Whoa. Hold the phone. I'm 35, and just trying to depend on the Lord to raise the crew we've got! Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But wait, maybe we should be thinking on this.
I don't think it's being "anxious about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34) to figure out what kind of mother-in-law you hope to be. It's more like planning ahead, diverting disaster, or giving yourself a heart transplant before the need arises.
I have a stellar mother-in-law. She's involved in our lives and truly would do anything for us. She loves me and the kids as if she birthed us herself and she always calls before she swings by. She teaches our kids about the Lord, and encourages them to memorize scripture with incentives. But she's not perfect, and neither am I. We've had to talk about things that were hard in order to make our relationship stronger - opening the door to communication has helped us. We're imperfect people, serving a perfect God. We seek to be holy in our interractions - pleasing Him before others.
My mom Joyce, mother-in-law Anita, and stepmom Marla Kay. A rare treat to have them all in one room enjoying their new granddaughter.
My parents and stepmom are fantastic role models as well for what you should do as an in-law. They're so good to Jeremy. They're so good to Jeremy and I together. I'm thankful to have good examples to emulate.
But just watching others do it well isn't enough. We have to engage our hearts. And be willing to make changes in our behavior and minds while seeking God's heart on the matter. The Bible study group I'm in just finished studying the book of Ruth. I was moved by Ruth's devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi after her husband's death. Technically, Naomi was no longer her mother-in-law. But she was a friend and mentor, someone Ruth didn't want to leave behind. We don't know what sort of life Ruth had waiting for her back home, had she left as Naomi suggested and went back to her people in Moab. But we do know, that Ruth and Naomi's relationship was strong enough that Ruth didn't want to let her go.
Applying this to my own future, it got me thinking: how can I be a mother-in-law that my kids' spouses would still want to be associated with should the unthinkable happen and one of our kids is no longer in the picture?
I pray this gives you some food for thought as you parent kids that are still at home, tucked safely in your nest.
On the humorous, or maybe not so humorous side for you, it makes me cringe to think of my kids telling true tales of me as their mom, when I was being less than lovely and godly. I don't have a problem with myself being portrayed as the sinner that I am, I know I mess up horrendously at times. The part that bothers me is that I could have prevented a lot of what has trickled down into my kids' lives. I could have been more patient, relying on God's help to see me through. The list of regrets could go on and on... but the beautiful thing is that we can choose today to carry on differently.
At this time, I'm working to keep the stories my kids will tell their spouses about me to a minimum. But some have slipped by. Too many to count, actually. You know the kind of stories I'm talking about; they're the ones you tell your spouse about your mom.
I can already hear my kids saying these words:
"Once, my mom was so annoyed with us kids, that she whapped the wooden spoon she had in her hand on the counter, and the head of the spoon went flying. We all fell into a pile of laughter. Even mom."
"Mom was really strict about technology. We got one time to play on the computer a week. A week!"
"My mom overreacted about strangers, carseats, unannounced knocks at the door, and anything safety related."
Some of the things my kids may say about me in the future are things I'm proud of - but the others? Not so much. So I'm working now, to change the things that are over-the-top in me, are Unglued in me, and are harmful to my future relationship with my kids and their spouses.
It's never too early to be thinking about these things.
As it sits now, I have the potential to have three daughters-in-law (or daughter in-love, as my MIL calls me) and four sons-in-law. I don't worry about tomorrow - like the fact that our four daughters may need someone to pay for their weddings someday, or the thought that our sons will be facing enormous amounts of temptation while learning to be godly men and husbands. We carry on, making good choice after good choice. Day after day. Passing off the baton of faith to them.
I want to be a mother-in-law who is like a mentor to these dear souls who have attached themselves to my grown kids. I want to be known as a woman who keeps her word, prays, encourages my kids to cling to their spouses and not their dad and I, and loves them like Jesus. I don't want to give advice where it's not wanted, and I want to help only where it's desired.
Each season of life is such that it keeps us dependent on the One who gave the stars their places, makes the birds chirp, and comes to live in us, giving new life to our weary bones. He is able. And He makes me able. In another decade, I may be entering a new phase as a mother-in-law - and I'll be ready to embrace it. But for now, I'm going to hug my babies, preschoolers, and pre-teens a bit tighter and will them to not grow up too quickly.