Thursday, June 18, 2009

On being a mother-in-law

I've had two mothers-in-law, neither of whom was particularly happy to have me as part of the family. In fact my first mother-in-law actually threatened to kill me if I "ever hurt her Joey." I did hurt him - badly, I'm afraid - but lived to remarry and have another mother-in-law! Lucky me.

With apologies to my sons, who loved their grandma (my second mother-in-law), we never quite hit it off. I did provide her with her first grandson, and she liked that, but if it could have been done via another method (someone other than me, for example) I think she would have been happier. I'm sure our lack of rapport and our failure to bond was as much my fault as hers. We came from vastly different backgrounds, had diametrically opposed ideas about child-rearing, where her son's loyalties should lie, and whether or not I actually qualified as family.

But bad experiences can have good outcomes if we pay attention. I vowed, when my sons married, that I would be the best mother-in-law I could be. I accepted - mostly gracefully, I think - that I would no longer hold the role of the most important woman in their lives, and that any attempts on my part to hang on to them would only cause bad feelings and could damage their primary relationship: the one each son has with his wife.

I know I haven't been perfect, but for the most part I think I've done pretty well. It helps a lot that I truly love my daughters-in-law, and am thankful for the partnerships they have forged with their husbands, my sons. I think they're both good moms to my grandchildren, and we enjoy a mutual love and respect that I treasure in the deepest parts of my heart.

Both of them - Lisa and Briana - have shown remarkable respect and restraint when I have opened my mouth inappropiately, and both of them have gone out of their way to ensure that I have time to nurture the mother-son relationships that mean so much to me.

So now you're expecting some big revelation, some "uh-oh, I really f****d up this time!" Au contraire, Dear Reader; I am here to tell you that I have waited patiently for ALMOST TEN DAYS to write this blog. Never let it be said that I cannot show restraint. Just because I have nearly chewed my foot off waiting, well please accord me points for keeping my mouth shut until d-i-l, Jr (known in the family as Briana) posted her own blog today, in which she detailed the recent events surrounding the anticipated birth of my first granddaughter!

Drew was originally due around July 4th, but recent events (which I will not repeat here; cruise on over to Briana's place) have conspired to advance her birth date to next Tuesday, June 23rd. Because Briana has been ordered to conserve calories, I have had the pleasure of spending more time with Addison than I ordinarily would. And I've had the pleasure of some unrushed conversations with Briana. Since most of our exchanges revolve around Addison (quite literally sometimes, as he insists, "It's my turn to talk now!"), it's been nice to indulge in girl talk with a young woman I love and admire.

So now you know. In just a few short days I will hold in my arms a little girl, my own flesh and blood. I'm excited and a little afraid. Even today it's not an easy world in which to be a woman, but I know that her parents, her big brother, her aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, will all be for her a source of love, strength and comfort.

I can hardly wait to see her face, this girl-child. Perhaps I hope to see in her a bit of me.


  1. Sounds to me like you've done well in MIL-ing. If your DIL's can let you speak your mind, even inappropriately, and haven't reacted with venom or encouraged your sons to disown you, you belong in the MIL hall of fame. Hardest part of being a MIL or a FIL is keeping our feet out of our mouth. We have a sign hanging in our home to help us achieve harmony. It reads "Grandkids Welcome...Leave parents at home!"

  2. I had tears in my eyes at the end of this blog. I am excited for you and your new granddaughter!

    From what I know of you, Cheryle, I'm sure you are a wonderful MIL and a good role model for those of us to yet experience that relationship.

    Like you, I have vowed to be positive and supportive of the mates my children chose. I, too, did not always have the best relationship with my MIL....both of us were at fault as was my ex-husband. It is important for a MIL to know her place and for a husband to support his wife. I always took second place to my MIL but I realize now I could have handled it all a bit better. But, it taught me valuable lessons and may my children benefit from what I've learned.

    Your sons seem to have chosen wisely, too!!

  3. Prayers ascending for a safe and smooth delivery along with a most healthy granddaughter!

  4. Your input here is most admired, but far more is my admiration for your involvement in the lives of my little girl... and now her little girl. Addison and his family are blessed to have you and Jim in their lives.

  5. What?? Not perfect?!? ;)

    I love you.