(Guest Post by Lois Brown Loar)
Since I have been a mother-in-law for 15 years, and a grandma for 13 years, perhaps I can offer some encouragement to you with those you are dealing with, and thoughts on how YOU can be the best mother-in-law and grandma you can be.
First of all, my husband did not have very good in-laws. My parents were loving parents, and they were terrific grandparents. But they were not good in-laws to my husband, or to my brothers-in-law and sister-in-law.
My in–laws were kinder, but I had some issues with them over the years now and then, as well.
So, as I observed behavior, how it made my husband feel, how it made my children feel, and how it made me feel(!), I made a mental list of in-law do’s and don’t’s that include issues with grandchildren. I also changed my thoughts on a few things as I grew in the Lord, in age, and in wisdom. Some are humorous, some are serious, some are sad, some are cheerful.
So, I give you a sampling of my list and my reasons:
1. Except in case of medical emergency, don’t call married children before 9 a.m. on Saturdays before they have children. Want grandchildren? Call after noon. This only does not apply if they call me first before noon. Once they have opened the door, I can call. Also, do not call after 8 p.m.in the evening.
2. Do not stop by without calling first. If you can’t avoid it, no looking around at the mess, and especially no commenting on said mess. Since we all have cell phones today, I see no reason to not call ahead and giving the couple time to hide the dirty dishes in the oven. the dirty laundry in the bedroom. Again, if you happen to see any of this, no comments allowed. None. Nothing. Nada. zip it. Remember, unless they live in YOUR home, you are a guest in theirs. (Living in a parents’ home adds some different dynamics that I’ll address later.)
3. Further, negative comments about your child’s spouse to your child or your grandchildren is off-limits. Especially to the grandchildren. This can result in NO ALONE TIME with your grandchildren until they are teenagers. They can visit you alone at that time….enjoy the attitude.
You need to remember that your grandchildren love your child’s spouse as deeply as they love your child. You will only push them away from you if you criticize their parent. And they will lose respect for you.
4. Recognize that your child’s spouse WILL be raised differently than you raised your child. They are uniquely created to meet needs in your child that you may not know are there. You will feel some friction with him or her, but you need to be the “bigger” person and understand that they have many years of growing and maturing to do. Allow them to do it. Allow your child and spouse to create a “new” family, separate and different from yours, but still a part of you. Unless asked, your input is not given.
5. Allow your child and spouse to fail. They will grow in maturity and experience faster if you let them know you are there if they need you, but that you will not butt in. And then, don’t butt in.
6. NEVER gossip, share, ask for detailed prayer requests, or otherwise report negative activity about your child and spouse with other members of your family. Including your child’s siblings!!! If your child wants the rest of the family to know, they will tell them, or tell you it’s ok to tell others. But, no judgemental conversations about any of it with other family members. Memorize this line, “If you really want to help your sibling, pray for him/her. If you want to know what’s going on in your sibling’s life, I’ll give you his/her phone number.”
7. Be ready to let go of your child shortly after they turn 18. Trust that you have done a decent job raising them, and their mistakes will only make them stronger. TRUST GOD with your child. Remember, He loves them more than you do.
8. Think the best of one another. Submit to one another in love, as brothers and sisters in Christ. Pretty sure that’s in the scripture. Search it out.
9. Do not support bad behavior by your child. Don’t make excuses for him/her when they do something wrong in their marriage. Pray for them.
10. Pray for your children’s marriages. Your children’s healthy marriages will reap huge rewards for your grandchildren.
11. Do not lend or give money to your child with strings attached. Once you have given it, forget it, unless there is a written agreement on paying it back. Even then, to not comment or attempt to control how they will use it. If there is a possibility that they will use it in a way that offends you, or that you cannot live with, don’t lend/give it. Just don’t.
12. When your adult child marries, embrace your new son- daughter-in-law as your own. Do not ever think that anyone isn’t “good enough” for your precious baby…..because your precious baby is likely not “good enough” for that person, either. Determine to treat them with love and respect and earn it back from them.
13. Do not insist on being called “mom and dad” by your child’s spouse. They may have a couple different feelings about that. They may be very comfortable with it. Or they may feel that that honor should only be held by their own parents, because they have a great, close relationship with them. Or, they may have had a very dysfunctional relationship with their own parents, and the terms “mom and dad” do not bring good memories. Allow them to call you whatever they are comfortable with as long as it is respectful. Maybe, if you make them feel loved, perhaps they will honor you with the title “mom and dad”.
Grandparent: Do ask before giving large amounts of sweets, toys, or money
Parent: Don’t freak out over the occasional small gift of a piece of candy or an inexpensive toy. Or anything smaller than $1.01. Your child’s grandparent is not trying to buy their love….they are trying to bless your child. Sometime, they might desire to give a larger gift. Hopefully, they will ask you first. But if they do not, try to think the best of them. Tell your child , ” God blesses us in many ways and from many sources. This time, He used Grandpa to bless you, and your gratefulness to both Grandpa and God is important.”
Grandparent: Don’t do, spend, give any more to one than you are willing to try to do for all. If you have 20 grandchildren and can’t afford to do it for all, don’t do it at all. But DO find things that you can do with or for all. (I hold “cousins camp” for 3-4 days/nights every other summer. Child must be potty trained and ok with staying overnight away from parents. Age 4 is usually the youngest age. Play games inside and ouside, to appeal to the variety of ages.)
One of my sons’ favorite memories is playing SkipBo with my mom. Didn’t cost a thing. Just time to make some little boys feel important and smart enough to play cards with a grown up! Also, mom always bought ice cream and cookies when we would be there. Not pricey, but the kids LOVED it, and it’s a sweet memory of grandma.
Parents of large families…..remember that having lots of kids was YOUR choice, not your parents’. If they can’t afford a lot of expensive gifts, or if the noise level in your house is overwhelming to them(….hey, I had 12 kids, including 8 noisy, rambunctious boys….and I am shocked at how quickly I go on noise overload with a lot of granchildren around….I suddenly have more compassion for my mother-in-law who could only take so much noise…..) It does not mean that they don’t love and appreciate your children…..it just means they(we) are getting old. It stinks…we don’t like it either…. So, try to help them arrange time to spend with one or two of your children at a time. It’s probably more in their comfort zone and the kids will get some great personal time that will build memories for them.
Remember that as your parents age, they are seeing the end of their earthly life draw near. I just turned 60. I have lost friends to death. I have lost a sibling to death. I have friends fighting life threatening diseases and conditions. I am fighting diabetes. We want to make our moments with our children and grandchildren count. We want our grandchildren to have pleasant memories of us, as we may not see them graduate from high school, get married, have babies.
If we have health issues, our crabbiness may be due to health issues that we haven’t told you about, or that we have told you about. We may not be sleeping well. We may be afraid. We may just never feel physically good. We may be depressed about that.
A piece of candy for a child, and little gift or “field trip” to the ice cream shop can give a lift to an elderly grandma or grandpa and make them feel useful.
Oh, yeah….feeling useful and needed. It diminishes greatly once all our kids are grown, and gets even worse as we age and physically can’t do the tasks we used to do. Please allow us that little pleasure of the smile on your child’s face when we give them a piece of candy.
Just some thoughts as I finish raising my last two teens, try to be a good grandma to 17 grandchildren…….so far……., and face the fact that I may have fewer than 20 years left on this earth. I may not have tomorrow, of course, as we all should be aware of that. But, no matter what, I don’t have another 60 years. I look forward to being with Jesus, of course. But, I would like to finish well, to leave each person in my family confident that I loved them,
So, parents, embrace your parents and your in-laws. You will be the in-laws one day. How will you want to be respected and loved? Be the daughter-in-law you want to have some day. Embrace the people who raised your husband. They will never be perfect, but few people can resist love and acceptance.
I know this is long, but I’ve been at this for 40 years and on both sides. I hope this helps you see your chidlren’s grandparents through Jesus’ eyes and helps you to be amazing in-laws and grandparents yourselves.