In Praise of My Mother-In-Law

Mother… a name revered by all.  Even the most unsavory criminals love their Mothers.  Bikers tattoo the title on their bodies.  Thoughts of warm apple pie, unconditional love, trust, and devotion fill the mind.  She is the one who changed your diapers, sat up with you all night when you were sick, and listened to you when other’s judged.  She is often the most revered member of the family unit.

Mother-In-Law….  Oh the sound of that title sends many a wife (and husband!) into a terrified frenzy.  Words like meddling, nagging, crazy, or even evil may come to your mind.  If you are a wife, she may be the woman you’ll never match up to.  If you’re a husband, she may be the one reminding you that you’ll never be good enough.

I have a Mother-In-Law.  We’ll call her MILli.  When I first met Milk Man’s mom, it was a Sunday morning.  I didn’t know she was coming to church that day.  I remember I wore a retro black dress with red bows all over it.  My hair was high in a pompadour, and I was wearing my black and red chucks.  I wanted to kill Milk Man for not telling me earlier that his parents were visiting, so I could have worn something a little less “me” to church.  See, Milk Man comes from a family a bit more conservative than mine.  They are quiet, calm, and very normal.  I, however, come from a family of comedians, loud mouths, entertainers, and over-the-toppers.  I wear weird clothes.  I listen to metal, I love swing dancing, and I absolutely love dressing up.  That day, however, I wished I had worn a long jean skirt, a turtle neck, and black flats.  First impressions are so important, and I knew this one could affect me for a long time.  She was gracious and sweet, though I remember her looking at my shoes, and I wished I could hide them!

MILli and I couldn’t be more different.  We are dissimilar in nearly every way.  I have been mortified that I’ll never live up to her standards or be just like her.  Thankfully, she doesn’t require that, Milk Man doesn’t require that, and neither does God, because I am pretty sure she is the closest thing to perfect on this green and blue sphere!  She is creative, chaste, a gourmet cook, quiet, a servant, and intimidating (though not intentionally).  She is a dutiful wife, a loving mother, a doting grandmother, and she is a most giving daughter.  She is many things I am not.  I have seldom seen her sit at a family gathering.  She is always the last to eat.  Serving all, never being served herself.

I remember wondering how I ended up with MILli’s son when she and I were so completely different.  But, as time has gone on, I have figured it out.  Yes, MILli!  I got your number on this one.  Milk Man was your project.  Milk Man has so many of your traits and qualities, I began to realize that he was raised by you to be everything you felt a man should be.  How could I be intimidated or withhold friendship from the woman who made my husband who he is?

MILli is old fashioned in many of the right ways.  She has seen how the world has become a less polite, kind, and respectful place, and she worked over time to nurture a son who would go against the status quo.  I have often told Milk Man that he is a result of his mother’s rebellion against how most men treat women!  Milk Man is something out of a book or a movie most days.  Kind, loving, respectful, romantic, affectionate, giving, a servant, and a gentleman in all ways.

Now, of course, Milk Man was raised by his father as well, and MILli and FIL are in love and have raised a loving family together.  But Milk Man is especially MILli.  (Much like Milk Man’s brother is especially like my FIL!)  I think Milk Man is everything MILli wanted to see a man be in our society.  He treats women as she would like to be treated.  He serves others just as she serves everyone.

Now that I have my own son, I can’t help but think our wedding day must’ve been terribly hard for her.  Giving your son away to another woman has to be incredibly difficult.  She put so much effort into raising him right, and shaping him into the man he is today, only to send him off to marry Miss Loud Mouth McCrazykins (that’d be me!)

Every time he makes one of her expressions, gently encourages me for better, opens my door, treats me like a queen, helps me cook a meal, changes a diaper, or cuddles me after a rough day, I am reminded that he learned those things from his mama.  I can only hope to be half the mother to Captain that MILli was to my Milk Man.  (Thankfully, Captain has his daddy’s example to learn from, even if I sell him short on manners!)

So, thank you, my sweet Mother-In-Law.  We may not see eye to eye on much (though we have the thing that matter MOST in common! Our faith, our morals, and our views on family).  We may be incredibly different.  We may have very little in common.  We may disagree on some (or even many) things.  But you shaped Milk Man into the gentleman he is today.  I owe so much of my happiness to you.  I am forever in your debt!

And to those of you who don’t get along with your Mother (or Father-In-Law…) Look at your spouse, and if you love them (which I hope you do!) I can promise you that there are pieces of your In-Law’s souls, blood, sweat, and tears woven into your spouse’s personality!

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