THANKFUL FOR MY MOTHER IN LAW
One night, way back in the year 2 B.C. (before children), I found myself in the middle of an ugly scene in a graduate school class. What started out as an innocuous discussion about parental influence on education quickly turned into a mother-in-law bashing session.
One-by-one, venom-spitting students told their worst mother-in-law stories. A guy claimed his mother-in-law tried to sabotage his wedding. Even worse, one young woman countered, her mother-in-law had actually tried to help her plan her wedding. Imagine the horror? Classmates gasped.
Luckily, a few of the less emotionally scarred students lightened the conversation with a round of tasteless mother-in-law jokes. I went to buy a car and the salesman asked if I needed an airbag. I said, "No thanks, I already have a mother-in-law." How do you stop your mother-in-law from drowning? Take your foot off her head. Classics, I know.
Eventually, all eyes turned to me. The mob expected one juicier story from a disgruntled son-in-law. Instead, I simply shrugged my shoulders and said, "I like my mother-in-law." Of course, I wasn't telling the class the whole truth. I didn't want to rub their faces in it. What I should have said was, "I love my mother-in-law."
You see, the older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am. And, one of the most fortunate aspects of my life; I have a wonderful mother-in-law. Really.
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking. What did I do wrong? What do I want? A man must have some ulterior motive for declaring his love for his mother-in-law – yes, his mother-in-law – in print, right? Wrong. There's no motive here other than it deserves to be said.
My mother-in-law is the best. My admiration for her has grown each day since we met, and especially since my wife and I became parents and my mother-in-law became a grandmother. As mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother, she is always there for us. Always. She's the heart of the family. She proves this again and again.
Here's a quick example. Recently, I was offered – and accepted – an interim job position. This decision shook up our family's routine – namely, we needed a new childcare arrangement during weekdays. The decision also shook me up. After nearly six years as a stay-at-home dad, I was pretty accustomed to taking care of things myself during the day. I rarely needed to ask for help. Now, I did. And, I found it very difficult to give up control. Actually, I found it excruciating.
My wife brought up the idea. "Let's ask my mom if she'll take the kids in the afternoons," she said. Despite the fact that my mother-in-law has never missed an opportunity to babysit the boys, I hesitated to ask for her help. This was different. This would be a huge time commitment. I didn't want to burden anyone else with the care of our children.
As I wrestled with the situation, a friend of the family – a very wise woman and a grandmother herself – knocked some sense into my head saying, "Did you ever consider that your mother-in-law might actually want to watch the kids? That she might consider it a gift, not a burden? Did you ever consider that she just might be waiting to be asked?"
o, I hadn't really considered that.
But as soon as I did, my thoughts immediately went back to my own childhood to a time when my brothers and I spent a few hours after school each day at my grandmother's house after my mom went back to work. There's no doubt in my mind that the time I spent there was the reason I always felt so close to my late grandmother. I still think of her most days and plan to write a book about her some day. That kind of bond is priceless.
And, guess what? My mother-in-law happily accepted our invitation. Of course she did. And, I couldn't be happier about it. Our younger son, who spends the most time with grandma while his older brother is at school, is quickly becoming "grandma's boy." You may have seen the couple around town on a lunch date.
My mother-in-law is truly one of the most selfless – and capable – people I know. There is no better role model for my two boys. There is no better role model for me.
It's November and that means Thanksgiving. I'm one son-in-law who is thankful to have a wonderful mother-in-law in my life. If you're lucky enough to have a mother-in-law you love, too, let her know it. Donna, thank you for everything you do.