The Boy-Mom and Other In-laws, Outlaws and By-laws

Maggie opened her front door to find her mom, distraught and on the verge of tears.

“Oh, Maggie!” Her mom stumbled in, only to melt into the closest chair. “You know I spent the weekend at your brother’s, helping Kristi and him with the new baby.”

Maggie’s mom stared out the window. “I thought I could help by cleaning up while Kristi napped.” Her voiced trailed off to a whisper. “I thought she’d be delighted.”

Maggie quickly assessed the situation and sat on the ottoman in front of her mom, grasping her hands. “Oh, Mom, don’t you get it? You can’t do that! You’re the boy-mom.”

Her mother looked puzzled. “I’m the what?”

“The BOY-MOM! That means you have to play by Kristi’s rules.”

Her mom still looked confused, so Maggie continued. “Kristi would know her mom was simply being her mom and helping. But you’re HIS mom  . .  so that means you were saying Kristi’s a slob and your darling dear son shouldn’t have to live this way.”

“Oh? But is that fair?”

What do you think?

As the holidays approach, many of us will gather with friends and family. Some of these people, in your book at least, are considered extended as in “please extend this person (or persons) as far away as possible.”

For in-laws, step-whatevers, and family, friends, colleagues in general, some of us have those elements of disconnectedness that make for great holiday comedic and/or melodramatic movies. Only we’re for-real lives, and most of us are hoping and praying for solidarity. Or at least a bit of unity with that great blend of flavors, like Chex Mix, trail mix and all those sweet, sour and salty combinations that offer endless variety.

Yet, Uncle Bubba doesn’t care for the sweet, or neighbor Edith is allergic to nuts. Or we hear, “MY family did it this way” and that’s either the only way to do it or possibly the worst way to do it.

As I hear these stories, I’ve often questioned, “Why is it that all these really good, even great, people can’t come together on special occasions without consequences?”

A good amount are convinced that their perspective and perceptions are completely correct, justifying the disconnect. So, we, in turn, justify our forming an attitude in defense.

Remember the language post? How our diversities separate us and confine us if we’re not aware of them.

To that, many will counter “But you don’t know my mother-in-law or brother-in-law or sister or boss!” No, maybe not, but since you’re married to her son, or his brother, or work with him/her, you might want to figure him/her out. And, at least, regroup on your response.

And whatever rough start you two or twelve might have had, it’s for all your best interests to make a concentrated effort to forgive and move forward.

So define effort, you say.

As in Maggie’s mom and sister-in-law

  1. What if we were as patient and forgiving with his/her family as we are with ours?
  2. What if we tried to respect his/her family’s traditions, quirks, strengths and weaknesses even as we might assume everyone should appreciate ours?
  3. What if we “heard” those differing people from a more positive frame of mind? That means lowering our defensive walls and taking a more positive spin, erasing some of our playback tapes.

For me, Maggie”s words spoke loud and clear. Years ago, hadn’t I jumped into my relationships with in-laws in hopes of extending my family, only to feel slaps on the face? Maybe I had been too zealous . . . at first.

But isn’t it those first responses we dwell on as we add the bricks to our walls, isolating us with those who understand us, while never venturing any farther? Which, of course, is fine unless we’re blocking out others who really might enrich our lives and theirs, as well as those we married into or associate with.

Sometimes it’s just silly stuff.

For example, in my first year married to Bill, he let me know that he didn’t like my sweet and fluffy cornbread (the way my mom fixed it). He preferred his mom’s–thin and crusty. I balked. I even resented his mom.

Now why should I resent his mom for making a different kind of cornbread? Wasn’t that part of what formed my husband’s early years?

Simply said–my ego was stung because of my insecurities.

I finally got smart and simply asked her for her recipe, complimenting her, and pleasing my husband. Now I prefer the thin crusty kind too.

So think about it . . .

  • It really shouldn’t be a competition.
  • And someone is going to have to let it not be.
  • What if you FLIPPED THE SWITCH.
  • What if you realized others’ lives from their vantage point.
  • All the while considering how your walls are working for you. Are your defense mechanisms dividing family and friends, causing others to pull back as well.
  • Also, please beware of apathy (note Apathy post on Heavy Hurts page for June 21, 2012).

I’ll always remember that time when I was in my twenties. Extremely frustrated by my in-laws, I prayed, “Lord, help me understand them!” It was then–in my mind’s eye–I saw a large book with its pages flipping from the first pages to the last. I couldn’t believe it. It was as though I had an understanding of their lives that had formed them for the good and the bad into who they had become presently.

I wish I could say it made everything perfect after that. No, but it helped me to understand them better and not take everything so personally. It also allowed for me to love them more because I could get past me and see them.

I only wish I prayed that prayer more often for others. Maybe, I can start now.

Yet, another point to make is that some people are impossible to ever have a real relationship with. Some are manipulative and abusive (see this Heavy Hurts page on domestic abuse). There are those in whom we have to guard our hearts and realize they choose not to change or relate with us.

Yet, I’ll end with the power of prayer and how even if it doesn’t change them, it will change us and our attitudes so that we don’t live in unforgiveness, bitterness and strife.

Prayer changes things.

Prayer isn’t as mysterious as we perceive it–or rather, don’t perceive it. It’s part of the unseen realm. It’s faith. Once linked with faith, events can change, people’s hearts can soften, and when nothing seems to be happening, at least in our eyes, we get to trust our prayers are changing something for His good.

Prayer is not a magic chant we repeat into the air in hopes of getting something in return. Prayer is our heartfelt conversation with God, the creator of the universe. Aren’t you always amazed how He wants a relationship with us because He loves us?

Yet, how often have we hoped in our prayers that God would change someone and/or something for our benefit?

Many times when we pray for others to change, if we’re open, God can reveal to us how we need to change.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned about prayer decades ago was not only that I could enter into my prayer closet for conversations with God, but I also could breathe those prayers throughout my days while I was walking down the hall between classes, in the car driving, doing menial tasks around the house. From the minute I awaken, I can choose to start the day with God.

So I encourage you to pray. Pray for those you love; pray for those you don’t. Pray for the children and adults who are in abusive and desperate situations. Pray for parents to parent, for ministers to minister, for the hungry to be fed–physically and spiritually. Pray for our president and leaders. Pray for how you can best share the life of Jesus truly and faithfully.

“Pray without ceasing.” I Thessalonians 5: 17

Please read the Heavy Hurts page on domestic abuse and its subtle invasion in our lives or others. For fun and discovery, on the Art Lessons for Life page, there is an art project–a collage about you.

Ann Elizabeth Streets in Charleston

Ann Elizabeth Streets in Charleston

4 thoughts on “The Boy-Mom and Other In-laws, Outlaws and By-laws

  1. So true. It *is* neat, tho, when the Lord chooses to inspire another’s heart with new energy to change… Maybe just as a faith-booster to me (b/c I’d never seen Him work that way before), God has done that for me a few times recently–and I think they are the best kind of “miracles” (whatever your definition) I’ve ever seen, up to this point in my life. 🙂 It still makes me happy to think back on. But I appreciated the reminders of how He often gives *us* the insight and opportunity to change.


    • I love how you phrased it–with new energy to change! He does; He really does when we let Him. We do need to be continually reminded though, don’t we? And encourage each other when discouraged how He can infuse us with new energy to change. Blessings!


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