I first met my mother-in-law when I was in fifth grade, which happens to also be when I decided I was going to marry her son.
Well, that was fast. And bold. And very creepy.
I know. Keep reading.
My now father-in-law accepted a short-term interim position at my church. The position turned into six years, and during that time, my family and my husband’s family got to know each other pretty well. My husband, Brent, and I grew up together in the youth group and started dating the summer before my junior year of high school. That’s after crushing on him through middle school and pretending to be interested in WWF and Stone Cold Steve Austin so he would pay me some attention.
But that whole pretending-to-love-wrestling saga is for another day. This post is about my wonderful mother-in-law, Teresa.
She’s No Monster-In-Law
I love the movie Monster-In-Law with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez. Viola, the mother-in-law, truly acts like a monster and tries anything to kill the relationship between her son and his fiance with her passive aggressive, over-the-top, and sometimes violent behavior. Viola says, “Everyone knows that when a woman marries a man she marries his mother, too. What if I drive her crazy?”
The connotation of “in-laws” is usually negative. It’s true that you don’t just marry your spouse, you marry the whole family. You’re stuck with them so you better be ready to put up with them until death do you part.
Nearly 14 years ago, I married into a wonderful family, and I can honestly say there hasn’t been anything negative about it. I was recently in a conversation with some friends who were complaining about their mothers-in-law. I kept quiet, and at one point a friend looked at me and jokingly said, “Well, what do you have to add?” I laughed and said, “Look, I can find a lot of things to complain about, but my in-laws are not one of them.”
When I was in middle school, I was once asked by Brent’s parents to babysit his younger brother while they went bowling for his sister’s birthday. Call me a dweeb if you want, but I remember exactly what I wore that night and how I felt. I had never been so excited about a babysitting gig. I was going to my crush’s house to watch his brother?! Umm, yes please! Brent wasn’t even in town, but I wanted to make sure I appeared to his parents that I was responsible and ready for a thrilling night of eating pizza and watching a firetruck movie on repeat with a four year old. I wore Old Navy overalls, a light blue Old Navy classic tee, my Timberland boots, and my hair (that had recently turned extra curly due to hormones) was scrunched and pulled half-way back into a barrette. I definitely looked the part. Dressed to impress.
The thing is, I loved this family (still do!). I not only crushed on Brent for a long time before we dated, I kind of crushed on the whole family. I imagined being a part of them before I even dated Brent. I enjoyed their company and always felt welcome in their home.
So while I cannot complain about my mother-in-law, there are plenty of good qualities I can say are true of her . . .
If you tell her something confidential, it stays confidential. You can take that to the bank. You can also trust that she sees the best in everyone and assumes the best in everyone.
She is an educator and has been at the same school for 31 years. She has also served in the special needs ministry at her church for a number of years. Because of her dedication to her school and church family, the impact she’s made in her community is long-lasting and invaluable.
One of the main complaints I hear about in-laws is how they do not respect the wishes of the parents in regards to grandchildren. I’m sure I drive my mother-in-law crazy with my expectations and wishes for my kids, but I can’t tell you a time she hasn’t gone along with my ridiculous requests and demands (minus a little spoiling here and there, but that’s what grandmothers are for). She may not agree with me, but she puts her opinions aside and respects me as the parent of her grandchildren.
She has the kind of character that overlooks offenses, forgives quickly, and loves earnestly.
She has dedicated a great portion of her career to children with special needs. She has known many of them over the years and her heart just gets bigger and bigger to hold all of the love she has for these kids. She is their advocate, their number one fan, and I know she loves them as her own.
She exudes genuine joy and delight in all that she does, especially when her grandkids are around. I think “Grandma” may be her favorite title.
I saved this one for last because I think it’s the most obvious one. If I ever describe my mother-in-law, this is the word most used. She gives and pours out to others over and over again, never expecting anything in return. She does not grumble. She puts herself last while joyfully putting others first. She looks for ways to serve and be helpful. She holds her earthly resources with an open hand. She is always willing to be spent for the joy and good of others.
She may not know this, but one of the many ways I have seen and appreciated her selflessness is how she prepares my kids’ plates if we are at her house for dinner. It’s not really necessary now that my kids are older, but when they were younger it was always such a treat to just fix my plate and sit down to eat while she cut up all the food for my kiddos.
Her big and small acts of service go a long way. They are always so helpful and they are certainly noticed. My in-laws recently took us on our first camping trip and my oldest said, “Grandma sure does a lot for us and puts up with a lot of stuff just so we can have fun.” And I quickly agreed.
See why I can’t complain? I know this is not the norm for many moms and I don’t take this for granted, so I want to publicly thank my mother-in-law:
Thank you for being so good to my family. Thank you for raising an amazing man, who loves our kids and me selflessly. He learned to care for us after the way you selflessly loved him as a child in your home. Thank you for letting me be the mom I am called to be without adding unnecessary pressure or conflict in our relationship. Thank you for being available and dependable. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to us. You are deeply loved!