Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In-Law Jokes

Over the years I have heard many jokes made about in-laws. I've read articles about the horrors of invasive relatives and I've watched movies where marriages are tested by the words or actions of an outspoken mother-in-law or other challenging members of a spouse's family. I never felt that my in-laws were anything but wonderful. Perhaps I am the one being made the butt of THEIR jokes; I've seen that happen in movies too, but if I am, I am happy to be kept in the dark on that.

I married into my husband's family when I was just four months shy of my 21st birthday. To be that young and to suddenly have a whole new family available to me was a little daunting. However, I knew my father-in-law very well as he'd been my high school music and theater director. We spent many hours talking about various things when I was a teen as he'd been a true mentor of mine. I'd been in band and jazz band with my husband's sister but regrettably I did not get to know her much at all. We were both quite shy. She was a year behind me and she was quiet when I was around; that's all that I really knew. In fact the whole family, with the exception of my father-in-law, was quiet around me. I wondered for quite some time if they liked me. I wasn't sure. But I liked them all from the start. My in-laws were quite different from my family, or so it seemed, and as much as I loved my own family, I enjoyed the differences.

I loved the relationship my husband displayed he had with his Mom. After giving her a big bear hug, he would get her giggling quietly with some comment or question, and her eyes would sparkle as she'd half-scold him for his jokes or banter. His closeness with his sister and his brother was equally special. Happy to be lovingly teased if it gave them all a way to laugh, my husband would stir up memories of their childhood days. In fact, many of our times together continue to work this way. My husband enters his folks' house with open displays of affection and then the joking and the teasing over silly memories begins. My Mom-in-law's eyes still sparkle when my husband is near her. His siblings still tease him and my husband always sets himself up for their jokes. Time with my in-laws is never short on laughter and silliness. It is wonderful and comforting to experience.

When we had children, my husband's family was incredibly proud of each child. This is when I found our relationships evolving. My in-laws were no longer quiet around me for they were openly playing and enjoying the kids. We began swapping stories and sharing laughs more easily. I loosened up. I was growing up. Aunt Lisa and Uncle Joel were incredibly well loved by my children. And Grampy and Meme were too. I realized I was indeed accepted and loved by my in-laws for I was the mother of Eric's children. I was also the woman who made their Eric happy.

Over the years I have learned many valuable lessons from my in-laws. My time with my Mom and Dad-in-law, my sister and brother-in-law has shaped me in my adult years. I have a fuller perspective on family dynamics and I have a more balanced view on life thanks to my relationships with them. My own parents and siblings gave me my foundation but my in-laws helped add to that blueprint of how my husband and I work together to raise our own family.

Although the affection and the laughter shared at family gatherings will always be what I most treasure and remember about my in-laws, it's the overwhelming feeling of unconditional love and understanding that has given me greater strength as a wife and a mom. Over the years my in-laws have taken time to express their feelings towards my husband and I or towards our children. They've given voice to more serious matters showing that underneath the playfulness, there's an amazing core of love, respect, and pride. I saw those qualities in Eric's grandparents too. But that's a story for another day. Let it suffice to say that the roots of my in-laws' family tree are hardy.

I continue to hear all the jokes made about in-laws. I can pretend to understand all the punchlines and maybe I'll snicker at a few of them. I've always loved a good joke but thankfully, I'm not able to add to that type of comedic material. My in-laws make me laugh but only in their own originality and in the most beautiful and loving of ways.

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