All my life I’ve heard horror stories of mothers-in-law. Controlling…butting in…you know the jokes…the comments. I prayed I would be a good mother-in-law all those years ago into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I’m seeing another side of this phenomenon on this side…the downward slope of the hill of life.
I see a woman who’s unsure of herself and where she stands anymore. I see someone who has literally poured her life into that son or daughter only to watch someone misuse or not provide or control or expect too much of him or her. She remembers the hours of loving devotion she has lavished on her little one (who will always be little to her), the long nights up cuddling a fevered brow, rocking an inconsolable soul, holding up a frail little body while they lost their cookies for the umpteenth time into the commode. She remembers the tickles under the covers every morning, the squeals of laughter, the tears of disappointment she wiped away. She remembers the hard teen years of helping them navigate life and just make it through…the hours of wondering where he or she was, the worried early morning hours spent wide-eyed praying for their wisdom and purity, their decisions and preservation of their soul.
I don’t think anyone truly understands the mother’s heart…maybe not even other mothers since we are all so different. That moment when you give your child away is wrenching…it’s other-worldly, cataclysmic, life defining. It’s usually the father who “gives away” a daughter, but I venture to say it’s really the mother who couldn’t do it…sitting there alone in that pew…wondering if life will be good to her child, wondering if this person standing before them with the son or daughter is actually who they say they are …or if they are someone totally different. Are you sure who this person is you are opening up yourself and your child to? Are they truly good willed? Can you know as you are sitting there in that pew watching the ceremony…the vows to love no matter what, to honor no matter what, to be there in sickness and in health, in the good and the bad? I don’t think you can. I look at all mother’s differently now. I know it’s not vogue to be called a “mother” and yet I think it is the highest calling to create and nurture a life in this life. And maybe part of that is the “giving away”…the emptiness…the not having a place anymore. Those sweet little child kisses on your cheek, the strong lithe arms hugging the life out of you when you are young, the high pitched promises to marry you and buy a farm and always live with you, the adoring love in shining eyes, the shared laughter unencumbered by years of uncertainty in where you fit in…those are what she is holding on to. The mother-in-law. She’s remembering. She’s wanting time. She’s needing reassurance that she matters. She’s wanting recognition for her part in preparing the child for someone else. Try to understand she’s now navigating new waters and it may take awhile….or forever…to find her place.