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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“!

 

 

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Affirmations for Mothers-in-Law & Daughters-in-Law – Round Three

This from a woman who has three beautiful grandchildren and carefully considers:

I will make a conscious effort to consistently respect my DIL.

I appreciate and enjoy the fact that she is loved and adored by my son!

I will regularly affirm her by pointing out things I admire about her.

I remember to say to her things like “You are such a great Mom!”.

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How nice it feels when someone sincerely says “Well done!”

Wouldn’t it make significant difference to each of us if we practiced these simple things and were on the receiving end of them, too?

Simple.
Worth it.
Be intentional.

Affirmations – Round 1

A few thoughts from one reader as she rolls through a Saturday morning with three young children to feed, clothe and clean house with.

I will allow my MIL room to be herself as long as things are respectful as well as healthy for our children.

I won’t judge my MIL because I’m not walking in her shoes.

I trust that my MIL has our best interests at heart.                     

I will regularly pray for my MIL, her marriage, her health and our time together.

I will practice patience with my MIL and appreciate that she is patient with me when I parent differently than she would.

*****

These affirmations – repeated regularly – can lead one’s heart, mind and relationship down healthy and enjoyable paths!

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Who’s next?

Affirmations for MILs and DILs

One of the “best practices” adopted by agents and speakers in the company with whom I work is to use affirmations to help focus on our goals, train ourselves in disciplined thought, encourage ourselves in the direction we’d like to move and generally plant and rehearse constructive ideas in our minds. These affirmations are to be recited – with conviction – daily or more often. They are to be carefully worded declarations of what we are choosing to dwell upon, work toward, change and accomplish. They are attitudes we’ve decided to adopt and actions we’ve purposed to take to make this year one in which we achieve great things, enjoy life more fully and become more of the person we’d like to be.

So, as I read through the list of affirmations that my accountability partner had sent me for the year, I was impressed by her stated desire to excel, not only in her employment, but also in her marriage, ministry and relationships with sons, DILs and grandchildren. Wow!

A few weeks later, as we reviewed our goals again during a long-distance telephone call, I shared with her my renewed desire to write a book on the MIL/DIL relationship. And then, a thought struck me: What an interesting idea! To write and recite daily affirmations regarding our MIL/DIL relationships. This could be transformational!

So, would you throw in your two cents? Especially those of you – my silent audience?! Share some affirmations to which you have committed. OR some that you believe will improve, strengthen, deepen your ties to your MIL/DIL. OR those you would advise others of us to consider. Would you?

I’ll collect and post them and they’ll serve as more opportunities to enrich our lives.

Stress, Grief, Loss and Craziness

You remember Jody from the “Step-MIL” post a month ago? Good. Her story continues – this time as the DIL.

At first, it couldn’t have been easier, couldn’t have been better. Jody’s husband, Chester, had grown up in a country where it was common for families to have maids attending to most of the household duties as well as caring for the children. Chester’s mother, Penelope, spent her time and energy baking and entertaining, things in which Jody had little interest or proficiency. This, Jody surmised, might have been the reason they “got on” so well – no competition. They were “so different” from one another, each having skill and accomplishments in completely different realms.

Then, all that changed.

Jody and Chester birthed their first child, moved thousands of miles away from family of any sort, and Chester’s father passed away. A trifecta of “significant life changes”, scoring over 200 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Have you experienced a tsunami such as this in your own life? What happened to the “you” that was you?

Jody reports that her MIL began making unkind comments. While shopping together one day, Jody asked the shopkeeper a question. To Jody’s surprise, Penelope leaned toward the woman and said conspiratorially “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I’ll tell you what she needs.”

This behavior continued for a number of years during Penelope’s infrequent visits which were paid for by Chester & Jody. Things “came to a head” one day when Penelope made what Jody says was an especially critical comment to her son, Trevor, age six. After that, Jody could not even bring herself to sit at the same table with Penelope. She was so upset and hurt by what she saw as her MIL’s meanness. Visits across the ocean have altogether ceased in the past eight years as the desire to facilitate Penelope’s transit has evaporated.

“Was it something you did or said that caused the conflict? I inquired. Jody could think of nothing and mentioned that she had noticed that her MIL’s relationships with her other DILs had soured earlier.

Did she think about confronting Penelope about the situation – seeking to uncover the cause of the “about-face” in her attitude?

Nope, that wasn’t Jody’s style. Would it have cleared things up? One can only guess.

Chester’s take on his mother’s behavior? “She’s gone crazy.”

What happened here? Was it the move, the great loss of her husband? Was it the arrival and “loss” of a grandson? Did Penelope realize what was at stake and how her words were wounding? I wondered as I nibbled french fries and sipped a Lemon & Paeroa.

What role might grief have played in these situations? They do say that when you grieve such a significant loss, you go “a bit crazy”.

We humans are complex beings and our relationships are naturally complex. More often than not, there are no simple answers.

Do you see yourself on either side of this situation? If so, what will you do differently now that you’ve had a “birds-eye view”?

If not, what, without judging, are the “take-aways” that will improve our own MIL/ DIL relationships?

Your thoughts?

Sharing Her Mother’s Heart

When Isabel heard about my foray into the murky waters in plumbing the depths of the MIL/DIL relationship, right away she wanted to share her story. And it might be an all-too-common one, even though each person who lives it might believe she is the only one to endure such misunderstanding and heartache. Still, she has great hope that there will be a happier ending. Let’s listen to Isabel tell about being a MIL.

When her son, Andrew, was in middle school, Isabel drove him to soccer practice and often stayed to watch. On one of those occasions, they bumped into another mom and her unruly daughter, there for the same reason.

“I wonder if my son will marry a girl like that” Isabel pondered.

Don’t you know that years later, that’s exactly whom he married! Small world indeed.

The girl’s name was Adrienne. At the end of the school year, she and her family moved to Greece to rejoin his family and learn the family business. Many years later, they returned to the States, and subsequently Adrienne transferred to the same school that Andrew was attending. Both of them ended up at the same party one night and instantly connected.

They never looked back.

“It’s good” Isabel says, after celebrating more than 15 years of their marriage.

But, she wasn’t always sure that this is how it would go. When Andrew & Adrienne first started dating, Isabel felt the need to write to her son, cautioning him against moving too fast in the relationship, to think things through carefully. She “shared her heart”.

“He wasn’t happy.”

Know what Andrew heard? He heard that his mother didn’t like Adrienne.

Is that what Isabel really said? Or was her motivation to help her son make this “second-most-important choice in life” a really good one? Was she saying “Think over what you want in life and don’t rush into this lifetime commitment”?

In any case, Isabel became his enemy and Adrienne, his comfort. Andrew never confessed to telling Adrienne about their conversation, but Isabel believes that he did . And that, Isabel says, has cost them years of heartache.

Andrew and Adrienne became engaged to marry, and Isabel wanted to encourage them. She took Adrienne aside, sharing with her the same message she had shared with her own daughter upon her engagement. Isabel now says that this was a mistake.

From her own many years of experience, Isabel knew that marriage is challenging. She, no doubt, had experienced those times when one is not quite sure that one has made the best choice deciding to marry this person … or to marry at all. She voiced this, trying to prepare Adrienne for the inevitable, to help steel her soon-to-be-DIL against the passing discontents and disappointments that all married couples must overcome.

“She didn’t hear me. She didn’t hear me. Know what she heard?”

A long time later, Isabel found out.

How often do our very best intentions result in exactly the opposite results from those we are hoping for? I know the answer to this – too often!

In the meantime, Isabel and her husband, Gustav, welcomed Adrienne into the family, and shared with her and Andrew everything they offered their own daughter and son-in-law. Andrew and Adrienne reacted coolly and remained distant, often declining invitations to share time with Isabel and Gustav at the family vacation home on the ocean. Grandkids came along, but time with them was limited. Hopes of sharing with them the thrills of sailing, kayaking and hiking went largely unfulfilled.

So much lost time and opportunities.

One evening, as Adrienne, Andrew, Isabel and Gustav sat together enjoying cups of freshly brewed coffee, conversation lagged between them yet again. And then, the proverbial “dam” broke. Isabel could stand the conflict no longer.

“What is this between us?” she cried.

She had wondered if her daughter, who also had a strong personality, was at odds with Adrienne. Had this caused the rift? Had her husband done or said something so offensive that it would haunt the family for years?

“I was God-smacked when I learned it was me” she exclaimed.

According to Adrienne, long, long ago Isabel had said that Adrienne was less than a desirable partner for Andrew, that she had hoped for someone with a better upbringing, with a higher social standing.

What?!

“I was undone. … I cannot say that I said I was sorry. … I was incredulous that she would accuse me of that. …. And I couldn’t own it, because it wasn’t true!”

It wasn’t true.

“All those summer holidays and long weekends that we had together as families, that I thought were so good, were horrible for them. We have lost years!” Tears ran down her cheeks even as she remembered the pain of that realization.

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How could Adrienne have heard what was not said?

Have you ever told yourself something often enough and for a long enough time that you actually believe it is true? Probably most of us do so unawares. We actually convince ourselves of falsehoods – about ourselves and others.

Examine your own self-talk about your MIL/DIL. Is it truthful? Is it helpful or hurtful?

What thoughts about your MIL/DIL keep playing over and over in your head? Are they facts or interpretations?

Does shame and guilt over past choices overshadow your every conversation and interaction with your MIL/DIL?

What are your “take-aways” from this story?

BTW, there’s more to this story.

Hope.

That’s one reason I keep writing!

Wedding Plans and Fran the Cow

So, you met Fran in the last post.  She called me the other day to announce that her son and DIL were expecting a child.  What wonderful news!  Ed and Gina had waited until the dangers of the first trimester of pregnancy had passed before making any announcement to family or friends.  This seems to be quite common these days.  Fran exclaimed her frustration with the fact that during the 10 days she had recently spent with her son and DIL, they had not once leaked their secret.  10 days!  That’s a long time to keep one’s lips sealed while in the presence of interested parties.  They also did not take advantage of the opportunity to ascertain the sex of the unborn child.  This is not a common thing to do these days.  Fran is perplexed!

But, let’s scroll back a few years to the planning of Ed and Gina’s wedding.  Here’s another one of Fran’s stories as she weaves a bit of fun into a serious message and situation.

In the case of each son & DIL, Fran had nothing to do with the wedding preparations.  On this occasion, it was intentional.  I voiced my opinion that the whole “Planning the Wedding” thing was a social minefield that I had not expected.  She chose not to navigate it, but to fly over in a helicopter, so to speak.  Early on in the process, Fran looked Gina square in the eye and held her shoulders as she spoke.

“Gina, this is your day.  You need to have the wedding that you’ve always dreamed of.  I will not make any demands upon you … except for one thing.”

As Fran tells it, the expression on Gina’s face went from one of ease to wariness.  What was this soon-to-be MIL going to say next?  And did she really have to accede to this woman’s demands?

“What is it?” Gina asked.Priscilla the Cow

“I want Fran the Cow to walk you down the aisle.”

Well, Gina just burst our laughing.  Turns out that Gina’s family lives on and operates a dairy farm and they had named one of the cows after Ed’s mother after the engagement was announced.  (Cows are people, too, you know!)  So, when Gina heard Fran’s request, she knew that her future MIL was joking and was, in a way, poking fun at the stereotypical MIL who regularly demands that things be done her way or there will be trouble to pay!

Fran went on to talk a bit more about her relationship with Gina.

“You mentioned that you had thought that a relationship with your DIL would be easy.  And in my case, it really was – very easy, very natural”

“To what do you attribute that?  You’ve probably never thought about it” I suggested.

Her answer:  “Gina.  Gina is very easygoing and sweet and nice and perfect.  As a matter of fact, I always talk about her in glowing terms.  A lot of people make comments saying ‘Wow!  I’ve never heard of a MIL speaking so highly about a DIL!’  They are so surprised that I have that relationship with her.”

“In general, it seems quite … um…would you say “fashionable” to complain” I interjected.

“Exactly!  Think about all the MIL jokes” replied Fran with a wry smile.

“I’ve wondered where those all come from and I haven’t really figured it out” I mused.

“Oh, I’m sure they come from experience because … ” Fran sat back and looked at the space above my head for a moment, lost in thought.  Then, she went on to tell about her experience as a DIL.

But, that’s for another post.

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One of my “take-aways”?

Fran had taken advantage of a critical opportunity to communicate to Gina in a humorous way that she would do her best to not be the overbearing, insensitive, interfering,  MIL that is the butt of innumerable jokes and the cause for endless eye-rolling and broken relationships.  Did she learn this from her experience with her own MIL?  Yes … and no.  More on that next week.

What are your “take-aways” from this story?

Got a good story of your own to tell?  Let me know!