To my Son’s Wife

3F9B1096Dear Daughter-in-law,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I know that sounds strange since my boys are only 5 and 7, but I can’t help thinking about their future. After all, I am the one who has been with them from the moment their past began.

I hear horror stories about mother-in-laws. It’s easy for me to say, “That’s ridiculous! She’s crazy! I’ll never act like that!” Truth be told, I don’t know how I will act when he falls head over heels for you. I would hope I will be supportive and not overbearing, loving and not smothering, wise counsel and not unsolicited advice.

Here’s the thing…I think I understand a little better why mother-in-laws get the “Crazy Lady” label. Some of us have trouble letting go of being the primary girl in his life. Some of us aren’t sure how to transition from being the last to wish him sweet dreams before sleep and the first to greet him in the morning, to the one you have to remind him to call.

There’s just something about a mother and son that is too precious to wrap words around. There is something about the space in a mother’s heart for the baby she raises into a man. There is a meshing of sorts that cannot be undone. And I’m not so sure it should have to be.

Please understand, I do not, nor have I ever, lived for my boys. I believe that to live is Christ. Everything else is a futile attempt at purpose. I’m not going to tell you that I gave up everything and sacrificed my life for them. We all make sacrifices. It comes down to what we are willing to sacrifice for. That looks different for everyone. Honestly, my life is so much fuller, richer and exciting because of my children. I cannot imagine what I would be doing were I not their mother.

I want to ask that you see one thing very clearly. That is, I have made every effort to instill in my children that there is only one opinion that matters. God’s. He is the great Creator. He chose exactly how they would be put together and how their mind, heart and spirit would work together and sometimes against each other. No one knows them better than He. Not me, not their earthly father, not even you, though I know that’s hard to hear.

So I have begun praying. For you, for him, for me…I’m praying that nothing will ever come between him and his relationship with the one who knows him best. I’m praying that you will encourage him to grow his relationship with Christ and always place it as highest priority. It may not seem like it now, but if that relationship is healthy, your relationship stands a much better chance of being strong and wildly fulfilling.

I could make a list of all the things I wish for you and him. All the things I want in a wife for my son. Honestly darling, I want nothing but God’s will. All else is fleeting and empty.

Please believe me when I say that I do not want to be regarded, by you or anyone, a monster-in-law. I am working on me. I have much to work on. I am also praying that God will guard my son’s heart, mind and spirit against confusion. That he will not mistake lust for love, manipulation for sincerity, ultimatums for resolution, insecurity for confidence, or persuasion for honesty.

I do, at times wonder if I have already met you. If I have looked into your eyes and seen your smile. Only time will tell. Just know that I do not take the responsibility of “Mother” lightly and I am doing the best I can to raise men of integrity. I hope that you will rest in the assurance that I am covering you with love and light, while praying God’s protection over your heart, soul, mind and body.

Gratefully Yours,

Mixed Blessings

The word “Mixed” by definition means; containing a mixture of both favorable and negative elements. While the word “Blessing” means; a beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being. I have had a bit of experience with mixed blessings. You?

I hear interesting conversations about in-laws. Sometimes I think that they were put here to make holidays stressful. When discussing this sensitive subject with several girlfriends I asked how different their lives would be if they didn’t have a mother-in-law. This brought a smile to most of their faces. (If you’re a mother-in-law who’s already feeling offended, just hang with me.)

I then asked how it would change things had they never met their husband’s mother. They agreed that they have learned a great deal about their man from talking with his mother.

The truth is, I have never met my mother-in-law. We talked on the phone when I was a teenager, but she passed away before I was able to sit down and share in conversation over a cup of coffee or give her a hug and breathe in her unique smell that would later bring her to memory when a passerby was wearing the same scent. I was not able to ask her how she survived being a full-time working single mother.

When Chris and I were apart for a time I would have dreams about Lou Ann. We would be sitting in a cafe having conversations about life. I would wake up the next morning with her on my mind and throughout the day I felt a closeness to her.

Weird, I know. Especially for someone I had never even met. Eventually the relentless persuasion of thoughts to write Christopher a letter about his mother, whom he loved dearly and I had never met, led me to a pen and paper. My hand could not move as quickly as the words formed in my mind.

Suddenly, I was speaking of this woman I had never known as if we had been in each others company on a regular basis. I explained in the letter that I knew it sounded crazy, but there were things I felt she would want him to know. I then held on to it.

The next time I was in New York Chris and I had dinner and talked about our lives over the last couple of years. I nervously gave him the letter knowingly that he would probably think I was nuts. I asked him not to read it until the day I left. It was April 17th, two years to the day that his mother had passed away. I was not aware of that at the time.

Many things have fallen into place between then and now. Things I never dreamed possible. All I have of Lou Ann are a few photos and the memories that Chris shares with me.

She was an Educator. Brilliant. Beautiful. Strong. She was a fighter. A Survivor. She is my husband’s mother. Isn’t she stunning?

I was never able to ask her about Chris’ childhood…when he cut his first tooth or if he tried to climb out of his crib the way our oldest son did.

“What was his first word?” “When was the first time he tried rice cereal?” “Did he like sweet potatoes as much as my boys did?”

“What was his favorite lullaby when he awoke afraid in the middle of the night?” “Did she rock him to sleep?” “When was his first haircut? Did she cut it or take him somewhere to have it cut? Did he scream the way our youngest does?” “Did he have a favorite blanket or toy?” “How old was he when he took his first step?” “When did he lose his first tooth?” “What was his favorite thing to do?” “Do our boys look like him?” “Do they have the same mannerisms?” “When did he skin his knee for the first time?” “What is your favorite memory from his childhood?” “Has he always loved to draw and create?”

A vital question I wish I could have asked before going into labor with our first son is,
“How big was Chris’ head when he was born?” and “How long was your labor?”

So many questions unanswered. So many moments missed that I know she would have cherished.

Our children know her as “Lulu.” And as far as they’re concerned, heaven is filled with balloons released from their little hands while blowing kisses to the sky.

It’s been some time since I have found her on the other side of sleep, waiting in a cafe, to talk about my boys and compare notes over coffee and hot tea, I can only hope that I will find her there again sometime.

I am incredibly grateful to her for taking care of the love of my life. For making sure that he was provided for and prepared to face a world of both disappointment and triumph, ugliness and beauty.

I know, in-laws can be rather challenging (to say the least.) But they can also be a wonderful resource into the things that made our spouse who they are today. They are much like, “mixed blessings.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on extended family. What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened at a “family” event or around your diner table? Do you get along with your mother-in-law?