anyway.

  15. Marriage Theory--if you'll pardon the term--has always fascinated me. When I was seventeen, I thought it'd be so interesting to secretly arrange with a suitable young lady of my acquaintance that if neither one of us was married by, say, thirty, we should just marry each other. Naturally, all the ways that such a scheme could go wrong dissuaded me (and after all, it's plenty hard to ask a girl to the Christmas banquet when you're seventeen, much less to be a bachelorhood contingency plan) but I've never gotten over being interested in how people get married, and how people I've encountered from various cultures ended up in a pretty similar proportion of happy and unhappy marriages by vastly different means.

    It's like baby names--it'd be so much fun to mess with, if there weren't so much riding on it.

  16. The Baritone4/09/2013 3:20 AM

    @The imPerfect Housewife: Marvy fab. Far out. :-)

  17. Kathryn Martin4/09/2013 3:47 AM

    Sorry,Dorcas, I just HAVE to respond to my cuz'thanks for letting me use your blog to finally get in touch!Susan, you can contact me via e-mail.It's kandid can't wait to hear from you!

  18. Kathryn Martin4/09/2013 4:07 AM

    Susan,my apologies, it's kandid.konversations-forgot to put that little .between the two words:(

  19. Thanks, all, for the comments.
    everydaymoments: you could try it but it might be kind of like Lady Katherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice, making a "peculiar arrangement" "from their infancy" that Mr. Darcy and her daughter should marry.
    Crystal, I laughed at the play-dough line.
    Kathryn and Susan, I'm delighted tohave you connect on my blog!

  20. Shawn--laughed out loud at you also.
    The Mockingbyrd--interesting stuff, not?

  21. This post is so in line with what I've thought about frequently. So much is written for/about singles, but nothing about the moms who keep hoping/praying! Although your brainstorm sounds neat, most of our adult children wouldn't take too kindly to it, would they? So, sit back and relax, one of these days, you'll be telling your friends all the details of how they each met Mr./Ms. Right!

  22. I was touched by your ending comments that if your children are content, you are, but if they're struggling, it's hard for you not to. It means a lot to me that you notice there's a problem instead of trying to ignore it because it is complicated.

    On the how of matchmaking, one of the more fascinating stories I heard was this: a spiritual dad wanted his "daughter" to stay in the area, and discovered what it took was a man. Apparently on finding out who was considered elgible, he took him aside and said, "Get to know Sarah!!" and left it at that. They are getting married this month. I like this story because a)she wasn't criticized for her desire b) direction was given but in very uncontrolling way. It would have been perfectly fine if it hadn't worked.

  23. Oh, and by the way, they're moving to Ohio as soon as they get married.

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  25. I agree so much with the part where you said we Christians want our kids to stay chaste but wait til they are established in a career. This seems contrary to both Scripture and human nature to me!! Go Whoopie-pie Moms!

  26. Why is it, we always want to fix things and not just trust. I have a daughter who is thirty and seems content. But I am the anxious one. Why,I do not know. But slowly I am learning to trust our loving God.

  27. Thanks for your thoughts. Somehow I feel kind of sad when I hear a friend's 17 year old is getting married. I wonder over how small their world seems to be. Yet, I am also concerned over another friends 25 year old well educated daughter and her lack of a companion (even though she doesn't have the same concern!). I wonder if conservative men are scared of how smart she is. Somehow it all works out in the end either way when they are seaking God's will.

  28. As part of the Boundless crowd, this made me smile! Tonight my dad and I were pondering about a younger friend who is beautiful, smart and godly - and still an "unclaimed treasure" to quote from *Sarah, Plain and Tall.* I think it's part of worldwide trend, this marriagelessness. I'm thirty-cough-something, and I'm personally not averse to matchmaking, when it's done sensitively, by someone who knows me. I've also pondered the idea of praying that God would give the gift of matchmaking.

    Speaking to what you said about mamas -- I do think it can be quite painful and bewildering for parents to know how to support their children who are single much longer than expected. So my heart goes out to you. But, my parents have learned to laugh and cry with me...and to do lots of praying in private, and a little while I am around.

    And you know, there is a lot of joy in this bewildering spot.