Too often, the in-laws get a bad rap. But one thing often gets overlooked: they raised the person you married.
To my in-laws,
I can’t see you scouring the internet for the terrible in-law stories that are floating around there, but believe me when I say there are a lot of them. Tales of mothers-in-law meddling in their son’s life and generally making life miserable for the woman he married. Fathers-in-law who are absent or dismissive, and therefore have raised sons with their own skewed mentality. I read some of those articles and cringe, my first thought always, 'thank goodness my own in-laws aren’t like that'.
Bringing new people into a family is never seamless and I’m grateful to be a part of yours. But more than that, I want to say thank you for raising the man I married, and for helping to mould him into the husband and father he is today.
How to raise resilient kids
How to raise resilient kids
I've dated many men before your son
You may not want to hear this, but I dated a fair amount of men before your son. My own mum always told me growing up that I needed to find someone like my dad. Someone who was kind, a gentle husband who helped out around the house. It wasn’t until I met your son that I realised there were others besides my own father who were willing to treat me with the respect I deserved. I saw these qualities in him long before we were officially together—when our friendship was blooming and I saw him as one of my best friends.
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And that’s the first thing I want to say thank you for. For raising him to be a good friend. To see me as a partner in life, rather than an initial romantic interest. It was those few years we had in the beginning that set the stage for the relationship we have today.
You taught him how to be a good husband and I don’t think you were conscious of that. I think you wanted him to be a decent human being, but these qualities in him, I couldn’t be more grateful for.
'He's a great husband and an even better father.' Image: iStock.
"He's all in"
He’s independent. He doesn’t need me to take care of him, and he’s fully capable of making an impressive dinner, as well as making a box of macaroni and cheese taste way better than I could ever make it. He’ll throw in a load of laundry without my asking. When I needed to leave on a trip for a week with our daughter, he ran the house and I didn’t even need to make a list or prepare food for him.
I’m appreciative that both of you shared household duties while he was growing up because he saw his dad help clean and participate in the most menial tasks. It’s instilled in him that just because he’s a man doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of running a dishwasher.
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His motivation is inspiring. He won’t settle, and he’s always looking for ways to improve himself. So not only does this make him successful in his job, but it also means he is willing to better himself as a husband. Yes, he gets some stubbornness from his dad, but he will take steps to be a better partner to me. If there is something we need to work on in our marriage, he is ready to. He’s all in. And not all men are like that.
'You've taught him chores aren't just for women.' Image: iStock.
He is what a life-partner should be
This partnership of parenthood also runs so much smoother because my husband not only keeps up his side, but he loves it. From day one he has jumped in to change nappies, give baths, and clean messy faces after spaghetti night. He does it all and he doesn’t complain.
He saw you both helping out with the kids, witnessing his father working alongside his mum to raise children and today, your son sees no reason why he can’t divide the parenting in half with me. Seeing him as a father is unlike anything I ever imagined. Just like I knew he would make a good husband, I knew the incredible father he would be to his own kids.
Tackle fears with common sense. If she's scared of dogs, don't hustle her across the street when one is coming. Demystify the fear. ("Oh, a puppy! Let's ask the owner if we can feel how soft his fur is.") In tense moments—shots come to mind—be sympathetic but not too emotional, says Atlanta-area pediatrician Roy Benaroch. Say, "It will be OK. It will be over in a few minutes," not, "I know—it hurts! It hurts!"
Perhaps most importantly, the respect he conveys to me, and not only for women in general but for everyone, is attributed to you both. Never has he put me down with words, and not only will he hold the door for me, but he’s kind to the person taking our lunch order. He’s the precedent I want to set for my own daughter. He’s the kind of man I want to tell my daughter to marry. Just like my own mum 20 years ago said, I will say the same when my own daughter is older: “You need to find someone who is like your dad.”
So, In-Laws, I want you to know I say a thank you every day that I get to spend with your son. He tells me all the time how he’s the lucky one in our marriage, but he doesn’t realise that it’s me that’s grateful. I’ve seen the ugly side of relationships, and I know how different my life could have turned out without him. So thank you for being the shining example of how this next generation of parents and partners should be raising boys. Thank you for shaping him into what a life-partner should be.
Be vigilant about safety. Babyproof your home thoroughly, and never leave a child under 5 in the tub alone. Make sure car seats are installed correctly, and insist that your child wear a helmet when riding his bike or scooter.