A few weeks ago, I traveled to Durham to spend time with my lovely daughter-in-law, Eliza, and my grandson, Sam. The visit also had a practical purpose — I was there to help the family prepare for their upcoming move. We worked steadily, filling boxes with dishes and books. In spite of the task at hand and the toddler in the room, there was still time for conversation. During the course of our days together, Eliza said two things I will always remember.

13435380_912782022228_2053021578617638983_nMy daughter-in-law thanked me for coming to visit after Sam was born, mentioning specific ways I helped her transition to her new role as mother.

Mothers of boys don’t expect to be first on the scene when the grandchildren arrive. We totally understand that the new mom needs her mother and that our role is to arrive later on, when our daughter-in-law feels more comfortable. Mothers-in-law don’t want to intrude but we do want to participate. We want to be present and celebrate the miracle of life as we prepare meals and care for the family during the beautiful, exhausting days.

We want to help. We want to matter.

Eliza’s kind words nourished my soul.

Later the same week, she told me she appreciated the positive comments I have made about the way she and my son parent Sam. Eliza and Aaron are doing everything for the first time and they are acutely aware of how challenging this work can be. On those ”toddler meltdown” days, my observations remind her that they are good parents making wise decisions.

Families get busy and life becomes complicated. We assume those we love know how we feel and so we fail to say the words that matter most.

Sometimes even well-meaning mothers-in-law and kind daughters-in-law don’t think about the events at hand from the other generation’s perspective. We allow our communication to become routine or we fail to make time to engage with other another in any significant way.

Going to deep places with our in-laws can feel risky, but friendship will flourish as each person realizes the other values their opinions, trusts their motives, and believes the best about their decisions.

If we learn to view our in-law through a kind and empathetic lens, we will find opportunities to affirm one another. As we begin to speak authentic and encouraging words around the tender topics of our lives, we will actually change the trajectory of our relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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