Note: The past two years have brought two lovely young women into our family, as two of our sons have married. This message is intended for both of my new daughters-in-law, and to the other brides who will be entering our lives in the years to come.
Dear bride of my son,
There are things I want to tell you. Things I want you to know. Things I want desperately for you to believe. Things I wish were openly discussed with me when I became a daughter-in-law all those years ago.
1. I love you. Not because of anything you do or say but simply because you are a part of the family now and my son loves you.
2. I don’t expect you do to things that way that I have done them. You are a different person with different circumstances. I expect you will make different choices and am not offended by that. Perhaps the way I have done things will impact you, since my son is a product of my choices. I’m confident you can work through this to a compromise/middle ground, and that you will find your own way together. I do love hearing about your decisions and plans, and getting to know you better in the process.
3. I don’t care what you call me. Mom, Christina, Chris, Mrs Fredricks (though I don’t love the more formal Mrs!) Choose what makes you most comfortable. It’s OK with me if the name you select changes over the years.
4. If you disagree with me, do not be shy about saying so. I am an opinionated person. Do not let those (often forcefully) stated opinions push you to silence. I love a good dialog and I’m happy to learn and be shown a new/different way. And just because I share my opinion does not mean I don’t respect your views or the right you have to hold those views.
5. Feel free to share what is really on your mind. I can take it. And if I find I can’t? It won’t change my love for you. I’ll pray and examine my own heart to see why I’m having a hard time. And then I’ll pray some more and let it go. I know it can be hard to open up and share your thoughts and opinions. It’s much easier to walk away with things unsaid than risk criticism, hostility and rejection. Please be brave. It builds relationship and trust.
6. When making family plans, I will inform you of details. This does not mean I expect that you will be able to make every family event. I understand that you are your own family, and that you must make decisions based on what is best for you. I realize this will be even more true if/when you have kids. If you would like to suggest an alternate plan that works for your family dynamics, I’m happy to work to accommodate. I understand well the wonderful and yet horribly difficult position of having extended family on both sides vying for the privilege of your company.
7. If I express sadness that you cannot make an event, it is simply that. It’s not a passive-aggressive move to guilt you into a different decision.
8. If I ever become aware of a conflict between you and my son, I will not take sides. It’s not you vs him/us. It’s you together that we lobby for. I know well my son’s failings/character flaws and will not assume that you are to blame. If you want advice or counsel from me, I am available and am happy to share based on my own experience. I’d be honored to be worthy of your confidence. However, I fully expect that the two of you will be able to resolve any strife between you just fine with God’s help. And much prayer.
9. I ask that you let me still be involved in my son’s life. I’m not competing with you. Now, you come first in his life, after God. This is good. If there should come a time when you make my son choose between me and you, I fully support him choosing you. Even though it will be hard for me.
10. I will not pester you about if/when you plan to have children. Obviously, I think having kids is an awesome thing or I would not have chosen the life I did. I dearly hope for more grandchildren. But, this is YOUR decision, as a couple. I’m very thankful that my parents and my parents-in-law respected our decisions in this area and want to pass that same respect along to my kids.
11. If/when you do have children, please let me be a part of their lives. I love kids, and am happy to babysit. 🙂
12. I pray for you. Every. Single. Day.
13. When I disappoint you, as I’m sure I will, please do not be afraid to confront me. And please forgive me.
May God bless you on this wonderful journey called marriage. Sometimes it’s a wild and bumpy ride, but after experiencing the rough, rocky, rutted places in the road, you’ll be able to appreciate the smooth ride on a well paved path so much more. May we have many years together to grow in love and appreciation for each other!