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.”
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?