Saturday, May 7, 2016

To the woman who raised my husband

I met my mother-in-law almost 13 years ago in her kitchen. I was the first girl Johnathan had ever brought home.

This is how it went down. Johnathan and I walk in the door. He goes, "Mom this is Tatiana. Tatiana, mom." And then he disappeared somewhere in the house leaving the two of us standing there in the kitchen. 

There was a moment and then Lynda said, "can I get you anything? A snack? A drink? Do you want some pie?" She then said she was about to start making dinner and asked if I wanted to help. 

She spoke my language! She knew my currency. Food! Helping in the kitchen! 

During that first meeting she served ribs. I remember sitting there having a mild panic attack internally. How the hell was I going to eat these politely in front  of my new boyfriends family? I remember staring at my plate intently wondering just how best to approach this rack of ribs. As my future siblings-in-law are dousing everything in ranch and chattering, bantering, teasing, Lynda leans over and says quietly to me, "just use your hands, it's okay." I breathed a sigh of relief. 

This was the start of a truly wonderful relationship.
When we got married our minister asked
my parents to write Johnathan a letter and
my in-laws to write me a letter.
Best. Wedding. Gift. Ever.

Lynda never made me feel like I was some how "stealing" her little boy. She never made me feel like she had ever read those horrible eye-roll inducing internet memes where the significant other is made to feel less than in every possible way. You know the ones. The ones that says things like your opinion doesn't matter and "I know how to avoid jail" ....really?!!!?...I was never made to feel like I wasn't good enough for her son or her family. I was never made to feel like I was going to replace her in his life. 

I was simply accepted. City-kid ways and all. 

No one tells you how to be a mother-in-law, just like no one tells you how to be a daughter-in-law. They DO NOT go over this in pre-marriage counselling. This is just something you figure out as you go along.  Johnathan's immediate family had to have a trainee in-law and that person was me. 

Lynda was the first person in Johnathan's family to accept me "as is." She was the first person to make me feel welcome (Jackee comes in a close second with her lovely tour of the farm when I first arrived). She always made me feel like I belonged. And still does! Never once have I asked for lactose-free milk, it's just there in the fridge when I arrive. She has always commiserated with me about how frustrating Johnathan can be but how hard it can be to fit into a large family that is not your own.

Johnathan comes from a MASSIVE extended family which can be hard to navigate and wasn't the most welcoming to interlopers in the early days. Not for any reason other than they didn't have much practice at it. You get better as you practice. Just as Lynda and I have figured out how to navigate our relationship, the extended family has figured out how to welcome newbies. 

I credit Lynda for getting me through my early years of being a member of a new family.

I'm not just talking about making sure I can keep who belongs to what family square in my head. I'm talking about being someone who always made sure I wasn't sitting alone at family gatherings. Last Christmas while people played board games and formed circles of conversation my mother-in-law and one of Johnathan's aunts (also a married in) joined me at  table and we split a bottle of wine. We laughed. We talked. We enjoyed ourselves while the rest of the non-married-ins played a rather aggressive game of Apples to Apples. She always makes sure I feel welcome in her home. Did you know she went out and got me a hypo-allergenic pillow after she found out I have a dust mite allergy? Making me feel included.

So on this Mother's Day eve to my mother-in-law Lynda;

Thank you for not killing Johnathan with your own bare hands as much as I understand you might have wanted to as you raised him.

Thank you for welcoming me into your family.

Thank you for teaching me how to make pie crust.

Thank you for letting me love your son and take care of him even when he's in your house.

Thank you for raising the most amazing, wonderful, hilarious, ridiculously charming, fantastically frustrating person I've ever met. 

Thank you for teaching me to say his name in a way where it's his name but SO MUCH more. 

Thank you for acknowledging in your own way that coming into this family can be a tough row to hoe but it can be done and in the end this family is pretty damn awesome. 

Thank you for making me feel included and not like an accessory. While Johnathan and I are a couple, we're not a package deal and you've NEVER treated me like just his wife but like Tatiana, the girl who is pretty crazy about your adorable eldest boy.

Happy Mother's Day! 
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