There must be thousands of books out there about how to keep your marriage relationship strong, but where are the books about how to love your in-laws? I don’t mean that in a negative way! Even in the very best of circumstances, those relationships require real work and commitment. I’ve heard people say that you have to decide to love your spouse; I think the same is generally true of your in-laws.
One of the many great conversations I had at the 4word retreat a few weeks ago was about family dynamics at the holidays. My friends Melody and Kara represent two very different perspectives on the issue, and I asked them each to write a blog to share with you in the coming weeks.
First up is Melody. Melody is a 4word woman (and mentor!) who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. Her children and step-children are all grown up, and her daughter is married. Melody loves her son-in-law and she wants to make him feel welcome, especially at the holidays, but she also feels drawn to try to keep up the family traditions her children grew up with. Sometimes those two goals conflict. Here’s how she deals with it.
My children are grown now, young adults, creating their futures and as we head for the holidays I am reminded of how that affects me….how it affects all of us. When my children were growing up, they were so excited by our many traditions and counted on them so much to make the holidays complete. At times, as a tired young mama, I just did not want to muster up the energy to re-create every tradition we started every year but eventually, these traditions became such a part of me and brought joy to all of us. But now, as my daughter has gotten married and both my children are torn between multiple family obligations, I am forced to look at those traditions in a new light.
Do I want to do things during the holidays that we always have, not only because they brought me joy, but because I remember the joy they brought my children? Yes, I really do. But now I look at the face of my married daughter as she strives to become a woman who is pleasing her husband and I realize that what I really want is to continue to see joy and excitement in her face.
That means it is time to let go of some of “our” family traditions and learn to conform into the new traditions that she is working so hard to create. Not only is it a new chapter in her life but it is also a new chapter in my life. I am now the matriarch in my family and it would be so easy to expect to continue as we always have and bring my son-in-law into what we so dearly loved. Perhaps what God really wants me to do is to embrace the new son I have been given and to recognize that he comes with beloved family traditions of his own. He and my daughter are learning how to fit his traditions and her traditions together to create something new.
Deep in my heart I know that the tradition that I value most is the tradition of bringing joy to my children during the holidays and now I believe the best gift I can bring them is to learn to be flexible. The “matriarch” in me is learning to let my children take the lead on some things. I am learning to create open communication to allow them to make suggestions and to express excitement as they implement new things to begin new traditions. Somehow through this process I am finding that I am still receiving the benefit of the greatest tradition for me….joy! I suspect this will continue to evolve as my son and my step-children begin their families and I am not sure where we will end up, but I do know that I want to be a part of whatever it becomes. My prayer is that God will continue to help me be aware and remain open minded and to take joy in watching my children become the adults that I so prayerfully hoped they would be.
Is the shape of your family changing? How does it impact your holiday traditions?