Seventeen years ago, I met a boy in the lunch line at Auburn University’s Foy Student Union. It didn’t take long to know that this was more than a college crush. It wasn’t very long into our relationship that I met his parents (my future in-laws). I am usually very sure of myself when meeting people, but the importance of this moment was not lost on me . . . I remember being uncharacteristically nervous. At the time I had an eyebrow ring, pink/purple hair . . . I’ve always been an extrovert and usually speak my mind. I’m not sure what they were feeling, but I have to guess that I was not exactly who they may have expected.
My in-laws are calm, quiet, steady. They are the parents of four children. I married their oldest child, and only son . . . 15 months after I met him. If I were his mom, I would have had my guard up, but my mother-in-law never seemed to. She was warm and welcoming without prying or over-stepping in any way. Without knowing me that well, she seemed to accept me without hesitation. Looking back, I think it may have been because she saw how happy John and I were together.
As the years have gone by, I’ve realized more and more how lucky I am to have the mother-in-law that I have. Our culture is flush with horror stories of terrible MIL relationships. Thankfully, my own experience has been nothing of the sort. She’s never shown up unannounced, but she is always there if we need her. She doesn’t give unsolicited or condescending advice, but she is willing to help troubleshoot a problem or give an opinion when asked. She respects our parenting choices, even if they may sometimes be different than her own. She happily shares important family recipes. She accepts me as I am and never makes me feel as if I have to earn her trust or her approval. The list could go on, but rest assured the bar has been set pretty high for what my own goals will be as a MIL myself one day.
I’ve been her daughter-in-law for almost 16 years now, and I adore having her as my second mom. My love and appreciation for her has grown with every new stage of life. These last six years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her as a grandmother to our three daughters. Hearing them lovingly call her name and beg to go to their Grandma and Paw’s house makes my heart sing.
I’ve often heard women thank their mother-in-law for raising the man of their dreams, and I do think that is a valid thing to be thankful for. I know that I am so grateful for the role mine had in who my husband is today. But, the thing I’m most thankful for is that she trusted the boy she raised to marry a woman who was worthy of being loved and respected. Thank you, Wanda, for never making me doubt your love and respect for me. I hope you know that you have mine as well, forever.