Tag Archive | in-law

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!

 

 

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For Those In-Law Visits

“I think this is really big between the MIL and DIL.”

Avery and I were talking about the challenges of being grafted into a new family through marriage.  One frustration she shared was that, especially early on in a marriage, those in-law visits can be downright difficult!

Oftentimes when adult children return home to visit, they slide right back into their former roles and relationships with family members.

Does that happen to you?  To your spouse?

The oldest sibling immediately exhibits characteristics of “Ms. Bossy Boots” and the youngest becomes “the Baby” yet again.  The two who rarely got along while growing up find themselves arguing with one another … again … over anything or nothing.

Their spouses can be mystified by this metamorphosis.  Hard to say why it happens, but … it does.

Another thing is that the new inductees to the family are introduced to a culture possibly quite foreign to them.

“There are these habits, how they were around each other.”

She really didn’t like it.

“When your Dad comes home, everyone hides.  When your family members are done eating supper, they simply get up and leave the room without waiting for everyone else to finish.”

“There’s all this engagement and activity and the MIL, as the elder, she kind of sets the tone and the pace.  ‘I don’t want you to help.  I expect you to help.’  I think it’s really critical for a person and their partner to really talk explicitly about how to partner through that.”

“There’s this activity, this behavior, that he (her husband) doesn’t even notice, that’s really hurtful to me.  And I don’t even know how to respond because I look to him and he’s not even responding.  So, I don’t have any clues about how to ‘do it right’ and if I try to talk to him about it without a lot of intention, he replies ‘Don’t worry about it.  She’s just like that.’  It’s not helpful to the spouse who’s trying desperately not to drown in this pool of missteps.  I’m going to say the wrong thing.  I’m going to do the wrong thing.  I’m going to do the thing that no one does.  And then…. I’m done.  Not in real life, but in your own in-law way.  I’m the outsider now and I’ve sealed the deal forever as being the outsider.

“Here’s the lesson.”  Avery leaned forward as she spoke.  This was important for her to share with other DILs.

“I needed to know that when we’re together in his family’s home that he’s on my team – even if he’s also on their team.”

Couples need to be very intentional about communicating this regularly during family visits – verbally and otherwise.  This could look like the two of them going out for a long walk, hopping in the car and going for a ride, or going upstairs to the bedroom, closing the door and taking a nap together.

In-law visits.  They can be daunting.  So much so that, if you don’t find a constructive, healthy way of conducting them, you might find yourself saying – as I did one weekend – “Honey, I think I’ll skip this trip to the Lake House.  Why don’t you just take the kids and go?”

Here’s another idea from someone who’s been “in the game” for 19 years.  Suggest to your spouse that, each evening, perhaps for 15 minutes or so before bed, the visiting in-law (or outlaw as my father-in-law calls me) gets to share some of his/her observations about how things are done differently in that household.  These can and should be done without judgement.  For example:

“I noticed that your family likes to take photographs whenever we sit down all together at the dining room table.”

“All the women of the family are expected to clean up after a meal.”

“Wow, your family sure likes to get up early in the morning and get going!”

“Wine is a regular part of every supper at your parents’ house.”

“Your mom is quite the hugger!”

There is no need for explanation by the spouse.  No need to defend the practices.  The sharing could simply provide a safe place for the in-law to articulate what he or she is noticing and this could aid in the processing of those differing behaviors, assumptions and attitudes.  One way of doing things may be just as valid as another.  Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong or bad.  But, just being able to say “Gee, I’m really uncomfortable with the way this is done” and know that one is being heard can go a long way toward releasing stress and sorting out one’s feelings.  Maybe, just maybe, it would move the couple toward recognizing,  understanding and perhaps even accepting one another’s family and upbringing.  And future visits might be more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone.

I wish someone had suggested these things to me and my husband many long years ago.  It might have prevented a lot of pent-up frustration that had plenty of time to turn into bitterness.  Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I will take heed!

What do you all think?  Weigh in on this topic with your insights and experiences.

 

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.  😉

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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”.

A Man’s Perspective

My husband and I were sitting on a wrought iron bench in thBench at Washington Cirdlee 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.

Very interesting.

A Good MIL AM I … or AM I?

I’m a good Mother-In-Law.

Why do I think this?  During a 5-day holiday visit with our sons & their wives, I did everything right!  🙂

We arrived in Washington, DC the day before Thanksgiving.  Our son & his wife were scheduled to work that day.  Did we ask them to take a day off?  No.  We assumed they would work and so we planned visits with aunt, uncle & cousins in the area.

We had even packed two bottles of “award-winning” red wine in our checked baggage, hoping that they would not color our clothing mid-flight.   Gotta show up with a hostess gift!

Did we assume our son & DIL would pick us up at the airport?  No.  We assumed responsibility for our own travel and took the Metro all over the nation’s capital.  We love public transportation!  It let’s you put your finger on the pulse of a city.Washington Dc Metro

Did we complain about sleeping in a double bed when we are accustomed to a king-sized one?  No.  We were so  happy to be together with sons & DILS on such a festive occasion.

When we listened to conversations about babies as the two DILS ribbed each other about who would be pregnant first, did I press for grandchildren?  No.  I respect their rights to make those very personal choices for themselves and don’t put any pressure on them.  We never bring up the subject as we didn’t appreciate it when others did it to us so many years ago.

We joined in planned activities, offered to help cook, cleaned up after meals, washing dishes & stacking the dishwasher.  I didn’t tell people how to cook or carve the turkey, what side dishes we always eat at this holiday meal.  I stood in the cold,cheering our son and our two DILS at three different spots on the course as they ran the traditional Turkey Trot Race.

We were considerate about bathroom time, complimented hairstyles, outfits, meals and how our son & DIL had continued to decorate & furnish their home.  We fixed our own breakfasts & lunches – not expecting to be waited upon;  bought cheesecake for everyone’s sweet tooth on Friday night; got out of the house and went for walks, went out sightseeing to leave the four “kids” to themselves for periods of time; entertained the cat when he was frisky.

On Sunday we left early, deciding to go visit Arlington National Cemetery and afford  our hosts a half-day rest before having to gear up for work the next day.   Did we take the Metro?  Yes, we did.  Gladly.

What a nice time with family.  We consider ourselves blessed.

All this to say – I think I’m a pretty good MIL.  I was considerate, careful, complimentary, helpful, discrete, thoughtful, interested, pleasant & loving.

I did everything right!  Okay, so maybe I didn’t do everything right  😉  but I did a lot of things right, don’t you think?

MILS Afraid of DILS? Response

“That’s an interesting ‘concept’. Afraid of what concerning a DIL?  That she’ll take your son away?  She’s already done that.  It was time…. time for your son to make HIS family, time for him to grow out of from your shadow, to create a new ‘shadow’ with his wife.  What she can’t take from me is the history that my son and I share.  She can never ‘steal’ his heart,  I freely give him to share with the women of his choice.  She will never be able to erase the memories of the care, 24/7  presence/care/love I had with him the first 19 yrs of his life.  I have no regrets.  Homeschooling was God’s gift to us/me …  to never look back and say ‘I missed this or that’.  I missed nothing!!

       I have nothing to fear, nor does she….. I bless the day he met her, I bless the day they married.  He will grow separate from us, to establish his family in the years ahead, but not apart.”