There is an interesting post over at Boar's Head Tavern about courtship.
There was a phase in our parenting where we were sold on courtship. In all reality I think it fed my controlling nature. Gee, I could control even who my daughter married. Forgive me for snorting and chortling my way through that last sentence. In hindsight I'm not quite sure what was so appealing about treating my daughter like she was a child right up until she married.
On the positive side my husband took our daughter out for dinner when she was about 12 and presented her with a locket on a chain, which represented her heart. She gave him the key, in trust, until she marries. The symbolism of it all still is a tender memory for them both. Had there not been the good relationship between them in the ensuing years it might be a different memory. It is a mistake to think that anything done without the hard work that a good relationship takes will make the relationship.
Ideally my husband and I thought that by going the courtship route we would be saving our daughter from bad relationships and much emotional pain. Our intentions were good on that part. It was only as we both dug deeper into the issues in our own lives and how they affected our relationship that we saw that courtship might be okay in theory but not so ideal in practice. We were strangers enough when we got married. We don't advocate it for others. We were penpals at ages 14 and 16. We stopped writing for a few years in there and met and married when I was 19 and he 21. We had been together in person for a week before we got engaged. It's pure grace that we are still together. I was an atheist and he was from a very conservative evangelical background. We both thought where we came from was normal.
Our daughter is older now than I was when I married. She is often more mature than I am now! And always more mature than I was at her age. Like many other tangents I have gone on in my spiritual journey, letting go of courtship tangent was difficult only because I didn't want to be wrong again. Like someone said on another site they don't so much want to get it right anymore as to get it.(sorry am going to try and figure out where I read that sentence - it was so good.)
Our daughter has lots of issues of her own to work through. Thankfully she has the tools to do so. There are lots of things she is thankful for in her upbringing but she has her eyes open too. Yesterday I was telling my teenage son that as a parent you sometimes wonder if a specific parenting incident gone bad is going to be the one that damages your kids for life. He told me very matter of factly that everyone is damaged for life. It isn't going to stop him from having kids. Somehow that gave me more comfort than his remark 4 years ago that he was never going to be a parent because what right did people have bringing kids into the world just to screw them up.
Marriage is not something to enter into lightly. Neither is parenting. I don't think there is one way to do it that absolves us of facing our humanity. Some people shouldn't marry. Some people shouldn't be parents. I imagine everyone feels like they fall into both categories at some point in the journey. God is bigger than mistakes made in both. Without my belief in that sentence I would be without hope.
I thought that courtship would somehow ensure a great marriage relationship for my daughter. That it would bypass some of the challenges that marriage can bring. I don't think that any more. I encourage my daughter to face her issues, work through them as they come up. I know that some of the issues may not be worked through without the challenges of marriage or parenting. The other day she had to share at college about her journey. She told me that sharing her journey with others involved painting me in a not too favourable light. She knew that even though that wasn't comfortable for me that I affirmed her in telling her own story.
And maybe that is where I have come to in the courtship thing. My daughter is an adult now. Her journey is her story to tell. When my daughter was home over the holidays we watched the first LOTR movie together. Later she told me that after Galadriel had gone through her struggle with Frodo's ring and said, "I pass the test. I will diminish..." she was describing a parent's role in an adult child's life as well. Enough said.