Or, A Few Common Stumbling Blocks of the Mother-in-Law
Here are a few thoughts for the mother-in-laws among us.
Don’t make an idol out of your family get-togethers. Laying a big load of expectations on the kids will kill the fun of being together, whether it is a summer vacation on the beach or your Christmas celebrations. If you let it be known that “We’ve always done Christmas THIS way, and we will do it again this year OR ELSE” you are making sure they will hate every minute of it, or they will totally bow out to make a statement that you cannot be tyrannical.Â By insisting on time in this way, you may as well chase them away with a stick. They will run away as fast as they can.
Remember that they are trying to establish a new household. Give way to their decisions and honor them for it. At the same time, make it clear that you would love to have them for Christmas, and that you will accommodate their schedule and other commitments to keep it easy for them.
Set them free to establish their own traditions and to make their own decisions about vacations and celebrations. Ask them what will work for them. Don’t set things up and announce to them where and when they will be for what. Don’t be a fusser by complaining that they never stay long enough. This puts pressure on them and makes them miserable. You don’t want them to view time at your house as punishment or something they simply endure to keep the so-called “peace.”
Learn to share. Don’t keep tabs on how much time they are spending with the other set of grandparents/parents. This is guilt tripping, and guilt is never a good motivator. This might pressure them to stay away from both sets of parents to keep everyone at the same level. And of course, never complain to the other mother-in-law about how much time you get. This is deadly, deadly, deadly.
Don’t be critical; it only brings tension into the relationships. Your kids want to be accepted and loved. They want their parents’ approval and appreciation, not a list of short-comings. I think Spurgeon is the one who said that fault-finding is the easiest thing in the world. It does not require any sort of gift of the Spirit. However, overlooking faults takes grace. So get grace and don’t discourage your kids by always finding fault. Remember that they may be getting grace to deal with YOU.
Finally, confess your sins, keep your sense of humor, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t attribute motives or keep a record of wrongs or get your feelings hurt so easily. Pray. Give your concerns to God and ask Him to deal with your attitudes. Are you being petty? Or is this a serious concern? If the latter, then pray about it some more and ask God to give you a clear opportunity to discuss it. But then don’t go looking for one.
Let’s wrap up with a couple of Proverbs:
“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (12:16).
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (19:11).
And from 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”