How I Learned (The Hard Way) To Appreciate My Mother-In-Law
Like many people, I haven’t always had the best relationship with my in-laws. Everything was great until shortly after we got married. They were insecure that we were favoring my family by spending the holidays with them. It took a year or so to work out and things have been hit or miss since then. We prepare for quarterly fights about my husband becoming Christian and leaving their faith. But other than that, we get along fine.
But the truth is that I’ve been unfair to them and my mother-in-law in particular. I hold them to a higher standard than my own parents and I am much less forgiving.
I should have figured this out on my own but the truth is that it took a horrible incident involving accidental rudeness to my mother to come to terms with it.
A few weeks ago, I got home from a weekend business trip on the day of my daughter’s birthday. We only had a half hour before she was supposed to go to bed. Her father was away on business, too. It was not the way you imagine celebrating your kid’s big day. I figured we’d save presents until the next day but I let her open up some gifts that I thought were from the in-laws. She opened them up and they couldn’t have been more inappropriate for a three-year-old.
There were puzzles for the six-year-old level, a Yahtzee game for an 8-year-old and some Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer chapstick. In May. So I called my mother to tell her how awful these gifts were from the mother-in-law. And she let me finish before telling me that those gifts were, in fact, from her.
Did I mention this was hours before Mother’s Day? My stomach just sank. I couldn’t believe I had been so rude to my mother. She handled it well — making fun of me to my siblings — but I just felt awful.
And the thing was that the moment I realized the gifts were from my parents, I had a totally different view of them. Then they became perfectly fine gifts. My inconsistency was indefensible.
And it wasn’t even the first time it had happened. We’d recently gotten rid of excess toys — donating them to the local shelter — and I’d included some toys that I thought my in-laws had gotten for the kids. After they were gone, my oldest explained to me that the toys I thought were good for donation had actually come from a prominent and respected friend of my in-laws. When I realized that, I had a totally different view of those toys, too.
I had to face the reality that I was being unappreciative of my in-laws. The gifts were just a part of that — I’d also been intolerant of their opinions and actions and had looked down on them.
The good news is that they don’t know how ungrateful and awful I was in these instances. That and I do a pretty good job of covering up my inner thoughts. But now that I’ve had to face the reality of my unkindness, I am working on being better to them.
If only I can figure out how to make things up to my own mother, now!