Dear Rockstar, A First Letter From a Future Mum-in-law

Dear Rockstar,

Couple months back, someone asked Mum what kind of mother-in-law she would be. Mum is still predominantly daughter-in-law, and the concept of being someday also mother-in-law is still very foreign to her, what with you still just 3.5-and-a-bit. However then Mum wanted to attempt this (possibly first of more to come as you grow and make more friends), if only for us to refer to decades later.

Time Machine or Washing Machine?

Truth be told, when she was first asked, your mother could think of just one thing she really cared about in Daughter-in-law - whether or not she was spoilt. "Spoilt" to Mum does not mean privileged. Mum knows many great people from wealthy families who have carried their own weight in spite of, rather than because of, family connections. Just as she knows of spoilt kids in poor families, growing up with a sense of entitlement, that life owes them (which sadly could keep them in an unproductive rut)... Nor is it constrained to only children or those of any particular race/ nationality.

(Mum believes any culture you decide to join your own life with and raise your own children in, will be a "package" of goods and bads. She hopes you will end up with a nice Christian girl, but also accepts that we can serve the Lord in any capacity if that is what He chooses for us - your father was not a Christian when Mum married him, and wasn't for some years after. The journey we have been on together has not always been smooth sailing, no journey ever is or we would totally take it for granted because that's what human nature is like, but we have learned so much from this path. And Mum has come to the conclusion that "differences" are less of a thing than "attitudes" are.)

Not to mention Mum thinks "unspoilt" implies also an open-ness to cultural differences, a tolerance for others. Why is that important? Because "open-ness" allows one to assimilate the best wisdoms of every culture you will meet, while also chucking out the bits that hinder progress. By that unwritten rule that we strive to give our children better than we ourselves received, we are to learn from new developments and past mistakes.

The reason Mum will advise you to avoid marrying someone who has been spoilt in their raising is because "Forever and ever til death do you part" is a tall order by any standard. It is a promise to the Lord that is not taken lightly - Lord knows it's not easy - but do you and your future spouse really?

Someone who was raised spoilt will have formed less realistic expectations of what life - and married life, at that - will bring. And may be less likely to stick it out with you when the going gets tough.

Through sickness and health, gain and loss of wealth, children or lack thereof, you are asking another person to share what life brings both of you. You will not be perfect, and neither will they. Mum hopes to raise you to remember and accept who your future wife is. Everything's a package and when you choose her, you are choosing the entire package. Mum then expects also that your future wife's parents will have raised her to do the same with you. It is an acknowledgement that you are Mum's precious child, just as your future wife is someone else's precious child.

And, if you hadn't already guessed, it is a caution against spoiling your own future children.

Washing Machine... (This is from a pop art exhibition)

If she loves you, Mum has got to try and keep from becoming mother-in-law-from-hell-whose-son-has-been-"stolen".  Because she hurts your chances of finding a girl who has a good head on her shoulders. You see Rockstar, Mum believes that when it's time for you to find someone to spend the rest of your life with and have your babies, the intelligent, pretty and nice girls will be the most in demand. (Btw never go for a girl simply because she is pretty, because looks fade with time, and then you'll be stuck with someone used to being treated like she is pretty - and she won't even have "pretty" going for her anymore.)

Sure there is that cliche about how we don't marry our spouses for their families, but if that were all the way true then we wouldn't hear on local radio every now and again about divorces because of the inlaws. Your ability to manage your mother to get along with your wife-to-be will be part of what you have to offer, so this is your mother saying she will be trying her best to be umm, "manageable."

There is another incentive to not scaring off The Right One For My Precious Son. It's called Grandchildren. Because smarts, looks and personality are at least partly hereditary. If you don't get a great girl, your mother might not get great grandchildren. And then if she doesn't keep it real, she might never get to see her grandchildren, great or otherwise. (You won't believe some of the creative "reasons" some of her friends come up with to avoid overbearing old folks. Observing that today, Mum hopes, will keep her from becoming one of those people in her old age that needs  to be lied to, in future.)

Sigh. But hopefully not in another 20 years.

So letting go be part of the job description, when the time comes. (Mum had better have some other activities lined up, like Border Collie Training or Rescue Mutt Adoption. Just like Grandmum. (Though Mum maintains Grandmum flunked Border Collie Training. Muppy (short for Mutt Puppy - private joke between her and Grandpop because Muppy is the only dog they've ever had who is not a mutt) is a grossly overweight monster with a deafening imperious yap. Well at least The Mup fetches your grandparents' papers in the morning.)

When it comes time to let go, hopefully Mum will remember what a ball she has had raising you. Parents were meant to raise their children for maybe a couple decades, if they are blessed - but they were not meant to raise them for the rest of their lives. We are stewards of our blessings and responsibilities the Lord entrusts us with. This serves as a reminder to your mother, helping her not get too nuts about your raising, especially as you get older (as is, you are already a lot more independent at this age than she expected) - and it can only be good for her decision-making process when parenting today can get seriously nutty.

The time Mum has to decide what you eat and wear and get to do for kicks is right now, not for the rest of your life. But she aims to affect your choices tomorrow in the values she instills in your raising today.

Hey. Doesn't that count for a lot?



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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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  • Anonymous

    “Mum believes that when it’s time for you to find someone to spend the rest of your life with and have your babies, the intelligent, pretty and nice girls will be the most in demand.”
    Yup, mummy can tell you all about how life was like in her heydays.
    Yup, mummy is well-versed in the Mendelian laws of genetic inheritance, and is a strong believer in the survival and reproductive success of the smartest, prettiest and nicest.

    “…smarts, looks and personality are at least partly hereditary.”

    Yup, and the ability to catch the smartest, prettiest and nicest girls is also partly hereditary, so Rockstar has a headstart.

    • Aileen

      “Smarts, looks, personality….. partly hereditary” yes, but Rockstar has TWO parents – one of whom is me. And I believe “taste” may also be hereditary? So how worried should I be 😀

      HWL, always a pleasure. Might be that slightly over-the-top Brit charm 🙂

      I was not completely serious about the “great” grandchildren; grandchildren are probably often perceived as “great” even when they are umm, not really, by the very fact they are grandchildren 😛 but I am very serious about the “spoilt”

  • CA

    A beautifully written post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, insights and hopes with us. I’m sure that one day, Rockstar will come to appreciate your words, but in the meantime, I’m sure there are others who may find pearls of wisdom from your words. CA

    • Aileen

      Thank YOU, CA… Affirmation and encouragement are always very much appreciated, especially when it comes to something where emotion clouds judgement 🙂

  • zmun2

    Great piece! You must have put a lot of thought into this before writing it. I will refer anyone who is looking for a wife or a husband to read this before choosing their life partners!

    I like the last photo – so funny! Did he purposely pose for you or did you just manage to capture him doing funny faces on candid camera?

    • Aileen

      Hey Mun, seriously, you really are very kind, thanks for the encouragement… And affirmation!
      Re the last picture, I asked Rockstar to look at the camera and smile… That’s what I got instead…