Saturday, December 31, 2011

The In-Law Me

There are times when I sit here and look at a blank screen. I type words, whole paragraphs, and then I delete them.

I have words finally, maybe not whole sentences, but words. Again. For which I am thankful.

Because recently I lost the words. Not for long, but long enough.

I lost the words about the same time as I lost myself.

It happens about once a year, twice this year. I know it is going to happen because I do it to myself. I agree to hide parts of myself in order to keep the peace. I put away the taboo liquids. I turn off Mumford and Sons. I avoid conversations that might reveal my "bleeding heart liberal" beliefs. I don't agree with it but I love my husband enough to go along with his plan for how we relate to his family.

It's not hard to hide. They are not looking for the real me anyway. I am just an accessory. I just wish it didn't hurt so much.

Case in point - This is an actual conversation that took place in my kitchen while I was sitting just a few feet away.

My mother-in-law: "Have you been to this museum before?"
Husband: "No."
MIL: "But the boys have been there before?"
Husband: "Yes."
MIL: "How did the kids get there if you haven't gone before?" She asked in all sincerity.
Husband: staring dumbfounded at his mother because the obvious answer was sitting right there hearing the entire conversation.

I finally chimed in that I took them, that I spend a lot of time enriching the boys' lives. I wanted her to know that I am a good mom. That I am doing a good job of taking care of her grandsons. Her response, "How can I verify that? I don't live nearby."

Seriously? Anger swelled within. My thoughts sharp, silent retorts. She was questioning my veracity? My truthfulness. And that really burned within me because I am known for my honesty. Ask anyone who knows me.

Except with my in laws I am not honest. I don't lie but I am not my authentic self. I keep things hidden that would bother them. I am comfortable with my way of life but I know that some of the choices I make are in direct conflict with how they believe a good Christian should live. They have more black and white rules; I live in the grey afforded by grace.

They are old and set in their ways. I am not going to convince them that their social norms are not Biblical but cultural. Instead I avoid and defer. I live my life outside of their view.

This is how their family relates.

But it made my Christmas sad. I felt like we were on display, like we were playing parts not being our real selves with them watching. I was guarded. I am not at my best when I am guarded. I become defensive and petty.

I lose grace when I stop allowing myself grace.

And without grace, I am lost.

I write this not to condemn, though I was angry and hurt. I write this because it is a challenge for me to figure out how to be authentic amongst people I don't want to hurt but who won't accept me as I am. This is my struggle with family - how to be me in a room full of people making claims to who I should be.

Anyone else able to relate?


  1. Jen. That makes me sad. I'm sorry I can't relate directly since my only in-law is a brother-in-law and that's.... doesn't matter. Keep the grace, that's what matters. And someday you'll be a much better mother-in-law that yours is. Happy New Year.

  2. Jen,

    At first I was sad for you, but really I'm sad for your in-laws. By not allowing you to be who you really are (which is wonderful, gracious, kind and so many other positive adjectives) they are cheating themselves. You are a blessing to this world.


  3. They are missing so much! Your authentic self is what I love about you. You are graceful to others, challenging to others (in a good way), funny, and so many others things and maybe the most importatn things is you are real. You make me a better person. Hugs from here...

  4. I have spent years hiding from family members.  I am so sorry for the situation.  You are amazing and beautiful and shine with Him in you.  I pray they soon see!