Not long after we were married--nearly 43 years ago now--I noticed a phenomenon I hadn't anticipated to come along with in-laws. I discovered that my husband will always be his mother's son. When went to visit his parents, he changed for a time and suddenly wasn't my husband anymore. Being in their house again, he resumed the role of their child. But being the dense, linear thinker that I am (read "well, duh") I didn't realize that I did the same thing when we went home to my parents. We saw his parents more often than mine, being in the same town for the first year we were married, so it took me longer to recognize this subtle alteration in myself. If we stayed at either parents' houses for very long, falling back into those child patterns, we didn't really communicate very much as husband and wife and often had misunderstandings. I pointed out what I had noticed and we talked about how to avoid those conflicts.
Then Life happened. We had two daughters and a son. Dau 2 married first, three months before Dau 1, and Only Son fell madly in love shortly after he returned from his mission. They wanted to get married over the Christmas holidays, but this being the first wedding for DIL's mother, I urged them to wait until one or both had finished their Associate's degree and not spring a Christmas wedding on a mother who had five other kids. I was proud of their decision to wait six months.
Remembering back to the "falling into old patterns" experience of my early married life, I have always tried to make my children's spouses feel like they are my children, too, so they can revert to being mine when they visit us. I love them as if they were my own and it isn't hard to treat them that way.
We had affectionate nicknames for our children, and Only Son was always "my boy." I fell into my own patterns when my daughters brought their husbands into the family, and Only Son was somewhat dismayed when he heard me refer to his brothers-in-law by the same nickname. "Hey," he said once, "I thought I was your boy." He didn't see the deep affection I have for these young men who love and cherish and honor my daughters. As time passed, he grew to love them, too, and began to understand. Now I often refer to my grandsons as "my boy."
We are all going to be together this week, all six of our children and five of our grandchildren. (We hope our little Elijah, who came but couldn't stay very long, will have a chance to look in on our shenanigans and do what he can to bring us where he is so we can go on to have these great family occasions with him in the future.) With each personality and the unique gifts each one brings to the family, we plan family times to make lots of good memories that these five can take when they leave home. My wish for them is that they can find someone who will love and cherish them, as their parents exemplify, and that their in-laws will accept them as their own.