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Just the Mother-In-Law

We've been talking about not trying to figure out God's plan but trusting Him with the next step.
Here's one of those hard applications: when it touches your family.

With the weddings of four of our boys, I have entered another uncertain stage—that of mother-in-law. As most their weddings were held far away, it helped me not to micromanage their planning. All I had to do was get there and wear the right color of dress. I somehow didn’t manage even that well. 

With the one local wedding, when I was pursuing all those wonderful wedding ideas on Pinterest, my sister cautioned me that "It was not your wedding."
But for the first time, I felt I could contribute.
The bride shared pictures of her dress and ideas for decorating.
It was probably half-way through the process when I finally realized, she had so many friends helping, she didn't need my help at all.
Not that she showed any ungraciousness to indicate my ideas were unneeded. Not in the least. 
But I needed to step back and let them plan.
When they expressed the difficulty finding a place big enough, it wasn’t for me to fix the problem, only offer suggestions.
My son listened, but ultimately it was their problem, not mine. 

With each of the weddings, I worried and fussed over my dress. With the first wedding, my color was not the muted blue of the others, but a bright blue. It looked good on me, but not standing beside the bride. It was her day, not mine.
With the second wedding, somehow, in spite of all the pictures sent to show me the color, I still didn’t match. It didn’t show too badly, since the boys were in navy blue too.
With the third, I knew what I wouldn’t do. I muted my colors and tried to blend with the boys' suits, rather than try to match the girls’ mauve color.
With the fourth, the bride was so gracious, she said, "wear anything, but these are my colors."

But the wedding is just the first of many dilemmas a mother-in-law must experience. Of course she is no longer priority.
That is commanded by God when the man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife.
And that is how it should be.
But sometimes it is hard to allow them to leave.
Sometimes those boundaries are hard to define. 

My first son was our family photographer and help with tech problems, especially since I was writing my first book. When he left, I was lost.
Even though he was long distance, he still helped with my computer issues—via some great app that would enable him to take control over my computer while sitting in WI. It was great. But was I intruding on his family time? His wife edited my first book. She offered wonderful insights. But separating family from work was a fine line. 

One pastor during the wedding sermon emphasized how the couple must build a wall around themselves to protect their entity from the dangers without.
He emphasized that we, as the parents, weren't within those walls. They stand alone.
They choose how their family grows. It's not for us mothers to hound them for children, nor decide when they've had enough.
It's not for us mothers to even tell them how to raise them. (Although, of course we know what's best.)
My son was quick to show me a comic of a wife telling the mother-in-law she didn't need any of her suggestions because the wife had married what the mom had raised—and he wasn't perfect. 
I wanted to say, "But he didn't obey me totally." But I got his point.

I don't remember ever asking my mom for advice in child training. Why hadn't I? 
I certainly didn't think I knew it all.
I share now, but cautiously, not out of much wisdom but out of my own trial-and-error.
There's also those Biblical principles that helped insure success. 

Visiting our growing family continues to be a “dance” for what to do. After all, it's their kitchen. There can only be one chef in the kitchen.
I'm the extra person. I am willing to cut the onions, but am I in the way?

Then the grand babies come.
I remember my mother-in-law coming after each baby was born. She’d make fried chicken, chicken soup, cleaned, and folded laundry. She was a great help.
But she used bleach for dishes and laundry. I worked in the garden while she cleaned because I couldn’t breathe the bleach fumes without getting sick.
I’d un-fold the laundry, so I could sort the clothes. (Had to check the size).
But she was a great help.
But I also remember feeling of relief when I had my kitchen back. Even while thinking, “How am I going to do all this?”
Now as I try to emulate her attitude and service (without the bleach fumes), I find myself lacking.
I can cook, but I don’t clean so well. And my hands don’t have the strength to scrub pans or push a heavy vacuum cleaner.
How did she do it? How should I help?
Maybe they don’t want me messing up their organized system. Or do laudry—do they special wash this or not?

With my visits, I would like to hope I help. But I don’t know.
Maybe it's an endurance test for them until I leave so they can get back to being in charge of their space. 
We keep our visits short. Although once a year seems too long to wait. Yet a week seems too long at one time. 
Long distance grand parenting is hard. 
I'm sure close grand parenting has its difficulties too. 

All our daughters-in-law are the perfect fit for our sons.
They are the helpmeet given to them by God.
Some have great baking and cooking skills that surpass my thirty years of trial-and-error.
Others make us laugh with their antics. A laugh goes a long way when the road gets hard.
Each one has strengths and weaknesses that will help them grow together as a couple. 
Each wife has added to our family. 
It's a joy to see how God brings the right one for each son.
And for us, too. 

Being the mother-in-law seems like walking a tightrope between wanting to instruct or correct, and realizing they must figure it out.
Should I say anything? Or would it be better to keep my mouth shut?
With those moments, my husband hugs me and reminds me that he will be with me forever.
And I am glad, because there are too many of my boys who have already left and too many just waiting to leave for me to think I have much time with them.
They find that special person who will take my place—and fulfill what I could never do for them.
That’s how God made it to be.
It was the right thing. 
But not the easy thing.
God reminds me to restrain my “control” of my boys as they leave.
For they are not mine really. But God's.
He still holds them in His hands.
But He leaves them in my heart.
My heart has enlarged for the daughters-in-law that God has also given.
They are each treasures.
Special for their uniqueness and for the part they play in completing our family.

Their concerns and prayer needs seem to grow exponentially with each addition.
How can my heart hold all these concerns?
It was not meant to.
I give them to God.
He can, not only hold them, but answer them all perfectly, in the right time.
I must let go and allow Him.
Cease from trying to figure out their lives—like some busy-body, annoying mother-in-law.
And take the next step that God has given me—trust Him for their lives, too.


How do you older women cope with your position as mother-in-law?
 

You are so right, being a mother-in-law is walking a tightrope. Or playing a game you can never seem to win. Think I worry more over what kind of a mother-in-law I am than I did over what kind of a mother I was. Guess it all comes down to control; as a mother you have it, as a mother-in-law you absolutely don't. Maybe this is the way God keeps us on our knees, following Him instead of looking around at where we might fail. And trying to remember that just as we are insecure as the mother-in-law, these new daughters in our lives are equally insecure. You are going to have a lot of pray practice in the years to come! God bless. Anyway, really appreciate the article, I so understand it.

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I write about what matters...to you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what matters...to Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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