Tag Archive | mil

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

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.

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

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Who’s next?

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!

 

 

Taking Up Another’s Offense

I feel so privileged and humbled when a woman entrusts me with her MIL/DIL story. This warm, Spring afternoon was no exception. Avery traded seats with me so that I could enjoy a gorgeous view of the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range. Things were quiet at the moment in a household with two teenagers and we were taking advantage of a lull in activity to enjoy a cup of tea together on her back patio.

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Avery is the mother of one son and one daughter and has been married to Quentin for 19 years. I asked her to tell me about how she met Quentin and his family and how their relationship had changed over time, what she had been through and what advice she would give.

Here’s just a part of her story.

“In hindsight, your relationship with your MIL begins before you get married”.

Avery and Quentin met when both of their fathers were ill. They would travel most weekends from Washington, DC to New York City in her car because he didn’t have one, dropping him at Penn Station where he would take the train out to Long Island to visit his Dad. She would visit her Dad in Westchester County and then go pick up Quentin on Long Island on Sunday and they would drive back home to DC.

“And so it was this amazing kind of courtship that really involved our families and in a very tender time. I only knew Quentin’s Dad for six months before he died. So, my relationship with Quentin’s mom, with my MIL, started in the midst of this very kind of “sped-up” getting to know each other because, really, his Dad was dying.

“I was really close with his mom. His mom was a real “girly girl” and I wasn’t … and she just loved going to get her nails done and I’d never done that before. It was a very sweet, familial, loving beginning relationship. So close, even, that …….. I would often, when we visited, stay the night with her in her bed, if there were a lot of people visiting and we needed to ‘bunk up’. She and I would often be the ones ‘bunking up’. So, we were really, really close.

And then Quentin’s father passed away.

It was then that Avery heard about ” this crazy family story” about Quentin’s mom having had an affair with the same man since Quentin was five years old. Turns out that it wasn’t just a “crazy family story.” It was true and Quentin’s Mom had shared that information with her two children when they were in their early twenties before their father died.

“It was like this unspoken, spoken thing. But, the kids were grown and out of the house and I think Quentin was in law school. So, this was like something he was supposed to accept and deal with. So, along I come in the midst of all this sadness around Quentin’s Dad having cancer and dying. It didn’t come up and when it did, I was absolutely mortified. I just couldn’t believe it. It was so far out of my experience of what someone would do, let alone talk about, let alone ask the children to endure.

“And I think what happened over the next, you know, five years, ten years, is that because of my husband’s choice and reality of how he could deal with those facts … I reacted to that. So, in other words, he felt like there wasn’t much he could do but accept it. …. I wasn’t okay and so I became really angry at her for hurting him, for hurting my husband, for hurting her husband, for presuming that her behavior was … whatever. I had a lot of judgment and I got angrier and angrier.

“You know, we’d go and visit, but I just tried to endure it, and, you know. …. It was hard. It was very, very hard. When Quentin and I, as a couple, grew older and learned to do things differently in our own lives, with each other – we needed to grow and be better about taking care of ourselves, our well-being, our mental well-being – we started to change.  As a result, Quentin, probably six or seven years ago, started to finally deal with that relationship – he and his Mom – and allowed himself to at least express to me and I think also to her, tremendous sadness and misgiving about how that all happened. And what I noticed – which was a miracle – is that the minute my husband, could say what was for me the truth about what had happened, I didn’t need to do it anymore! And my ability to see her as really a part of my family – she’s my MIL, she’s family, she’s as damaged as any of the rest of us or anyone in my own family or me, … no different – no better, no worse – I could really love her again.”

Avery recognized that she had felt the need to protect her husband from someone who had hurt him deeply. When Quentin realized his pain, where it came from and how he needed to address it – and then acted on that – something changed inside Avery. Something significant.

“It allowed me to actually do something better for my husband which is love him and his family … I thought I was protecting him, being mad at her. And really, if I want to protect and love him, I need to let him take care of himself and I need to love his family. And so all of that happened and I could just feel the relationship come back together … in terms of me and my MIL. It’s okay. It’s okay.

“It’s certainly been great for me as a DIL to not be so angry with her for what I perceived that I needed to be angry with her about because of my husband and I think that’s the interesting thing about the MIL/DIL relationship is that it’s all about the spouse.”

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That’s hard-earned wisdom.

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

Is it about honesty and love and truth and forgiveness and acceptance and brokenness and family? Is it about letting go of offenses against someone other than ourselves … or perhaps, even better, not taking them up in the first place?

Challenging when “the two become one”, don’t you think? But, what Avery figured out – does she suggest providentially? – is that loving our husbands can often be expressed by leaving them the room to maneuver through life’s obstacles and trusting that they will find a way to address the issues that face them. Didn’t we marry them because we believed they were able?

For me, another “take-away” from this is that we don’t love our MILs or DILs because they deserve our love. We love them because we love our sons and our husbands.

More from Avery in a future post

Is Your MIL an Only Child?

Here’s a “look-see” into another factor that influences “Why people are the way they are” and “Why people do the things they do”.
Kiera and I had just sat down to a fabulous “I just threw a few things together” lunch on the back deck of her home on the river. We had recently become “paddle boarding buddies” – She had the equipment and I had the availability and desire. (Woot! Woot!) Today, however, we were considering a kayak excursion because of the cool, cloudy weather. Our conversation was peppered with comments about the spiciness of the salsa and who else from our group might join us that day. When we realized that it would be just the two of us, I jumped at the opportunity to talk with her about her relationship with her MIL.

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Interesting discovery #1 – Kiera had expected her MIL to be the same as her own mother since her husband did the “scouting” thing and the “work with your hands” thing as her own mother had promoted.
Funny thing – she wasn’t! It took several years of visits to discover that it was her husband’s father – not mother – who had passed on these traits to Dan.
Here’s more of the “backstory”. When he became an adult, Dan had moved a couple of hours away from the family homestead as he wasn’t keen on the idea of every weekend being taken up with birthday parties and family gatherings of one kind or another. It turns out that Kiera’s MIL preferred that family gather around her, that she be surrounded by loved ones. She wasn’t one to venture out to be around others. Years went by before Kiera realized – and her MIL confirmed this in a conversation – that Millie only liked her own family, not people in general. She wasn’t interested in participating in community activities. She was perfectly happy to have her family dote on her.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, Dan is enthusiastic about – even craves – doing things for his community. Kiera had expected that to be a family trait. Not so. Dan’s experience growing up had been so insular that he now actively seeks out social involvement with people not related to him.
“What would cause someone to adopt that attitude? The attitude of “I only want my family around ….” I pondered aloud.

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“I have a theory” Kiera announced.
(Intriguing. Another analytical like myself.)

Okay, let’s hear it.
“The people that I know who are ‘only’ children want things to be about them. They need this. They demand it. And they’re not happy – ever – no matter how many times someone visits because it’s never enough.”
Kiera’s conjecture was that if one had lots of siblings, one learned that you have to share, you have to take turns – with toys, in playing games. They don’t expect much attention later on because they experience the reality that there’s only so much to go around.
But, if you don’t get much attention and affection when you’re young, do you want it even more as you get older, I asked myself?

Hmmm.
Kiera’s MIL was an only child. “She doesn’t understand that we have other things that we actually like … other than coming to visit her. … It became apparent to me that she wasn’t used to sharing and she didn’t have to share. She did not view herself as “selfish”. It’s just the way things were”
“It’s almost like a muscle that wasn’t developed on-time” I posited. That’s interesting. I mean, it fits!”
Kiera’s face widened into a big grin. “That’s my theory!”
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How much do we assume about our MILs because of what we see in our spouses? Sometimes, those speculations are “right on”. Other times, they miss the mark completely.
Who knows why people act the way they do. It may be a reaction to what they didn’t get or got too much of in earlier years. Some people turn out “just like Mom”. Others choose to go in the exact opposite direction.
What are my “take-aways” from this story?
1. Be mindful of my expectations and assumptions about people, especially my MIL/DILs.
2. People are much more complex than I expect them to be. I need to be reminded of this regularly.

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3. A lot of who we are now is because of who we were earlier in life. And we weren’t necessarily the ones who made those choices or set up those situations. We simply found ourselves smack dab in the middle of them.
Perhaps the most important thing for me to remember is that no judgement is needed here. Understanding and acceptance go a looong way toward a great MIL/DIL relationship.
And that’s what this Blog is all about!

 

 

For You Grandmothers Out There

“What worked well and what didn’t work as well as you might have hoped?”

I introduced you to Genny back in Help – When Much Needed …. Appreciated  https://milsanddils.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/help-when-much-needed-appreciated/?preview=true&preview_id=331&preview_nonce=e155b67893&post_format=standard.  If you haven’t already met Genny, or you want a refresher on the background of this visit, follow that link.

So, here we are back in Genevieve’s home – one they recently moved into and renovated at the same time.  (Yikes!)   It’s warm and bright, not only outside, but inside, also.  Genny has three children under 5 years old.  Two were taking afternoon naps and one was cradled in her arms.  And if you guessed that perhaps I did get a chance to enjoy holding the baby until I needed to pass her back in order to take notes … well, you’d be right!

Genny is sharing the experience of having her MIL come visit and stay for a week right after the birth of their youngest.  She cocks her head, smiling, thoughtfully considering.  Genny smiles a lot.  It’s just her nature – which explains, to a large degree, the sunny interior of their home.

“Well, I was fine with letting someone else clean.” she replies.  And I was fine with letting someone else cook.”

I wonder if this had been the case at the birth of the first child.  Now, that’s a whole different ballgame.  New Mom; new Dad; lots of insecurities about roles and standards and access and judgements and traditions and advice and …. I smile, imagining Genny’s MIL feeling so comfortable and accepted, helping out in such tangible ways while enjoying the simple joys of her grandchildren’s daily routine.  And the fact that Genny wanted “hands-on” support from her husband’s mother.  There comes a delightful feeling when one is woven into the fabric of a family as an in-law, don’t you think? Embraced in the ordinary as well as the very special moments of life.

“The main thing was that she was super helpful.  Oh, my gosh!  The first morning she was here, she heard my daughter, Allison, wake up.  She got Coffee-DayAllison out of her crib, made breakfast and by the time I got out of bed, the kids were being fed and my MIL had started the coffee.

Good coffee to start the day.  This is one way to Genny’s heart!  Her MIL must have paid attention to this.  This observation makes me think that I should take more notice of those little things my DILs enjoy – chocolate bars, for instance.  And organic anything.

Then, Genny shares something that seems like a great bit of insight for MILs.

“When we get together with my in-laws, I kind of let the kids’ routine go.  I kind of just let my MIL take over.  I do.  She’s good at asking what the kids like.  And there are definitely certain things that my kids need to keep the visit pleasant – like naps and going to bed at a certain time in the evening.  I let her know what our routine is.”

Genny talks about how she would “let things go” if the deviation from routine was simply a preference of her MIL’s.  “It’s for a short time.  It helps me to relax and it probably helps here relax, too!”

“Sounds like you’ve realized that sometimes you “roll with the punches”.  That’s wisdom!

Genny smiles again.  “Sometimes I wonder if she thinks that we’re really lenient.  I don’t know if she understands that when she is here, things are definitely different.  We’re way more relaxed.”  I don’t know if that comes across the wrong way.  Those kind of things I leave up to my husband to try to communicate with his mom.  They have a really good relationship.  They speak the same language.”

“Well, he’s got a lot of history with his mom and I’m sure he loves you both very much.  So, he cares about how things are with both of you” I suggest.

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As a “grandmother-to-be” – a newbie! – I’m hanging on every one of Genny’s words.   And I’m picking up on a few ideas.

Firstly, I shouldn’t expect to show up and be waited upon hand-and-foot.  Of course, my DIL may not want me to dive in and cook, clean, shop.  On the other hand, she may welcome it.   Being a great MIL is determining when one approach will work better than the other.   How to best do this?  Let’s hear from you!

Secondly, realize that what I see when I visit – for an hour, a day, a weekend – don’t need to be and may not be the way things are when I’m not around.  This could be a valuable recognition to both MIL and DIL.  As Genny’s approach suggests, rules & regulations may be relaxed a bit when guests come to visit.

Genny’s 3-year-old interrupts our conversation to try to convince his mother that it’s okay for him to watch a video.  This little boy is one smart cookie!.  Already he knows just how to word things, how to approach his parents so that a desirable outcome results!  He explains that he didn’t understand his mother’s earlier instructions to take the iPad over to the table to use, but that now, he does.

“Not Batman?” Eddie asks.index

“No, not Batman” she answers.

“Okay.  But, I see one that’s not very long” he offers, hoping that this will change her mind.

“Okay, but not that one either” his mom responds firmly.

No, the routine will not be “let go” today just because any old visitor is here.  I guess it needs to be the grandparents, Eddie.  After all, they are very special!

Thanks, Gennie, for making time in your very busy day for this visit and for sharing your experience with one who needs to learn so much – me!

Acceptance – Let Grace Abound!

How do I do this MIL thing well?  What are the “tips”?  What is the secret to being a great MIL?

After a bit of searching online, I did find some advice about MILs and DILs that is worth repeating. Here it is: from http://www.grandparents.com:

“Let go of your expectations about how things should be

and work with the way things are.

This means accepting the complete cast of characters

who make up your whole crazy extended family ….”

 

Acceptance. Yeah. That’s a major component of a great MIL/DIL relationship.