So this year I'm learning something totally new. I've got to learn how to be a mama-in-law. No easy fete, I can tell you. (Or is it feat?) Dictionary.com says it's a feat. Either way, it's a stretch for me. Everyone's heard the horror stories. And who hasn't seen an episode of Everbody Loves Raymond? Just a TV show you say? Maybe. But we actually used to know a family that could have modeled for that show. Backhanded insults masquerading as compliments. The mother-in-law cleaning the daughter-in-law's house. Constant undermining and manipulation. I think she could've given lessons to Machiavelli. Ultimately the daughter-in-law learned to hold her own. She wasn't as good at manipulation, but she knew a thing or two about Japanese wrestling and the art of using your opponent's own weight against him. After that the matches were a little more even and a lot more fun to watch. Pop some popcorn and we had better entertainment than wrestling. More realistic, too. The mother-in-law was still champ, but at least the daughter-in-law won a few rounds.
As we watched the daughter-in-law crawl from the ring one night, Matt turned to me and begged me to never treat his future wife that way. He was in high school at the time, and had no idea who his future wife might be, but still ...
Like any good mother, I took the opportunity to teach him that, when he was married, he and his wife would be one. She should come first in his life, and if I ever forgot that important point, he had my permission to remind me of that fact. I did add that I thought 32 hours of labor entitled me to a card and flowers on Mother's Day and a call on my birthday, but other than that, she was Number One.
Also like any good mother, I added a couple of clauses to the contract--the wife was Number One after she became the wife (girlfriend doesn't get the same status), and I would never be mean to a daughter-in-law, assuming he chose a daughter-in-law that I approved of. That may sound harsh, but let's face it--I put over two decades into raising that boy, and I was not about to turn him over to the first Sarah, Jane or Mary that smiled and batted her eyelashes at him.
In spite of the fact that I tried to raise him to be discerning, a pretty face went a long way with Matt. Not so with me. A girl had to be more than pretty before I gave the nod of approval. This discriminating attitude might be why I found out about Matt's first college girlfriend by accident. He was going on and on about a gift "A" had given him for Valentine's Day, while I was still trying to figure out just exactly why this was the first I was hearing about "A".
After awhile it became apparent why "A" was flying under the radar. She was nice, but she was definitely not permanent Boyd material. I feel it's important for my children to make use of all of their parents' vast accumulation of knowledge, so I did my best to gently pass on what I knew about quality mates. Don't get me wrong--I wasn't rude or insulting. But I did not want him to make the colossal mistake of interpreting a lack of disapproval as approval.
Matt's relationship with "A" drifted apart naturally at the end of the semester, an occurrence my husband had predicted would happen. Without any help from us, I might add. Relieved, but fearing that perhaps we had narrowly escaped disaster, I asked Matt if perhaps he had ever gotten the impression that we approved of "A" as his girlfriend. No, he assured me dryly. He was well aware that we weren't happy that he was dating her. I stared at him. "And you still went on and dated her for almost six months?"
That was the end of that conversation.
Matt went on to date other girls after that, but he never really settled down to one girl. In fact, he had a lot of friends that were girls. He chatted with them on facebook and texted with different girls off and on. I knew for a fact that a couple of those girls wanted more than friendship, but as long as they didn't push for anything more, Matt was willing to let the friendships stand.
Friendships I didn't mind. So as he mentioned this girl or that girl, I didn't do much more than nod or smile. I wasn't worried about electronic friendships. That wasn't like dating. At least, I wasn't worried until he mentioned a girl he'd met at the beginning of the summer. They'd actually met twice the week he'd visited her town, but then they'd become facebook friends and they texted and called each other occasionally.
And then Matt said he wanted her to come for a visit. Did I mention he'd only met her twice? And he wanted her to come meet the family. Her name was Kylee.
And Mama Grizzly reared her ugly head.