I was having a “moment” yesterday. I’d found out some things that upset me. I picked up the phone to call….someone…I’m not even sure who I was going to call, when the phone rang in my hand.
I answered it and heard my father-in-law’s voice on the other line.
As we made our pleasantries and he asked how I was, I hesitated, not quite knowing what to say…I couldn’t even reply with a standard: “Good thanks, and you?”
Instead, I burst into tears and was immediately embarassed. I love my father-in-law but I’m not close with him like I am my mother-in-law. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, was a wonderful father to his kids, but we don’t have the same rapport as Mama Jean and I have.
I am amazed at how quickly, he turned into “dad” mode and comforted me. He didn’t even waiver. There was no awkwardness. He just said what I needed to hear to feel better.
I thanked him for listening and then thanked him for being a good father to his kids. I thanked him for always being kind and good to me. I thanked him for always supporting Howard and myself in whatever we did. And even when his unsolicited advice annoys Howard, I thank him for always wanting to be involved in his kids’ lives. I thanked him for being so damn normal.
I wasn’t fishing, I just wanted him to know that. I needed for him to know that even though we’re not as thick as thieves, I admire him and really am grateful to him for doing such a good job raising a wonderful man like my husband and his two brothers.
After all of my accolades, he said:
“You know, I’ve always thought that you were the best thing that ever happened to my son….really honey….I mean that.”
I immediately teared back up and thanked him, blushing.
Getting a parents’ approval is, whether we want to admit it or not; is one of the deepest desires of any child’s heart. Even if it is an in-law.
Then the pleasantries returned, I told him to be sure and call Howard at work, and we said “goodbye.”
As a child of divorce of two parents who, after they went their separate ways; could never get past their utter hatred of each other, to be decent parents, I am grateful to my in-laws. My parents rarely spoke on the phone even while growing up. Granted, a big part of that was because my father was in large part, absent. But, when they did speak, they never hid their contempt for each other, even for the sake of their own children.
It was different with Howard’s parents. They divorced when the boys were teenagers. Of course, it was difficult, of course there were hard feelings. But he and Mama Jean always agreed on one thing: they LOVED being parents. Their relationship didn’t work so much being married, but they were committed to their kids. Even though all of their kids are grown, they still speak regularly. In fact, they’re the best of friends now that they are no longer married. I love that.
I love that no matter how old the boys get, there isn’t anything Howard can tell Mama Jean that Larry (my father in law) doesn’t know within the week and vice versa. I love that in spite of all the ugliness from a divorce, they never stopped parenting their kids together. Both of them recognized the commitment it takes from both parents once they decide they want to bring children into the world.
They said: “Hey, we might not have worked out, but we made three kids together, so let’s suck it up, and concentrate on getting these boys’ raised.”
They did that, and didn’t even live together anymore. But you didn’t see either of them running off basking in the potential of being “child-free”.
I only hope that if, god forbid, Howard and I find ourselves in that situation, we’ll be the same way.
And I hope that if my daughter or son-in-law needs a phone call like I did yesterday, I can rise to the occasion like Larry did.