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Why You Should (Really) Listen to Your Mother-in-Law

motheranddaughterinlaw_300She might not cook, raise kids, entertain, dress, or express herself like you do, but she’s your husband’s mother, and different isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s a lesson that blogger Glennon Melton Doyle, author of Carry On, Warrior, says she wishes hadn’t taken her so long to learn.

When Craig and I were first married, I experienced his family as an unfamiliar culture. Communication was different, celebrations were different, mealtimes were different, and expressions of love were different. I found this to be unacceptable. To me, different meant wrong. I became offended and perpetually suspicious. In a million subtle and not-so-subtle ways, I tried to change my in-laws. I suggested new traditions. I offered advice. I found fault with their personalities and marriage and their relationships with their children and grandchildren. I dragged my dirty shoes all over my mother-in-law’s tablecloth. The one she’d spent decades carefully weaving.

I imagine my refusal to accept my mother-in-law hurt her deeply, but she gave Craig and me time and space to work it out on our own. She bowed out. That must have been a hard decision, one I pray I never have to make with my own son. I pray that my future daughter-in-law will be wiser and kinder than I from the start. She probably won’t be, though. She’ll probably be just like me. She’ll want to create her own weaving pattern, which might mean that she’ll need to walk all over mine for a while.

As a young mother and wife, establishing a pattern that suited me was difficult. Learning to weave required all of my attention. I needed time and space to establish my own rhythm and style, and perhaps my rejection of the old patterns was necessary to the discovery of my own.

True repentance is messy, and it takes time, but that sliver of light is worth waiting for. And when it’s real, it sticks. Thank you, Ms. Angelou, for leading me to repentance.

I’m not big on advice, mainly because most days I learn what an idiot I was yesterday. This is hopeful, because it means I’m moving in the right direction. But it also makes it risky to offer wisdom today. Even so, I feel safe suggesting this:

Mothers-in-law, enjoy watching your daughter-in-law learn to weave. When she makes a mistake, when she drops a stitch, allow her to notice it on her own. Tell her often how beautiful her pattern is. Be kinder than necessary. Bring her some tea. Be simple. Be sophisticated.

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