One of the best things about marrying my only-child high school sweetheart was getting my wonderful mother-in-law, Margie, in the deal.
We all hear lots of bad mother-in-law stories, but I know lots of great MILs who treat their daughters-in-law like the daughters they never had. As one of five children, I reveled in Margie’s attention. When my marriage broke up after thirty-three years, I got her in the divorce, and we lived happily together in the same house till she died.
So in her memory, I decided to collect true stories from other daughters-in-law who had great mothers-in-law, and put them into The Twelve Sacred Traditions of Magnificent Mothers-in-Law, a humorous handbook for any woman facing the challenge of being a good mother-in-law even when her DIL is a vegan or a holy terror or a Goth or is sporting a purple Mohawk.
It’s imperative that we stop trying to tell them what to do when they haven’t asked for our advice. Though we have our children’s best interests at heart, any unsolicited advice (the key word being unsolicited) qualifies as interference. We have to let go, scary as that is.
Even when a cherished son has married an emaciated pincushion of a DIL (daughter-in-law) who has a tongue stud and maroon hair, and was introduced by her roommate’s cocaine dealer.
Or when a precious daughter (shudder) goes starry-eyed at the prospect of becoming bride number three for her father’s alcoholic best friend.
Even if they lease a gas-guzzling SUV for five years, with only ten thousand miles a year allotted. “Let them learn from their mistakes.”
Even if they use the money they saved by getting food stamps to go on a Caribbean cruise.
Even when they “mark their bodies like the heathens” and/or get assorted metal objects inserted into their anatomies.
Even when they work all the time and live in a small apartment, but get a Great Dane puppy anyway, then don’t have time to train it properly. (We are not, however, required to do it for them, or to dog sit.)
Even when they decide to go to the other in‑laws’ for Christmas. (Choke. Sob.)
Nothing we do can make our DILs into our ideal fantasies of who they should be, but The Twelve Sacred Traditions of Magnificent Mothers-in-Law passes along the acceptance and thoughtfulness my Margie and many other wonderful MILs offered their children's spouses, with plenty of humor and heart.
Several of my readers have e-mailed me to say that they didn't have the relationships they wanted with their daughters-in-law, but after reading this handbook they realized why, and now they could make things better.
I offer a very Southern mother-in-law’s humorous advice to mothers-in-law everywhere, including tried and tested tips on:
• How to Bite Your Tongue
• Minding Your Own Business
• Why You Shouldn’t Tell his New Bride about that Time in Third Grade When He Threw Up on Stage while Playing a Sheep in the Christmas Pageant