eo Insights

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Parenting in The Trenches – Part 3 ‘The Newbie Mother-In-Law’


Carol and I, Hawaii 2010.

This year I received another new role for my life; mother-in-law.  To be honest, the title is a little scary because of the reputation behind it.  As you can imagine, a simple Internet search brings up articles such as “Surviving Your Scary Mother-in-Law’, ‘Meeting My Monster Mother-in-Law for The First Time’ or “The Smothering Mother-in-Law’.  That’s just great 😦  And to top it off, the Urban dictionary (basically what our youth-culture thinks) defines ‘mother-in-law’ as ‘the prime suspect after your murder…..not because of her hatred for you, but because she will question you to death’!   Shivers!  By way of my daughters’ marriage (of which I shelled out a hefty sum of cash to make happen), I end up being saddled with a title that makes people tremble!

So……as a newbie mother-in-law, I’ve decided to fight the stereotype in every way!  Fortunately, I had many wonderful experiences with my own mother-in-law that I can try to model.

Carol made me feel welcome in the family.  Once I married her son, I never felt like an outsider.  My thoughts were important to her and I was consulted, just like her own adult children were, on decisions that affected the family.

I can certainly take a page from Carol’s chapter on fun; that managed to put everyone at ease.  I recall her throwing spaghetti from the pot to the wall, just to see if it would stick.  Apparently, that was the ‘done-ness’ test, but truthfully, she was just being funny.  And, you would never want to walk unsuspectingly into the kitchen if her pie didn’t turn out as she’d find it hilarious to see it on your face!

Carol didn’t worry about the past.  Many times I would call her about upsetting events of the day, or about situations that were troubling me, and her steadfast answer time and again would always be ‘it’s behind you now dear, so don’t worry about it.’

I looked to Carol as a reliable source on matters of health, parenting, current events and even fashion.  She was always up to date, classy and encouraging, and would get back to me if she didn’t know how to answer me at the time.

Carol found joy in the little things.  Like Sunday dinners together as a family, adding great smelling lip balm to my Christmas stocking or bringing over fresh peonies from her garden.  She was queen of the fancy sandwiches and loved to knit sweaters for my newborn babies’ ride home from the hospital.  She took great delight in the details of life.

There was never a time I left my mother-in-law’s home without a plate of fresh-baked cookies or yummy leftovers in hand.  Enough said about her generous spirit.

Finally, Carol was no sissy!  She was a determined decision maker, a fearless risk taker and had strong opinions to share, but somehow she managed to graciously offer her perspective while allowing others the right to have their own.

Parenting in the trenches as a newbie mother-in-law is a role I’m embracing with caution and optimism.  I hope I am never a scary monster but rather, as was my experience, I’m focusing on being approachable, open and honest, fun and caring.  I want to be a blessing to my new family member, especially since, as my latest title would indicate, he is legally my own son.