Tag Archive | MIL/DIL connections

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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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”.

MIL/DIL Counsel: Never Heard This Before!

Recently read this interesting counsel on two-older-black-women-outdoors-14309798Tips to Improve Your Relationship with Your MIL:

“If you have the same standard for your mother-in-law as you have for your mother, then the problem will be gone.”

I’ve never heard that before!  Have you?

What do you think about that idea?  It sounds intriguing to me.  Could it work?  What would that look like and sound like?  How might it specifically play out?  About what standards are we talking here?

“Say it ain’t so” that we should take this to mean that if one has an unhealthy relationship with one’s mother that she should use this as a template with her MIL  So, should we talk about patience, kindness and respect?  Am I as considerate of my MIL at family gatherings as I am of my Mom?  Am I as willing to overlook her occasional faux pas?  What about including her in activities, outings, parties and discussions?

If I love my mother, should I also look to love my mother-in-law?  The answer, of course, is a resounding “Yes!”  And love means, in small part, to be generous in one’s thoughts about another.  Love results in a willingness to forgive and keep no record of wrongdoing, especially if it was inadvertent.Smiley Face Cupcakes Royalty Free Stock Photo, Pictures, Images And Stock Photography. Image 7823065.

Is this realistic?  Clearly, we are not proposing that we treat our MIL exactly the same as we treat the woman who wiped our snotty noses, got her hands goopy with Play Doh, made cupcakes for the classroom holiday parties, waited up at night when we were out on a date, and prayed for our spouses since the day we were born.  No, if we were blessed with a mother that nurtured and cared for us, that woman will always hold a special place of honor in our hearts.  And she will not be replaced by another.  Still, that doesn’t mean we cannot have a special place in our hearts for the woman who did all those things for the man we chose – of all the men we’d ever met – to do life with.  Perhaps, this, more than anything else is what is meant by “have the same standard”.

Are you interested in trying this on for size?  Let me know what you learn about her … and yourself. 😉

 

 

Over a Bowl of Fruit at Sammy J’s (part 2)

Bonnie and I continued our conversation as we nibbled on chunks of pineapple, plump, sweet blueberries and red, ripe strawberries at Sammy J’s Breakfast Cafe.  She was sharing her experience with her soon-to-be MIL.

Hmmm … curious.  Had she recognized before the engagement that Matt’s mother might not welcome her into the family?

“Bef-euro-diamond-engagement-ring-platinumore we (Matt & I)became engaged, I was a friend of the family.  I had dinners with them, participated in activities with them.  No one really took our relationship seriously.  I think they knew it was coming, but denial is a beautiful thing!”  She again broke into laughter.

She and Matt had dated for two years and when she became his fiancée, things picked up speed.  In the short three months between engagement and wedding, “there was an epic battle.”

“Over what?” I asked.

“The wedding … where we would live … everything!  I yielded on the things that I didn’t care about – like what dresses the bridesmaids would wear.  Have your way!”

The blender whirred in the background and I imagined fruit, milk and honey being blended into a lip-smacking smoothie.  Blending… smoothie … The situation Bonnie described was an example of neither and I pondered how I might have reacted were I “in her shoes.”

“Your attitude was basically “Do whatever you want?” I offered.bridesmaids dresses

“Yeah.  And she did.  His mom planned the whole wedding.”

Matt’s sister chose the bridesmaids’ dresses.

“Yeah, and she let me pick the color.”

Bonnie had wanted a small, intimate ceremony and reception, but that was not to be.

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It could easily be argued that a bride and groom should be the ones to plan the details of their own wedding.  At the same time, I recognized that Bonnie had employed that wise principle of “choosing one’s battles.”   “Do you really need to ‘die on that hill’?”my husband would ask me when we were raising our two sons.  “Can you let go of this issue and allow them to do it “their way?”

I never knew a battle that I didn’t want to fight to the finish.  … But, that’s not wisdom.  Bonnie, on the other hand, must have realized that, to have any kind of a chance of a decent relationship in the future,  she would need to allow her MIL some “say” in the matters about which she felt strongly.  And there were many.

Is this one factor in fostering a great MIL/DIL relationship?   Yielding to another for the sake of peace?  Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no”.  And for soon-to-be-MILs:   Whose “day” is it, anyway?  It’s your son, but it’s their wedding – one of the biggest days of their lives.   Is there any good reason for demanding, manipulating, and otherwise overruling the wishes of the two to be wed?  Wisdom suggests a different course of action: open communication, honest conversations, and a cooperative approach – no matter who’s paying for it.  This is an event that will be remembered by all for many, many years to come.  And it often sets the tone for the future MIL/DIL relationship.

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?