My son was engaged this summer. We are thrilled. We love his fiancée and see that she is just the right kind of woman for him. So, I am going to be a mother-in-law.
We have always enjoyed meeting our kids' friends. When they were still at home, their friends were always welcome, and some of those friends are still in our lives. We've never really confronted a friend of our kids whom we disliked. But being a mother-in-law is different. It's for life. Especially when the young woman has a good relationship with her own family, the boundaries need to be established. My son, this past weekend, was teasing his fiancée about calling each other's parents "mom" and "dad." She's not going to, and I'm fine with that. I call my in-laws by their first names. Some people have different experiences, and that's fine.
I have a good relationship with my own mother-in-law, but we have had our moments. It certainly has never reached those stereotypical proportions, but there have been times of stress and strain. As I contemplate this new addition to our family, I want to do it well. I don't ever want to be a source of conflict between my son and his wife, and I don't ever want her to feel that I think she lacks something or isn't "good enough" for my son. I want to know from someone who has "been there" how do to this mother-in-law thing. But I don't really know someone who fits that bill; at least not someone with her feet on the ground in my immediate vicinity. Internet friends are great, but unless we have spent more time with them, they simply are not the same as someone who knows us and sees us regularly.
I have occasionally bemoaned the fact that I've never really had an older Christian woman in life whom I have felt I could go to for those things. Asking my mother-in-law about becoming a mother-in-law feels a little awkward to me. I'm sure I've been a source of annoyance to her, and I wouldn't ever want to put her on the spot. I've thought of asking my own mother, but because she is not a Christian, we tend to approach human relationships a little differently.
Older women need older women, too. As I head into my fifties, I know there will be other issues that are new and a little scary, becoming a mother-in-law being only one of them. My parents are getting older, I am getting older, and my husband will retire. We may have grandchildren. I may become ill or my husband may become ill. How do I do this aging thing well?
I'm a reader, and there are books about such subjects, I suppose, but sometimes, as much as I love books and tend to be a bit of an auto-didact, it's nice to have an in the flesh teacher. I have a copy of my Systematic Theology textbook, and I've begun the reading already, but I'm so happy that the class starts next week, because I already have questions I'd like to ask my professor. I'd like to have an older woman fill that need, that person we take our hard questions to.
Perhaps it is my own fault for not finding someone like that. After all, I attend a church with many older women; it's not like there aren't older women in my radar. Perhaps I have bought into the individualistic nature of our society and carried it into my life of faith. Maybe I'm not trusting enough.
I'm going to be on the lookout in the next few years.