Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mother-in-Law o' Mine, Part Six

Continuing the story from Part Five...

No wonder I was scared.

When I consider the fact that Shav is now 16 months old and that, when Tobin was 16 months old, I was only two months from having another child, I "scarce can take it in."  (I know that line sounds better in "How Great Thou Art," but it describes my feelings about this, too!)  To think of adding a baby to the mix while Shav is still so young and needy--not walking independently, not saying many words clearly, not always communicating his desires effectively, not even close to self-sufficiency in dressing and basic care, not to mention potty-training!--it makes my knees shake just thinking about it...and, to be perfectly honest, it makes me breathe a sigh of relief that God has not seen fit to bless us in such a way at the present time!  :)  How did I ever get through it before, when Tobin was still, in many ways, my baby and Shav was The New Baby?  I guess the way we always get through difficult situations:  one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.  But looking back, I think, "It is no wonder at all that I was scared."

Mothers who have more than four children or who have children spaced even more closely than mine are allowed to snicker now at my incompetency and trepidation.  :)   But I had never had four children before!  And I had never had children born 18 months apart!  And I was trembling at the thought of it all.

But here is where the story gets good.  I love this part.  

That visit from Jeff's mom after Shav was born--yes, that three-week visit!--revolutionized my relationship with my mother-in-law.

Scattered throughout my posts from August of last year are snippets of praise for her--for example, Grandma Love describes how I decided that I wouldn't have another baby unless she came to stay with us and help out.  ;-)  I think it was obvious that I was truly enjoying having her with us; in fact, a number of people have commented to me (not so much on the blog, but more in real life) about my good relationship with my mother-in-law...and how surprised they were by how long she stayed and how happy I was about it...and how they didn't think they could ever do that with their mother-in-law!  So what made the difference?  What changed my reluctant, I-guess-you-can-stay-that-long heart into a welcoming, do-you-have-to-leave-so-soon heart?

In a word, humility.

There's something about having a baby that forces us to be humble.  No, I can't keep all the balls I'm trying to juggle in the air at one time, but that's OK because...I just had a baby.  Yes, my house is messy, but that's OK because...I just had a baby.  No, I can't remember the last time I cooked a real meal, but that's OK because...I just had a baby.  Yes, I realize the laundry is piled up higher than ever before, and yes, I'm aware that my son is wearing his last pair of clean underwear, but that's OK because...I just had a baby.  No, I'm not going to stay up to do all the dishes tonight, but that's OK because...I just had a baby.  Yes, I realize that a faint smell of stale milk is hovering around me, but that's OK because...I just had a baby!  Actually, that's not OK; that is a clear sign that I need a shower, so here, somebody help me out and watch my kids and I'm heading for the bathroom.  See you in a few!  ;-)

Probably more than at any other time in our lives as grown women, the process of giving birth and nurturing a tiny infant brings an incredibly sharp focus to our days, making it relatively easy to define what is wheat and what is chaff.  And with that clarity comes the ability to give grace to ourselves.  Nobody else is expecting us to be Superwoman, so for once, we can relax and leave our cape behind and not try to pretend that we've got it all together.  

At least, that's how it's been for me.

And that's how it was in August of last year when Jeff's mom was with us.  Probably for the first time ever, I set aside my prideful determination to be Wife and Mother of the Year; and I humbled myself, allowing her to shower us with loving acts of service, letting her see the real me--weak and frail though I may be, not holding her at arm's length in my determination to prove myself capable.  During those weeks, we didn't go on any long trips, we didn't show her the sights, we didn't focus on entertaining her (much to her relief, I'm sure).  Instead, she was just part of the family.  I say "just," but what an honor!  What a welcome change!  What a bonding time!

Once she got here and I saw how sweet it was to have her companionship and help, I felt exceedingly silly that I had been so nervous about it all and, consequently, so resistant to her stay.  How foolish I was!  I'm so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to learn that lesson; surely that was one of the unexpected side benefits of Shav coming into our family at that time.

Based on that visit and how dramatically different my heart became, I was looking forward to her 2010 visit with eager anticipation!  Whereas the mention of three weeks had been so disturbing to me in 2009, her decision to stay with us for four weeks this year was met with great rejoicing.  

As time sped by and the day of her arrival drew near, I wondered if perhaps I had built up too high an expectation of how this visit would go.  I was expecting it to be easy, but maybe it would be difficult?  I thought four weeks wasn't too long, but maybe I would chafe at her continued presence in our household?  I remembered how well we had worked as a team after Shav's birth, but maybe this year, now that I was back to being Capable and In Charge, we would experience friction?

If you've been reading my blog during the time she was with us, you likely already know that it was a fantastic visit together, full of normal activities, day-to-day living, a few special projects (like applesauce making!), a couple of homeschool field trips, but mostly life.  Plain ol' life.  No, make that good ol' life.  Life as a family of nine.  It just felt right.

Tomorrow I hope to do a wrap-up post, sort of a "What I've Learned about Mother-in-Law Relationships" kind of post.  But before I sign off for tonight, I want to mention how interesting it's been for me to walk along Memory Lane and drag from the recesses of my brain these thoughts about how my relationship with my in-laws developed.  Whew, I haven't thought about some of those things for quite a long time!  But it's been fun to try to summarize it all and to see how God has worked to mold my character through them and to see how He has bonded our hearts to each other.  Earlier this year, I read Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss; and one of the major struggles described in the book is her relationship with her in-laws, specifically her father-in-law and sister-in-law who come to live with her.  As I read Stepping Heavenward, I could relate to the sense of in-laws being an instrument used by God to chisel away at my selfishness and pride.  When I look back, I regret the times when I fretted because of the time I had to spend with my mother-in-law.  I'm ashamed of my childishness.  I wish I could rewind time and appreciate her visits more fully.  But of course, I can't; however, one thing I can do is move forward from this with greater love, peace, and humility.

As I've written this series of posts, I've sometimes wondered, "How is this coming across?"  Of course, I know what I'm thinking and how I'm feeling; but I'm not always sure that I'm communicating it clearly to those who are reading.  During the past almost two weeks, I have felt very vulnerable and second-guessed my decision to reveal so much of my heart and so many of my thoughts.  But then I've decided to charge ahead, hoping that somehow, by being so perilously open, someone else will be helped, and another mother-in-law/daughter-in-law pair will become closer and more loving towards each other.  

As I conclude my saga ("conclude" being a relative term, since I do want to write once more about this topic), perhaps I should emphasize the fact that, all along, my mother-in-law and I enjoyed a good relationship.  There weren't conflicts, we got along fine, no arguments broke out, we built great memories when we were together.  Overall, we really had a good relationship; and if it had never gotten any better, I would still have been satisfied.  But now that we have crossed a boundary that I didn't even know existed, I'm rejoicing at the beautiful depth that is possible between us.  I may not be a Ruth yet to my Naomi, but I'm on my way.  And, Lord willing, I'm not going to stop anytime soon!

These pictures of Grandma Fisher helping Shav up the driveway in our walker remind me so much of this post from September of last year about Grandma Huffman helping Tobin up the driveway in our walker.  As Yogi Berra would say, "It's deja vu all over again!"  :)


Julie said...


This has been a GREAT series and shows your really sweet heart. Thank you for sharing so much of it. I am blessed to have such a precious friend to learn from. Love you in cyberspace and in real life space, too ;)

Stacey said...

Thanks for posting this series about you MIL. I can relate to a lot of it.
My husband and I were married when we were just 18 yrs old. Out of the blue one day my Father in Law came to us and told us that we would be getting married in 3 days. We were shocked and well, shocked... any way we were told that my MIL would have everything planned and that we should be ready. I knew she did not want us to get married but she planned it any way. We ended up at the justice of the peace, first thing on a Monday morning. Our relationship was extremely rocky that first year. We never exchanged words or argued but I felt the tension. My husband and I really had no clue what we were doing. God alone has been the guiding light for us. After a few years our relationship started becoming more comfortable. But I never really felt completely at ease around her. I have always made it a point to let her know how thankful I am for her son and also for the way that she raised him. A few years ago, I went through a huge familial struggle with my husbands brother and his wife. It was ugly nasty, and I know also that God is the only one that was capable of restoring that relationship, He is so faithful. During that time my Mother and father in Law, so completely wrapped me in Love! It changed everything. Their support was paramount to me. I can honestly say my mother in law and I really genuinely love each other and we are completely comfortable with each other. Today nearly 16 yrs. after we got married I can say I love my mother in law with my whole heart.

Thanks Daveen for posting this! It is a great reminder that having a great relationship with the in-laws is not a blessing to take for granted.

Morning said...

How odd! All my comments on your posts (and i've commented on every MIL post you've written) seem to have disappeared. Hope I have better luck with this one. Of course, babies change everything! The same thing happened in our family, and my first nephew was the catalyst for a strengthened relationship between my mother and sister. I have so enjoyed these posts, Davene, because I struggle with relationships, and especially with forgiveness due to a mixture of pride, shyness and embarassment. You have shown grace in dealing with the situation, and in the sweet way you have humbled yourself in so many ways. I will learn from you!

Davene said...

Morning, that is really strange about your comments! I remember reading a few that you've left on this series, but not on all the posts. What tiny creature is living in my computer and deleting your comments?? ;-)

I appreciate your interest in these posts...and your openness about your own struggles. Relationships are such a blessing - but such a challenge, too! And oh my, I still have so much to learn.

I do not want to push Jesus stuff down your throat, Morning; I think you know how much I respect and appreciate you. But I would be remiss if I didn't say that He is my example for how to deal with relationships. Reading about Him in the book of John, for example, reveals a man who was a master at relating to people. One thing that constantly astonishes me about Him is how He had the perfect balance of all attributes: firmness v. tenderness, grace v. truth, etc. I still long to grow in my discernment so that I, too, will know how to deal appropriately with each situation that arises as I relate to people.

Have a great day, Morning!