Built-in Best Friends
Every day, we have some sort of conversation about how to be a friend. Be unselfish. Be a good sport. Don’t be bossy. Don’t lose your temper. Don’t be proud when you are better. Know that we are all different and good at different things. When annoying things happen, don’t react. Give them a hug, they need it. You can discuss, but you cannot fight; know the difference. Encourage him in his failure, instead of criticizing. Do something just because the other person wants to. Don’t treat friends outside of your family better than the people in it. Did you know you have to teach them to get along? Naturally they won’t do anything but choose themselves. It is a constant work in progress, and something that needs a whole lot of discussion. I repeat myself SO MUCH!
All of that discussing and repeating overflowed into other areas of life. It came along in one of my husband and my “not so pretty” moments. I said, “Let’s remember that when we are all done with this phase of life, we still have to be friends.” It has kind of stuck. Call it cheesy or childish, but it helps me when I think that phrase. We started off as friends, after all. Remember that? A million years ago! Now, we are in the phase of life that requires so much of us. Successful jobs and careers require 100%. Teaching, training, and providing for the kids requires 100%. Our service to Christ should be at 100%.
Houses. Extended family. Money. Planning for the future. That is so much pressure. Often, I have found that my marriage is the very last thing on my to-do list. Sometimes, the only thoughts I have about it are when the trash can doesn’t make it to the curb on Friday morning. You can imagine what those thoughts consist of. I’m not going to be writing a book on a successful marriage. I am a rookie, and at best, would probably get a C on that report card. After 12 years of marriage, the only thing I could say is KEEP TRYING. It’s worth it. You, too, have a built-in best friend. Invest in that relationship. Let the annoying things go (you likely can’t change them anyway). Put as much time and effort into it as you can. Fight if you need to. Cry if you need to.
Recently a friend and her husband got to take a week-long trip together, without the kids. What a great and necessary thing. For them, I think it had been 7 or 8 years since that was an option. Another idea I heard of was a “stay-cation.” The couple had a babysitter for about 24 hours and stayed close to home but did a bunch of stuff together, and got a nice hotel, even though they could’ve gone home. What a cool idea. Investing in each other. Not letting things get so cold you can’t warm them back up. Time to talk. A time away to remember your friendship, before you go back to the pressures of life.
Of course, the people who have watched all these children deserve a medal, whether they are super-grandparents, or just church people trying to be a blessing. Will they ever know how deeply they’ve blessed that couple? All of us parents say “thank-you,” over and over again, and it still seems too shallow. I recently had someone give me some muffins and a sweet card. Inside the card was a ticket that was good for one free evening of babysitting. In the card, she stated that she just had us on her mind and was praying for us and was thankful for us, and wanted to do something nice for us. Little could she have known what a deep blessing that was to me. I was going through a very emotional and physically taxing time with our miscarriage, and the Lord used her to bless me, without her knowing even one detail of the situation. I still plan on taking her up on the coupon! Ask someone, if you don’t have anyone, and figure something out to get some time away. Please ask me, I’d love to be help you out. What’s a few more kids around here?
Think of how you act, as you re-read these things. Be unselfish. Be a good sport. Don’t be bossy. Don’t lose your temper. Don’t be proud when you are better. Know that we are all different, and good at different things. When annoying things happen, don’t react. Give them a hug, they need it. You can discuss, but you cannot fight; know the difference. Encourage him in his failure, instead criticizing. Do something just because the other person wants to. Don’t treat friends outside of your family better than the people in it. To my embarrassment, I have not always been a good friend to my husband. Something I can do, even though every day is chaotic, is to just treat him like a friend. So, that at the end of the day, you are on neutral ground, instead of negative. There is something I’ve learned, that has helped me. Remember those little eyes are watching.
A Mother-In-Law’s Influence
In my last article, I shared with you the first line of my mom’s letter to my husband, “Today I Give Away My Baby.” Her letter went on to say, “Since I have been Barbara’s mother for 19 years, I may forget that she is no longer mine, and I may try to take control of her again. If that should ever happen, please gently remind me, ‘Mom, she’s mine now.’”
My husband and I were very grateful for the mothers-in-law we had while we were raising our children. It has been my desire to follow their example, now that I have become a mother-in-law. Although our window of time for training our children is over when they leave our home, our realm of influence continues on.
The day each of my children got married was the day they were no longer “mine.” That day, they became one with their spouse. I am now a mother-in-law of 2 daughters and 1 son. I have learned that for me to be a good mother-in-law does not mean that I am to stay out of their life, but it does mean that I am to stay out of their business.
It’s not my business where they live, how many children they have, how they school their children, how often they “check in” with me, where they go to church, what job they have, what kind of clothes they wear, what forms of entertainment they participate in, or how they treat their spouse… my “child!” Rather, it’s all about relinquishing my control in their life. I must admit, that since I learned this lesson as a mother of adult children, it really isn’t that difficult as a mother-in-law. My opinion and advice should be given only if asked for. I can pray all I want! And I do! I can encourage, treat, and just be a blessing! No one wants a nosy, dominating person in their life, and especially if that person is your mother-in-law!
I have been a mother- in-law (mil) for almost 6 years now. I can see how jealousy, fear, bitterness, or loneliness can be reasons why a “mil” gets her stereotype reputation.
Jealousy- “they spend more time with the other parents/grandparents than with ME.”
Fear-“but if they take that job, or go to that church they won’t be close to me or be taught the
things I think they need.”
Bitterness- “I don’t like the way they treat my son/daughter and my grandchildren.”
Loneliness-honestly, my brain can’t even go there! There is always so much to do, and so many people who need me…ah, to be lonely. Just kidding! One of the surest ways to overcome loneliness is stop thinking of yourself and start being a blessing to someone else!
I’d like to share a good example of overcoming loneliness. About a year after my daughter was married, her husband got a job that prevented him from being home for supper. She would come home from work night after night to no husband. One day she told me, “I came home from work today to my usual empty house, eating supper by myself, feeling sorry for myself, when finally I said to myself, stop it! What about______ who lives by herself and always comes home to an empty house, and what about Grandma who doesn’t have Grandpa anymore to share her suppers with! So Mom, I got on the phone and planned a dinner date with both of them!” I must admit, I was very proud of her!
Because I’m human, some of these previously mentioned emotions have entered my mind, but thankfully I have chosen NOT to entertain them! I have found that being a mil is really no different than that of being a mother. I have choices to make, and those choices are either going to encourage my married-in children, or they are going to put unnecessary stress and frustration upon them.
I like what Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, Ruth. “My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?” That is the desire of my heart for my son-in-law and daughters-in-law. That I may act in such a way that I bring them rest and that all will be well with them.