Even though it is a looooooooooooong way off, given that my son is currently only three, one of the strangest things that sometimes crosses my mind at times is that there is someone out there, possibly not even born yet that my son will eventually meet and love more than me.
I don’t have a problem with that per se as that is how the world goes round after all. If your parents remained the be all and end all of your life, you would never leave home which is surely why falling in love is so powerful and parental love arguably as powerful if not even more powerful than that. Otherwise why wouldn’t we all just say ‘f*ck this child-rearing malarkey, it’s not really all that glamorous or interesting, I am out of here’, but we (largely) don’t because of the deep love we feel for our children and the fact that also, despite the moments of tedium, mainly housework related, they are also amazing, funny, kind, innocent, incredible little people who sprinkle fairy dust onto the most banal of things.
Everyone with older children always say – enjoy these days when they love you so much. Enjoy when they come into your bed and want to snuggle, or huggle as my son says. But I have always been a bit cynical of that and thought, ‘pah, the older he gets, the cooler and more interesting he becomes, so bring it on’, plus I would appreciate not being woken at 4am when a monster dream raises its ugly head again.
But slowly a seeping realization is creeping in when we hang out in bed in the morning watching Octonauts that he won’t willingly accept my kisses and adoration for ever. He will become irritated by it and want his own space and so I am ramping the affection up even more to fill my boots to sustain me for the years ahead when I won’t be able to get near him. And again, that’s all fine I guess as it is inevitable and hopefully we will rear a young man who isn’t too repulsed by the odd cuddle or hug.
The thing that I do find truly bizarre though is this notion of another person who my son will love over and above any other and that that will be the biggest choice and decision of his life and the sole one I can never help him with. And that decision will affect us all. If he gets it wrong and marries someone who turns out to not be very kind or inclusive they will have the power to block access to both my son and any grandchild(ren) they may have but yet if he gets it right, which fingers crossed is the more likely option, it will introduce an added depth and layer to our family and she/he will become someone we treasure and love too.
These random thoughts have understandably also served to turn a bit of a spotlight onto looking at my own relationship with my mother-in-law and reiterated what I always knew – she’s ace. She and my father-in-law welcomed me with open arms into the family and have never been anything but kind, generous, funny and warm. She has never once tried to meddle in our relationship or given me unwanted advice and our relationship is uncomplicated and comforting. Even though very sadly she is now extremely unwell with dementia amongst other things you can still see a spark of the personality that was larger than life and full of chat and humour. Despite having such a gregarious personality she always let me shine in front of her son, now my husband and the father of our child.
So what have I learnt from her that will allow me to do the same when it is my turn to welcome my son’s partner into our lives?
1 – To unconditionally welcome them into the house and serve them masses of home cooked food and lots of red wine
2 – To make an effort to get to know their parents and/or stepparents to make the family even larger yet closer
3 – Accept their loved one may not be a dab hand domestically and offer to help……despite the fact I am never going to darn my husband’s socks or mend his clothes I appreciated a long-ago offer to help – I can’t even iron and sewing just isn’t my thing (sorry Kirstie)
4 – I know it’s the 21st Century but offering to contribute to a wedding in some way is also appreciated
5 – Never claiming to know their child better than you do and understanding that our relationships are totally different
6 – Not meddling in the way grandchildren are brought up and always being pleased to see them
7 – Being interested in you and your work and what you do outside of the family
8 – Being proud and supportive of you for that
9 – Giving them space for their relationship to grow and evolve
10 – Never mentioning any alcohol related vomit found on your drive that you suspect your son’s girlfriend/wife/fiancée is responsible for