In place of Thursday’s posting of Red Queen to White Queen, here’s something different and very special from prdn’s popular contributor, Susan Young de Biagi.
This week’s post is my letter to my beloved new daughter-in-law, Letitia Biagi, as we embark on our new journey of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. P.S. That’s Mark officiating. Pic Cred: Farnaz Pournia.
It’s your wedding morning, May 10, and I’m sitting by the pool at the Iberostar Varadero in Cuba, writing this letter to you. The relationship of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law has traditionally been a fractious one. The role of mother-in-law carries a terrible reputation and in many cases that reputation is justified. So today, on your wedding morning, I want to make you a promise: with me, things will be different.
In doing so, I have the example of my dear little grandmother, Isabella. When my parents married in 1937, their families did not attend the wedding. My Mom was Protestant and my Dad Catholic. At that time, the two faiths did not have the easy relationship they enjoy today. When my Mom converted to Catholicism, her parents stayed away in protest. Fortunately, this estrangement lasted only until my parents’ first child was born. By that time, my Nanny and my Dad had developed a deep mutual respect that lasted their entire lives. In fact, my grandparents’ last home was built on my parents’ property, just steps from our front door.
It’s my guess that my grandmother learned a painful lesson from her absence at that wedding. Because for the rest of her life, she never interfered in my parents’ relationship. Not a single harsh word, or even a whisper of judgement, ever escaped her lips. She showed absolutely no favouritism to my Mom, her own child. To her, my Mom and Dad were Florence-and-Ben, a single, united entity.
I plan to follow her example. From this day forward, you and Daniel become Letitia-and-Daniel. That’s my promise to you. Here are a few more promises–vows if you like–from a mother-in-law to her daughter-in-law. I have made them public, so the whole world will hold me to account.
1. I wish to begin by saying that you never have to pressure yourself in any way to create a perfect, sanitary environment when I come to visit! As a young bride, I put immense pressure on myself when preparing for visits from my own mother-in-law, Peggy. I wish to make it clear that this pressure was entirely self-imposed. Although she was a highly organized woman and I was a bit of a slob, Peggy never indicated that she was judging me for my domestic skills. I think she saw me just as a friend.
So I want to say, Letitia, right from the outset, that I will never walk into your house and look for dust bunnies under the sofa, or run a gloved finger along the furniture. If you want to prepare for my visits in any way, please do so by repeating to yourself, “I don’t have to do anything special at all. Susan loves and honours me just the way I am.”
2. After your bachelor/bachelorette party in Varadero, I found myself walking back to the hotel with your dad, Randy. He promised me that, if Mark and I ever need you and Daniel to be with us at special moments, he and your mom will not stand in your way. I told him that Mark and I had promised each other the same thing! We extend to you a heartfelt and standing invitation to join us for all holidays. If, however, you choose to celebrate with Randy and Tish instead, we support that decision with all our hearts. Maybe you’ll want to spend a future Christmas with your young family in Disneyworld, or return to Cuba for a wedding anniversary, just the two of you. Know you do so with our complete approval and best wishes.
3. Your children are your own. I know, in advance, that one of the great joys in my life will be watching them grow into the unique individuals they will become. But they will not grow into those unique people, and by that I mean distinct from us, unless you and Daniel have a free hand in raising them. So while I’ll be watching with great interest and delight, I will not interfere in any way with the decisions you and Daniel make on their behalf. If you tell me that they have a 7 p.m. bedtime, that’s when they’ll go to bed. If you say “no sugar,” I’ll abide by your rules. (Sorry, I can’t make any promises for Mark on the sugar thing!) This goes, too, for the larger questions of life and ethics. We will not betray your trust.
4. After 35 years with Mark, I’ve come to believe that one of the purposes of marriage is to smooth out each other’s jagged edges. To be honest, that’s a painful process. What makes it infinitely worse, however, is having other people interfere in your private business. While I’ll always be there to lend an ear, or share a unique insight into Daniel’s personality to help you understand him better, I will never criticize you to him, or him to you. I will not gossip to friends or family about your relationship. And I will share my opinions only if asked by one of you, with the utmost caution and respect.
5. Feel free to say “no!” If Mark and I propose a visit at an awkward time, just say, “This month doesn’t work for us. How about next month…or next year?” Sometimes, of course, you or I will inadvertently blurt out something that offends the other. I promise you that I won’t be storing up those remarks to use against you in the future. If problems arise, I’ll come talk to YOU about them first. Together we’ll work it out.
6. Tu familia es mi familia; your family is my family. Tish, Randy, Brittany, Vanessa, Anna, Linda, Curtis: no one had better criticize the Falk family in my presence! My promise to you is that I will remain firmly on your side, so that together we can stand just as firmly behind Letitia, Daniel, and their children.
So that’s it, six points. Know, however, that this is a living document that can be enlarged as new issues arise!
Today, I welcome my new, beloved daughter into our family, into our hearts, and into our arms. It’s going to be an exciting journey!
Susan Young de Biagi is a regular contributor to prdn.
As a trained historian my twin passions are writing and teaching. In addition to Cibou – my first novel – I have written or co-written three books of non-fiction and authored a number of digital, educational products.