When my husband and I were engaged he took me to a family reunion where I finally met my future mother-in-law. I was scared. She was an accomplished business woman from a big city. I was a little farm girl from a small town. Would she like me? Would I like her? I wasn't sure.
She put me at ease right away with a warm hug. She handed me a gift, a lovely necklace with matching earrings, and said, "Welcome to the family." Whew! The first hurdle had been successfully navigated. However, it took a while for me to genuinely get to know her and appreciate the kind of woman she was. By sharing things about her that I loved, others may be inspired to be a kind and caring in-law.
1. She complimented me on things I did
She praised my work as an amateur oil-painting artist. During one of her visits she even asked me if I would teach her how to paint. I didn't feel qualified but she said, "You know more than I know. Just teach me what you know". She was sincere and we spent several hours having fun painting together. She went on to take other painting classes from professionals, enjoying this new-found talent in her later years.
2. She was patient with me
While I'm certain I didn't do things exactly as she wished, still she exhibited patience while I learned. Giving me counsel rarely and in a kindly manner helped. I think she must have winced at some of my cooking methods, but still she let me be. She knew I wasn't bent on destroying the health of my family...even though some of my cooking skills might have proved otherwise!
3. She taught me to appreciate good fashion
I didn't know much about fashion as a young adult, so I watched what my fashion-conscious mother-in-law did. She didn't flaunt her stylish clothes, but she always looked lovely by dressing conservatively and fashionably. Though my style was not the same as hers-by a long shot-stil I learned that dressing the best I could was a good thing. Deep inside I wanted her to be proud of me-not for being like her, but for being a better me because of her.
4. She taught me how to pinch a penny
Some of those lovely clothes she wore were knock-offs. One of her talents was sewing. She could look at a dress from a high-end store, go home and copy it in her own little sewing room. She told me it was not necessary to spend a lot on clothes, just learn a few tricks in sewing and make your own or visit a good second-hand store. I laughed when she showed me the designer label in a dress she had made herself. She said, "I wanted the secret fun of wearing that label so I found an article of clothing with that label at a Goodwill, cut out the label and put it in my own homemade dress." We laughed together over this. She was always finding ways to save money and still look and feel great.
Of course, this happened when he was a child living at home. She expected him and his two brothers to do their share of house cleaning. Having him be good at this has been a blessing throughout our marriage. He doesn't bat an eye at doing the dishes or other mundane household chores. My husband's father often traveled for work, meaning everyone was expected to help at the house. And they did.
4. She taught her sons to respect women
Since one of those sons was my husband I am profoundly grateful to her for that. There was no question during his growing up years that he was to show respect to his mother. When a man learns that at a young age he learns to respect women in general. I fully expect that if he ever disrespected me he would have been sufficiently chastised by his mother.
She had many other grandchildren besides the ones we gave her, but when she was with us, ours had her total focus. Since all five of our children are adopted, the fact that she loved them so dearly meant the world to us. She fussed over them. She spoiled them. She helped teach them values that mattered. She thought they were adorable. I adored her for this. And they adored her, too.
6. She expressed appreciation
She thanked me for letters I wrote that told her what we were doing. She always wrote back and told us what she was up to. These letters are now a treasure to our family. When she fell and broke her hip, we visited her and did our best to help her. She always expressed gratitude for everything we did to help her life be a bit easier.
Many years later she was diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer. I didn't want her to leave us. During this time she asked me if I would be the one to administer her pain shots since she did not want to be hospitalized. With guidance from her doctor I learned how. It was difficult giving her that first shot, but it was made easier because she always thanked me for doing it. I miss her.
My own mother was a remarkable woman, too. She encouraged me to learn from and love my dear mother-in-law. What a blessing that counsel has been.