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Slights Happen

“What does she mean by that?”

Do you ever feel slighted by your MIL/DIL?  Chances are, the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”  Well, that might be more your problem than hers.  Read on and ask yourself if you can see two sides to each of the following complaints:

“She didn’t text, email, Facebook, Tweet or call on my birthday.  Again.”

“She never eats much when she comes over for dinner.”

“She always calls at the most inconvenient times.”

“My DIL never picks up the phone when I call.  It always goes through to voice mail.”

“My MIL just stopped by to visit yesterday and she didn’t call first.”

You know what I’m talking about.  A slight is “an insult caused by a failure to show someone proper respect or attention”.  They can be real as in “Wow!  You’ve really put on weight!”  And they can be “suspected” as in “She’s always offering to help.  Is that a thinly disguised vote of “No confidence”?

Was disrespect intentional or simply a  matter of bad timing, faulty assumptions, forgetfulness, or generational differences?  How do you know?  Does it matter?  Would your response be any different?  Should it?

Interesting questions to ask oneself as a MIL or DIL.

Sometimes our perceptions of slights are more a consequence of our own mood at that moment.   Sort of like humor. Funny – not funny. Annoying – endearing.  Stupid – silly.  Appreciated – not so much.  So, a valuable practice would be to ask ourselves whether we are feeling hungry, tired, worried or “under the weather”.img_20160322_093951

Slights can happen a LOT between a MIL and a DIL when communication is lacking or a healthy, foundational understanding hasn’t yet been established.  Think about it – if your good friend looks at your hair and says “Do you want to take a little more off the top to give that “do” more height?”, would you be offended?  Or would you think “Hey, she’s interested in helping me finfettucini-wzucchini-and-arugulad a good hairstyle that flatters my face.”  When another friend offers to share with you a favorite recipe, are you worried that she thinks you aren’t a good cook?  Or would you see it as strengthening a bond of commonality?

That’s when it makes a big difference whether or not you are spending the time and energy to build a MIL/DIL relationship that is open, honest, encouraging and loving.  That’s when it pays off to care enough to really see who your MIL/DIL is as a person instead of putting her in a box with an “in-law” label.

Here’s a link to an interesting article by Rick Hanson, PhD entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Take Slights Personally” – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-wise-brain/201104/why-you-shouldnt-take-slights-personally

Slights.  Is the best response to confront? Retaliate?  Are they like those pesky little black flies – best dealt with before they can really get to us and cause bites that swell and hurt for days?  Would we be better off all-around if we gave them the kind of consideration that the word implies – very little?blackflies

None of us wants to be thought of, or to see ourselves, as little or small.   But, isn’t that, in fact, how we act when we give too much consideration to slights?

And if you think that perhaps I am lecturing on this issue, well, can you imagine why I am entertaining this topic on my blog?  🙂

Got a story to share on this topic?  Let’s hear it.  And tell us how it can help MILs and DILs become “friends and allies”.

 

He’s My Baby! (part two)

Joyce and I continued our conversation about sons “leaving and cleaving” and how that might feel to a mother.  Sitting on a comfortable, floral-design couch in front of a square, oak coffee table that her talented husband had crafted, we looked out the windows to the waters of the lake, cresting in white caps in the steady wind.

“Just wait until you have sons of your own.  Then, you’ll understand!”

She doesn’t say it, but … she still might think it! says Joyce.

Our sons.  We pour our “blood, sweat and tears” into raising them to be hard-working, resourceful, contributing members of the human race.  We yell “Whoopee!” when they finally are … practically pushing them out of the proverbial nest They move out, and off they go to find a place of their own, and a love of their own.  They land jobs, settle down and start their own families.

Yes!

Still, might there be just a bit of melancholy involved in the “leaving” part that is our dream for them?  Oh, it may have begun years before when we packed them off to college and wondered who was going to mow the lawn now and who was going to play the music we’d listened to and actually begun to enjoy and who was going to draw us to school concerts and rugby games and having to make Halloween costumes at the last minute?  But, a sense of loss might solidify when these men – yes, men – covenant with their beloveds – “until death parts us.”  No matter how much we’d like to turn back the clock (just for a bit) to re-live some of those sweet moments of their growing up, it’s official – they ain’t comin’ back!

A door closes.  A chapter ends.  And there’s no future in the past.

Perhaps, just perhaps, in some small way, and at certain moments, a mother may feel “left behind”.  After a job well-done, Mom watches her son “graduate” – and then finds herself at the chalkboard … in an empty classroom.

Are we sad for the leaving?  Yes.  And no.

Do we look forward to many more special times together?  Yes!  Do we celebrate the men they have become and are still becoming?  Sure do!  Do we love their wives and thank God for grafting these women into our families?  Absolutely!  Wouldn’t change a thing about how this has worked out so far!

“Why, then, are you crying?

Silly question!  Can we not be happy and sad at the same time?  Certainly.  And when those tears mix together, they make up the word “bittersweet“!

 

 

He’s My Baby!

2014-04-13 12.23.17This post is being written @ 38,000 feet on Southwest FL2547 from Chicago Midway to San Francisco Int’l.  It’s been a bumpy ride since take-off and my pen – yes, I really do write with pen on paper – has been jumping about on the page.  Still, a writer writes, and nothing will stop her!

I stufIMG_20160416_162246f my earbuds in …. I hate those things!  Has anyone found a comfortable pair?  They all seem to want to fall out of my ears … right at the best part of the song, story, interview. …. switch on the digital recorder and punch “play” and suddenly, I’m right back in Joyce’s kitchen, grabbing a cup of herbal tea.  Joyce always has a welcoming smile, even if youIMG_20160416_164129 drop by unannounced (Don’t try that with your DIL, by the way, unless she’s put out the welcome mat specifically for those kind of visits.) Joyce and I plop ourselves down on the sofa and started talking about forging new relationships with people we have known for decades and those we’re just getting to know.

Joyce was recalling the early years of her son’s marriage.

“I was really close to Ben back then…. when they were childless. … Honestly, I think I talk with Betsy more now than I do Ben.”

Joyce intimated that it had taken years to change how she interacted  with her son.  He had married while still in college.

“It’s kinda weird.  You feel bad, because you know he’s a man and he’s married, but that’s my baby!”

Seriously?  I had been under the impression that those very same emotions that I had been experiencing were the result of an improper perspective, an underdeveloped sense of self, immaturity, or perhaps a measure of estrogen-induced derangement.  Yet, here was a grandmother of twelve sharing with me her own inner turmoil – quite similar to my own.

JoIMG_20160416_163415yce and I had both looked forward to – prayerfully and eagerly – to our children marrying, having kids of their own, “doing life” with spouses who would fit them like “hand in glove”.  When the genesis for that scenario actually took place, I had an “out-of-body experience”.

“Who is that woman crying about her son being wed to someone simply wonderful?”

Yeah.  He is definitely her husband, and I’m truly thrilled about it …. but he’s my baby!

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Does this resonate with you?  Or not?  Go on – share with us.

What’s In a Name?

Okay, so here’s an idea that popped into my head while on my way to the airport to fly to Chicago. We would be spending the weekend with our older son and ….

That’s where we get to fill in the blank.

Am I thinking “our son and his wife”? or “Our son and our DIL”? or “Our son and Natalie”?

Do you find it all surprising that these three titles, names, labels all connect with their own flavors, connotations, and each evokes its own particular emotion, attitude and mindset? I considered this realization to be an “Aha! moment – an epiphany.

Does it bring up a feeling of possessiveness when I think of Natalie as my DIL? Is she somehow “mine”? Is there ownership or overseeing to be done if she is? Think about this: my husband, my friends, my parents. What is mine I have a say over. What is mine I influence; I sometimes control; I have a special interest in and, perhaps, investment in. So, I might be more inclined to interact with “my” or “mine“. I am definitely connected with “my“.  Somehow, it might feel quite natural to take more liberties with my ____________. What do you make of that?

Now, let’s try this: Let’s say “my son and his wife”. That feels different. That seems to acknowledge that Natalie is primarily related to Kristof; that my relationship with Natalie is because of him; that they are a couple and because she is in relationship with him, she is in relationship to me. So, there feels a bit of space, perhaps personal distance between her and me.  After all, she is not mine.  She is his.

Then again, I might simply refer to her by her name – Natalie. “I’m going to call Natalie.” “I wonder what Natalie would enjoy for a birthday present.” “Natalie is a fine cook!” More space around Natalie here, isn’t there. It might seem like she stands more as her own person with her own unique history, personality, gifts, preferences, style, … unencumbered by role expectations, obligations or even forced feelings of familiarity.

“My DIL” I might assume I know. “Kristof’s wife” I don’t know as well as he does. “Natalie” I’m getting to know and I’d like to know better.

Does it feel the same for a DIL who considers these options toward her MIL?  My MIL?  His mother?   Ginny Liz?

What’s in a name? Perhaps more than any of us has recently considered!

What’s your take on this?

 

Time (fiveminutefriday)

Linking up again this week with the Five Minute Friday crowd. We take the prompt word and write for five minutes straight; no editing, no overthinking, ….just five minutes of writing. Don’t forget to go and encourage the writer before and after you.   The link for FMF ishttp://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/

Today’s prompt word…….Time!   Ready, set, go

Time.  It takes time to build a great MIL/DIL relationship.  Time to get to know who she is … and time to get to know who you are in this new relationship.  It takes time to learn what she likes and dislikes, what she is interested in, what her personality profile is and what she expects from you …  as well as what you expect from her.  It takes time to cool down when she’s said or done something that has offended or angered you and it takes time to learn what to let stick and what to let roll off your back.  It takes time.  Is there any good, worthwhile relationship that  doesn’t?  It takes time to learn how to see things from the other’s perspective and to accept them for who they are without trying to change them.  Time.  A precious commodity, for sure.  And an important factor is learning to love the other woman in your son/husband’s life.  Don’t rush it!

Doing Things – Her Way or My Way

So, a MIL who is looking to “do it right” or “do it well” might make efforts to be mindful of how her DIL “does things” when it comes to situations like interacting with grandchildren, cooking in the DIL’s kitchen, celebrating holidays together, taking joint vacations. Mothers-in-law who don’t want to “step on toes” would certainly observe and ask about the traditions, practices and preferences of their daughters-in-law.

This is exactly what was happening with Valerie and her MIL.

Val and I had gotten the three children successfully off to bed after a noisy, busy, enjoyable November day. We were lounging on the sofa with cups of tea and soothing music playing in the background and hoped to explore a bit of the MIL/DIL experience before we both nodded off.

When I asked Valerie whether or not her relationship with her MIL changed much when she became a fiancée instead of just a girlfriend, she raised an eyebrow and related a conversation with her future in-laws just before her beloved, who was away on business at that time, popped the question. They were curious because their son had made a number of very leading statements. Valerie’s future MIL asked a number of “bold” questions, like “Do you want children?”

“Whoa!” thought Valerie. “This is really forward! I wasn’t, obviously, offended, but I thought ‘My goodness! She is just not holding back!’”

Not easily angered or offended. I like that about Val. And it’s HUGE in a MIL/DIL relationship.

“Looking back on it, I can totally understand why she was throwing out these blunt questions. Her son was about to, like, ‘jump off a cliff’ and ask me. So, she was trying to cram it all in.”

“Is she pretty blunt, in general?” I wondered aloud.

“No, I’d say she’s diplomatic. I mean she’s respectful. Not blunt as in aggressive or anything like that. No.”

Respectful.

When it comes to her MIL operating in their home and with their children, her MIL will regularly ask “How do you want me to do this?”

Kudos to this MIL!

“I think that because I’m very blunt” says Valerie, “ I’m just sort of matter-of-fact. I’ll say ‘I don’t know. I don’t have an opinion.’ Or ‘We do this, but I don’t care what you do.’ Not everybody likes that or is used to that, so I don’t know if that’s weird for her. I do get a lot of ‘I don’t know how you do this’ which is understandable. She’s in our home. She doesn’t want to step on toes. So, I go out of my way to say ‘You are not going to get this wrong in any way, shape or form. I’m grateful …. Sue, I promise!’ Even if it’s something silly in the kitchen, like ‘I don’t know if I’m using this wrong’ or ‘I just burnt your spoon’ or ‘I don’t know what kind of mustard you use.’

“You really can’t mess this up. I promise!” Val tells her MIL. “You’re helping me. You’re being ‘Grandma’.”

“That’s generous!” I blurted out. “Shouldn’t it be that way? Shouldn’t it be that way that when we are together, we don’t need to be so picky about things? Why do we cop the attitude ‘It’s my house so it needs to be done my way?’”

Acceptance. Definition: receiving as suitable or adequate; welcome; favorable reception; receiving what’s offered

In other words, recognizing that another person is not going to do, think, see, approach everything in exactly the same way that you do … and being “okay” with that. Acknowledging with word, attitude or action that another has an equally valid way of “doing things” and allowing her to do it in a way that’s comfortable for her.

Of course, we’re not talking about clearly dangerous or life-threatening methods or behavior. That’s a different situation. However, most of our relationships with our MILs and DILs happen in everyday, ordinary moments of eating, cooking, shopping, driving, don’t they? And that’s where acceptance can be so significant and so appreciated.

When was the last time you extended acceptance to your MIL/DIL? Hopefully, you don’t have to think too long and hard about the answer. 😉

BTW, the opposite of acceptance is what?

Antonym: rejection

One Christmas Many Years Ago

So, it’s that time of the year. A time when we look back on 2015 and then look forward to a new year. A time to review the past and set goals for the future. Perhaps it is a good time to share two DIL’s stories and a fond memory.

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She had expected to be accepted.

Isn’t that a simple, basic, realistic expectation? That the woman your son decides to marry would be welcomed into the family as an important, significant, valuable person who belongs and is on equal footing with everyone else? This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has to be best friends. But, is it really too much to ask that a MIL make the effort to send the message that the DIL is welcome at any and all family gatherings and events? That her ideas, opinions and thoughts will be treated with the same consideration that the MIL would want others to show her? That she is to be treated with common courtesy, respect and, yes, love? Not necessarily affection, but with the attitude that conveys “I am for you. We are now on the same team.”

After all, the two have become one.

But, she wasn’t accepted. Why? Because she was Protestant. And his family was Catholic.

“This was the 1950s when religion was everything.” His mother had already “picked out” the young lady he was to marry.

What does it feel like when you choose the one person with whom you want to partner for life, the one to whom you have given your heart, the man with whom you want to build a family and his family shuts the door in your face saying “You’re not welcome here. You’re not like us. You’re not what we’d hoped for for our son. You don’t fit in.”

What do you do?

I can’t answer that because my experience was very different. I’d met my honey in August and dated him into October, when he asked me to marry him. We flew to Chicago at Christmastime so that I could meet his parents. He had called ahead to let them know that he was bringing his fiancee and they had said that they weren’t surprised.

If you know Chicago, you know that there winters are abominably cold and snowy. So, when we got out of the airport limo and walked through the garage into the house, the warmth of the reception drove away any chill I might have been feeling. My future MIL smiled broadly, embraced me and said wholeheartedly “Welcome to the family!”

Thirty-five years later I can still see the scene in my mind’s eye. And I knew acceptance.

She didn’t know much about me then, but she had determined in her heart and mind that she was going to love me and do everything in her power to encourage our marriage to succeed. What a kind and wise woman my MIL was! She left us 17 years ago, but her influence lives on.

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So, if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, consider this: I’m going to accept my MIL/DIL for who she is – a most important woman in my son’s/husband’s life! I will celebrate in my heart and mind the qualities in her that are admirable and I will remember that some characteristics that aren’t so lovely, … well, I have plenty of those, too!

Acceptance. It’s one of the things we are all looking for in this life. You can afford to offer it to your MIL/DIL.

Thank-you, MT, for accepting me – warts and all. There’s so much I wish I could talk with you about now that I’m a MIL, too!

I hope we meet again.