I think this night was almost ten years ago now, but I can remember the topic and the conversation between the seven or eight women in the room as if it was yesterday.
The topic was in-laws. As topics go, this is one that everyone has a story about it. And it seems the worse the story, the better the story.
Even though I didn’t even have a boyfriend at the time, I clearly remember hanging onto every word of my mom and her friends, as marriage and relationships have always been topics of interest to my girlie-girl mind.
Women told stories of mother-in-laws being too intrusive, and then others told stories of mother-in-laws that weren’t involved enough… but one particular woman’s story really had the wheels a turning in my young, naïve mind. The situation she chose to elaborate on was surrounding her mother-in-law and gifts.
Her mother-in-law had three daughters and two daughter-in-laws, and every Christmas, the daughters’ gifts would be considerably nicer than the gifts of the daughter-in-laws.
All the women in the room groaned and acknowledged how obviously rude, annoying, and how not fair that was, but that wasn’t even the real source of anger in this woman’s story. The real source of anger came from the difference in her CHILDREN’S gifts! The daughters’ children would get more gifts and more expensive gifts, while the daughter-in-laws’ children had less gifts and less spent on them.
And there I sat, in the living room full of women that were all daughter-in-laws to someone and as a fourteen year old girl that only saw pretty white dresses when I heard the word marriage, I looked at my mom and boldly exclaimed, “Well, when Atticus gets married, I would hope you would get me a nicer gift! I’m your daughter.”
I spoke those words with all that is fourteen and naïve. My mom and the other moms/daughter-in-laws all tried to explain to me how the girl that Atticus marries then becomes part of our family, etc. I really don’t even remember exactly what they all said, but I just remember so very clearly thinking, “What is the big deal? Clearly a mom is going to love her real daughter more and treat her way better.”
And OH. MY. GOODNESS. How I would love to travel back in time and let my 26-year-old self that has been married all of 5 months go pull aside my 14-year-old self to better explain how completely clueless I was that night.
But really, I look back at this story and gleam some wisdom from what was quite an embarrassing claim at the time. When I was 14 that was all I saw of the picture. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk when I said what I said – I just wasn’t thinking about anyone but ME. And when you’re 14 and think marriage means “pretty dress,” it all did seem pretty simple.
But then you grow up and learn that marriage has nothing to do with dresses and everything to do with compromise and people and CONSIDERATION. And I look back at that story and I laugh, but I also feel compelled to draw from that story a sense of understanding.
Remembering how once upon a time I heard that story and only thought about the daughter and didn’t consider that one day I might be the daughter-in-law causes me to stop and think.
If once upon a time I was so clueless and ignorant, what am I saying RIGHT NOW about people in positions I haven’t been (ie. mother, mother-in-law) that one day I’ll have to look back on and realize I just didn’t know.
I don’t know if this discussion about in-laws has specifically resonated with you, but my hope is that in this last post of the series, maybe, just maybe, MY own stupidity from a decade ago might strike some thoughtful reflection for you in your own relationships.
Because while these relationships aren’t always easy, this Thanksgiving, I’m surely thankful for all of the women in my life!
To conclude with the wise words of Honest Abe: “All that I am or ever hope to be I owe to my mother.”
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