My husband and I were sitting on a wrought iron bench in the middle of Washington Circle. It was a gorgeous Friday in September and we were waiting to meet our son, Ethan, for lunch. Since we were visiting with him and our DIL, in-law issues were at the front and center of my mind. I decided to ask my honey for his “take” on an issue.
“So, if a MIL is anxious about ‘doing the wrong thing’ thereby losing access to her son and grandchildren, what do you think is going on there?”
He paused to think for a moment – this man of mine who doesn’t get too rattled about much of anything. His reply surprised me because he likened the situation to riding a bicycle.
“Have you ever been on a bicycle on the side of a road, a paved street, and you’re right on the edge of the pavement, almost falling off into the dirt & gravel on the side. You’re looking down to make sure your tire doesn’t slip off the edge and spill you into the poison ivy and ragweed. You’re looking in that direction, so you almost feel drawn to where you don’t want to go. And you’re wobbly, trying not to swerve into traffic at the same time. More than a bit off-balance, to be sure.
The solution to this situation is to not look down right in front of you, but to set your sights on a spot further down the road. For whatever reason, that helps to stabilize your steering. The harder you try to navigate the street foot-by-foot, the more difficult it is to stay the course, especially if you’re going uphill.”
“So, if you’re concentrating on the place right where you are” I echoed, “you’re more unsteady than if you fix your gaze on some point in the distance ahead.”
“Yes. If I looked at it relationship-wise, the more you’re comfortable with who you are and you recognize that this MIL/DIL thing is a life-long affair (hopefully!), you worry less about ‘Did I send the right gift?’ or ‘Did I say the wrong thing?’ or ‘What did she mean by that?’ or ‘Why doesn’t she pick up when I call?’ If you keep looking in that direction, you’ll head in that direction.
Relax. Quit worrying. Be who you are, treat her as a friend and it’s likely that a lot of these concerns will sort themselves out or disappear altogether as time goes by. You’ll get there. Keep peddling and set your sights on where you want to go.”
Words from a FIL who enjoys both his daughters-in-law and is not terribly concerned with pleasing them.