Gratitude for Grandma

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One night, way back in some year B.C. (before children), I found myself in the middle of an ugly scene in a graduate school class. What started out as an innocuous discussion about parental influence on education quickly turned into a mother in-law bashing session.

One by one, venom-spitting students told their worst mother-in-law stories. A guy claimed his mother-in-law tried to sabotage his wedding. Even worse, one young woman countered that her mother-in-law actually had tried to help her plan her wedding. The horror! Classmates gasped.

Luckily, a few of the less emotionally scarred students lightened the conversation with a round of tasteless mother-in-law jokes. I went to buy a car and the salesman asked if I needed an airbag. I said, “No thanks, I already have a mother-in-law.” How do you stop your mother-in-law from drowning? Take your foot off her head. Classics, I know.

Eventually, all eyes turned to me. The mob expected one more juicy story from a disgruntled son-in-law. Instead, I simply shrugged my shoulders and said, “I like my mother-in-law.” Of course, I wasn’t going to tell the class the whole truth. I didn’t want to rub their faces in it. What I should have said was, “I love my mother-in-law.”

You see, the older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am. And one of the most fortunate aspects of my life: I have a wonderful mother-in-law. Really.

OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking. What did I do wrong? Or, what do I want? A man must have some ulterior motive for declaring his love for his mother-in-law — yes, his MOTHER-IN-LAW in print, right? Wrong. There’s no motive here other than it deserves to be said. My mother-in-law is the best. My admiration for her has grown each day since we met, and especially since my wife and I became parents … and my mother-in-law became a grandmother. As mother, mother-in-law and grandmother, she is always there for us. She’s the heart of the family, proving this again and again.

Here’s a quick example. Recently, I accepted an interim job position. This decision shook up our family’s routine — namely, we needed a new childcare arrangement on week days.

The decision also shook me up. After nearly six years as a stay-at-home dad, I was pretty accustomed to taking care of things myself during the day. I rarely needed to ask for help. And I found it very difficult to give up control. Actually, I found it excruciating.

My wife suggested, “Let’s ask my mom if she’ll take the kids in the afternoons.” Despite the fact that my mother-in-law never has missed an opportunity to babysit the boys, I hesitated to ask for her help.  This was a huge time commitment, and I didn’t want to burden anyone else with the care of our children.

As I wrestled with the situation, a friend of the family — a very wise woman and a grandmother herself — knocked some sense into my head, saying, “Did you ever consider that your mother-in-law might actually want to watch the kids? That she might consider it a gift, not a burden? Did you ever consider that she just might be waiting to be asked?”

No, I hadn’t really considered that. But as soon as I did, my thoughts immediately went back to my own childhood, when my brothers and I spent a few hours after school each day at my grandmother’s house after my mom went back to work. There’s no doubt in my mind that the time I spent there was the reason I always felt so close to my late grandmother. I still think of her most days and plan to write a book about her some day. That kind of bond is priceless.

And guess what? My mother-in-law happily accepted our invitation. Of course she did. And I couldn’t be happier about it. Our younger son, who spends the most time with Grandma while his older brother is at school, is quickly becoming “Grandma’s boy.”

My mother-in-law is truly one of the most selfless — and capable — people I know. There is no better role model for my two boys. There is no better role model for me.

It’s November, and that means Thanksgiving. I’m one son-in-law who is thankful to have a wonderful mother-in-law in my life. If you’re lucky enough to have a mother-in-law you love, too, let her know. Donna, thank you for everything you do.

 

Brian Kantz says his father-in-law is pretty terrific, too. OK, now he’s rubbing it in. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at thenewbiedad@yahoo.com.