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Rust

Does this look like me?

Rust?  What’s rust got to do with the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship?  Possibly more than you might think.

Occasionally I surf the web, looking for suggestions, recommendations, advice – pearls of wisdom – on how to promote good in-law relations. If you’ve done the same, you’ve probably discovered that there’s not much out there. It’s way too “in vogue” – acceptable – to make snide comments about your MIL at which everyone will laugh. Did you ever notice that there are some groups of people who are fair game for public insult and degradation? Mothers-in-law seem to be among these.

Here in America, our communal dysfunction is on display for the whindexole world to enjoy.  Grown women post on Facebook, log onto blog sites, text and phone and appear on television to denigrate those grafted into their families by marriage.  What a novel idea for promoting family bonding!  What an inventive method for communicating to our sons or husband that we really, really love them!  It makes everyone’s holidays that much more enjoyable, doesn’t it?

Wrong.  Bad idea.

Rudeness, criticism,  lack of consideration and mockery are the language of the immature, the ignorant, the self-centered and those starving for the approval of others.

Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches. – Milan Kundera

All it touches.  Everything and everyone.

 

Do these words seem harsh to you?

Definition of rust (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)
1
: the reddish brittle coating formed on iron especially when chemically attacked by moist air;
2
: any of numerous destructive diseases of plants produced by fungi and characterized by reddish-brown pustular lesions
Could we say that belittling someone – whether to their face or behind their back – might be called attacking them?  What about characterizing snobbery or fault-finding as fungi which could cause pustular lesions – wounds – even on a strong person (iron) to slowly form and break down their mettle (pun intended!)?

 

And neglect?  A passive approach which causes rust – verb: To deteriorate or degenerate through inactivity or neglect

Who am I really?  And what kind of stuff am I really made of?
Is rust what’s happening in my heart?  In hers?
Or is this –

rockgard-150x150

 

 

 

 

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What I Learned in May

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Did you catch the rainbow?  They always make me smile!

 

Okay, okay!  So, I seem to be a bit “behind the eight ball” so to speak, with getting my “What I Learned In …. ” posted in a timely manner.   I could tell you I learned it in June so as not to look like I’m late announcing this.  However, truth be told, I did “learn” this in May.  So, I might as well say so.

This was definitely worth recognizing, worth writing about, because it changed my perspective on the MIL/DIL thing.  So, perhaps you’ll find it worth the time to read.  😉

*********************************************************************

This is one thing I became very much aware of in May …..

I’m HIS mother.  And he is a grown man now.  (THAT part I already knew!  Keep reading.)

I’m not HER mother.  I’m not HER friend.  I’m not HER family.  She need have nothing more to do with me than she would with an acquaintance.  My daughter-in-law did not choose me and I didn’t choose her.  They chose one another.  He is HER husband and she is HIS wife.  I have no claim on her – her time, her attention, her friendship, her love.  It may come – and I hope it will – but I have NO claim.  Nada.   Rien.  Niente.  This is at the core of the MIL/DIL relationship.

We both get to choose how much time, energy and effort we will put into the relationship, how far we let the other into our life, how often we want to spend time with one another, … whether we will choose to be friends …. family … allies ….

It may have been different years ago … in previous generations.  And it’s most likely different in other cultures.  (This we will explore in future posts!)  But, for here and for now, that’s what I see.  That’s what I hear.

That sheds some light on the subject … for me!  And in some way …. it seems to make the whole relationship a bit …. easier.  I feel more relaxed.  And that’s got to show.  This “I get it!” realization dissolves any pressure I might have been experiencing – even unknowingly so.  Fewer expectations … fewer “should”s ….. fewer “need to”s …. more time and space to see what, if anything, will come together.

Rainbows?   Perhaps.  But, there’s no rush.  I feel less inclined now to “make it happen” and much more comfortable to “wait and see”.

“Nothing” (Five Minute Friday)

Occasionally, I join the Five Minute Friday community and write for 5 minutes flat on the one-word prompt given for that week.  This week’s word: Nothing. Here we GO!
Paua Shell
Nothing will keep me from loving her.
I’m a MIL – mother-in-law – now.  And I’ve got a DIL – daughter-in-law – who’s not quite sure about me … whether I’m friend or foe; whether I can be trusted as a confidant … will I regard her critically or supportively.  I’ve got my own brand of quirkiness, “interesting” attitudes, ways of doing things … and so does she.  We approach life & politics & religion from different angles.  She & I … we expect different things from our new relationship.
But, nothing will keep me from loving her.
We may annoy one another, inadvertently offend one another, misunderstand, miscommunicate & at least at first, mistrust.
But, I will love her.
Why?  Because that’s what I’m called to do.
STOP

Only Go In ….

Only go in as far as you are invited.

In the MIL/DIL relationship, this sounds like a very healthy approach.

When you visit someone’s home, do you barge in or do you ring the doorfront doorbell and wait for someone to open the door?  Do you march into their kitchen and open their fridge or do you wait to be invited to sit down and be offered a cup of tea and biscuits?   When they offer to give you the 25 cent tour, do you insist on viewing the bedrooms or do you follow their lead as they point out things that they’d like you to notice?

Is your MIL/DIL a hugger?  Or not?  Be sensitive to this.  Is it a cultural thing or a personal preference?  Does your MIL/DIL want help when cooking a meal?  Or is the kitchen her domain?  pregnant-woman-choosing-name-her-baby-20047832Or advice on parenting or investing or how to throw a great party?  Does she mind when you text her at work?  Is your phone call every Sunday welcome?  When it comes to where to buy a home, a name for the baby, how to land that great job, whether she should home school the kids …

… only go in as far as you are invited.

If you push your way in – on any issue or in any situation – it’s likely you’ll be met with resistance … in the form of coldness, withdrawal, sarcasm, criticism, correction, or worse – outright rejection, verbal attack.  Who among us likes pushy people?  Or busybodies who are regularly interjecting themselves in other people’s business?

Paopen front doortience.  Wait until she is ready for the next step toward sharing.  Wait until she sees more of who you really are instead of who she thinks you are.  Wait until respect comes into play … until familiarity and trust have their way.  And acceptance.  Maturity.  It takes time.  Only vegetables and fruits germinate, flower, ripen and re-seed in the same year.  Few relationships mature that quickly.

Don’t kick against the goads.  Recognize that you both have a lot to offer one another.  And neither of you needs to be in a hurry to be liked, appreciated, understood and ….. loved.

That’s what I’m learning.  🙂

MIL/DIL Counsel: Never Heard This Before!

Recently read this interesting counsel on two-older-black-women-outdoors-14309798Tips to Improve Your Relationship with Your MIL:

“If you have the same standard for your mother-in-law as you have for your mother, then the problem will be gone.”

I’ve never heard that before!  Have you?

What do you think about that idea?  It sounds intriguing to me.  Could it work?  What would that look like and sound like?  How might it specifically play out?  About what standards are we talking here?

“Say it ain’t so” that we should take this to mean that if one has an unhealthy relationship with one’s mother that she should use this as a template with her MIL  So, should we talk about patience, kindness and respect?  Am I as considerate of my MIL at family gatherings as I am of my Mom?  Am I as willing to overlook her occasional faux pas?  What about including her in activities, outings, parties and discussions?

If I love my mother, should I also look to love my mother-in-law?  The answer, of course, is a resounding “Yes!”  And love means, in small part, to be generous in one’s thoughts about another.  Love results in a willingness to forgive and keep no record of wrongdoing, especially if it was inadvertent.Smiley Face Cupcakes Royalty Free Stock Photo, Pictures, Images And Stock Photography. Image 7823065.

Is this realistic?  Clearly, we are not proposing that we treat our MIL exactly the same as we treat the woman who wiped our snotty noses, got her hands goopy with Play Doh, made cupcakes for the classroom holiday parties, waited up at night when we were out on a date, and prayed for our spouses since the day we were born.  No, if we were blessed with a mother that nurtured and cared for us, that woman will always hold a special place of honor in our hearts.  And she will not be replaced by another.  Still, that doesn’t mean we cannot have a special place in our hearts for the woman who did all those things for the man we chose – of all the men we’d ever met – to do life with.  Perhaps, this, more than anything else is what is meant by “have the same standard”.

Are you interested in trying this on for size?  Let me know what you learn about her … and yourself. 😉

 

 

Over a Bowl of Fruit at Sammy J’s (part 1)

“This whole issue of expectations seems to cause a good deal of conflict between  MILs and DILs.”

I offered this as an opening to my conversation with Bonnie as we sat together on a warm summer day in a very busy diner.  We hadn’t known each other very long, but were both involved in a weekly Friday morning  group.  I was curious to hear her story as she had written about her MIL/DIL relationship  that “We have come a looong way in  32+ yrs.”  bowl of fruitShe was enthusiastic to share.  I followed her lead and ordered a bowl of fruit and iced tea.

“I’m all for full disclosure” she stated.  “Get it all out on the table.”  The waitress placed our food and drinks in front of us.

Even though Bonnie and I hadn’t spent much time together, I wasn’t surprised by this.  She is a “straight-shooter”, one who rarely minces words.

“I want to know what your expectations are and I want to respect them.  Tell me.  There’s no right or wrong.  I wish my MIL had done that with me.”

Isn’t that a great attitude?  She wants to respect her MIL.  But, what about this:  Is it true – that there are no “right” or “wrong” expectations?  Expectations are  … conjecture.  We suppose that something or someone will be a certain way.  Let’s check out the definition:  expectation – a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. 

“So” I ventured, “do you remember what your expectations were when you married?”

“I think the term ‘mother’ has enough connotations in itself for one to expect … umm… love.  Not mushy, gushy love, but love and respect.  And because Matthew chose badly, she was kind of ‘standoffish.'”

I was confused.  “She felt that your husband chose badly when he chose you?”

“Yeah” she replied.  “Below him.”

Around us customers came and went.  The blender whirred.  The dishes were cleared off the table next to us.  And I didn’t know what to say.  Does this kind of thing still happen?  Seriously? I took a sip of the cold tea aiced teand wondered “Why would she feel that way?” .

“Umm, I was rough around the edges.  Very independent.  I didn’t need anybody.  I don’t need you.  I’m a Christian and at that point I was three years in the Lord and God had done a lot of work in me before she met me.  She should know that!”

We both erupted in laughter.  Some of us just know that we have come a long way and still have a long way to go.

Bonnie continued.  “But I was …   She paused, thinking.  “They were upper middle class … and I wasn’t.  I was …. I can imagine his mom having sleepless nights thinking about Matthew marrying me.  She didn’t know me … all she knew was what she saw –  tomboy …. bold-speaking … aggressive … and it was hard for her.”

Hard for her?  Yes.  Because her expectations for her son were not being met.  Where did these expectations come from?  Did she even know she had them?  What were yours when you married or added a DIL to your family?

Stay tuned for Part 2!

It’s Her Birthday!

It’s her birthday!  We want to send a  gift that she will enjoy and that will show our love.

Our son and his wife live hundreds of miles away and we don’t see them as often as we would like (which would be weekly!)

So, we call our son weeks ahead.  No, he doesn’t pick up.  Does this happen to you when you call your adult sons?  We leave a voice mail message  asking what his honey might like.  This ought to make it easy.  He’ll know.  He’ll know just what would make her smile!

No response.   Hmmm.  Perhaps voice mail is nationally disabled.  Have you heard anything about this in the news?  No?   Perhaps his phone ran out of battery juice and he lost the charger.  Very possible.

Email.  Same thing – no response.  Has all of his technology broken down?   Perhaps he fell in a gigantic sinkhole while on the way home from work one day?  That’s gotta be it.

Okay.  Clothes?  Let’s try clothes.   What mother of two sons wouldn’t like to buy pretty clothes for a DIL?   Oooh!  Here’s a pretty  blouse.  Elegant!  Great color.  And it’s her hard-to-find size.     blouse

Shall I buy it?  I love it.  It would look lovely on her.  Yes, I’ll buy it.

Will she like it?   Shall we send it or ask first?  If we send it and she doesn’t like it, it will be worn once and then “deep six-ed” in her closet … possibly for years.  You know!  You’ve probably got some of those in your closet right now.

Let’s ask.  Cell phone out … take pic … hit “send”.  “It’s the right size … silky … blue & black print …”

Her response?  “Probably not.”

Hmmm …… Maybe she couldn’t really see how pretty it is because the photo was too small.  That must be it.  Such a shame.  Too late to return it.  Wait a minute!  Can we salvage this situation?  What do you know?   I wear the same hard-to-find size!  and it’ll go perfectly with …

Ooops!  Sorry!  Back to the issue at hand.  Okay, how about we stay away from clothes since I’ve missed that mark now about eight times.  I’ve yet to get a feel for her style, but it will come.  I’ll keep working on that.  I’m nothing if not persistent.

Brainstorming … My parents once treated us to dinner and the theatre. “Sweeney Todd” was playing in Boston that month.  We’d never heard of the show, but it turned out to be darkly entertaining.  A chilling story about love & loss.   Many years later, we still remember the fun we had that evening.  tickets

Great idea!  Google ” theatre in DC” … Oooh!  Great local venue!   Lots of options for concerts and shows.   Let’s send the link to our son and DIL and let them pick what they’d really enjoy!

Response:  “Nothing really piqued our interest.”

Ouch!  Don’t you just hate it when your best idea doesn’t turn out to be someone else’s favorite?   Gotta keep at this.  The special day is getting closer.  We’re thinking “We LOVE you and want to celebrate you in our lives!”  So, we figure we’ll at least send a card saying “You are a joy to our hearts!” and we really mean it.  We do.

Our son finally calls!  I make a mental note to mark this down in my diary:  “Son survives giant sinkhole, total communication blackout in the DC area and temporary memory loss.  What a great day!”

He offers suggestions.  Great!  Knock-around shoes.  Running tights.  Baking dish.   “Super!   Send links.  Soon, please.”

We wait expectantly for his email.   It should be here this evening.

Nothing.  Now, it’s too late to send a gift that will arrive in-time.  Hmmm.  Disown son?  No, we love him too much.  Take a deep breagiftth.  Be patient.  Note to self:  Start this process earlier in the month … or year.

Finally, links show up in our Inbox.   Good.  But, did you forget to send color preferences and shoe size?  We email him again.

No reply.  Nothing for days.  Definitely thinking about cutting this son out of the will.  Or should we simply cut him out of the whole gift-giving process?  Is that what he’s trying to communicate?  What do you think?

We resort to texting our DIL and ask her directly.  (Texting is her preferred method of communication these days.  With us, at least.  Can you identify?)  There’s no longer a possibility of surprising her now.   Oh, well!  Her gift will arrive late, but will definitely be something she likes and will use and wear.

Okay.   Black running tights, not grey with Dragonfruit accents.   (See?  I would have chosen the Dragonfruit accents!  I love bright colors.)  Click, pay, send.  Mission accomplished.  Phew!

Email yesterday from DIL:  “Thank-you!”

🙂  We love you, Juliana.  Happy birthday!  And may this year be the best one yet!