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I’m a proud boy mom. I catch bugs, I catch balls (in the house), and I try my best to catch my boys’ every fall. I love it. I love being a boy mom. There is one part I don’t like: everyone telling me they will leave as soon as they meet “the one,” and their wife’s family will push my husband and I out of the picture.

“A boy is yours ‘til he finds a wife, a daughter’s your daughter all her life.” I’d heard it too many times from older moms who chuckle as if the rhyming covers the hurt. Does it really have to be that way? Will I really lose my sons while another mother gets to keep her daughter?

And then there are the mother-in-law tropes. No matter how hard they try, the mother-in-law bears the brunt of the jokes and is labeled demanding, unhelpful, and critical. Is that to be my future? Can’t there be something better? After all, we’re different people, but I do genuinely like my mother-in-law. As a boy mom with no daughter in sight, those things cut straight to my heart.

I started to notice little things toowhile my husband’s last name lives on through my kids, it’s my family traditions and stories that survive a little stronger simply by the happenstance of being the main caretaking parent. I make the Sunday dishes my family made, and I play the same “peek-a-boo kiss-your-face” game when I’m dressing my boys for the day that my own mother played. How fair is it to him and my mother-in-law that their family traditions wither out? Did it hit a tender part in my mother-in-law’s heart to know my traditions were stronger than theirs even though it was unintentional? After all, I can only pass on what I know.

RELATED: Dear Future Daughter-in-Law, I Hope We’ll Be Close

Then a surprise pregnancy gave me the biggest surprise of all: It’s a girl! She’s not here yet, but this brings up all sorts of new questions, trepidation, and excitement for me, but underneath it all, that pesky rhyme kept showing up although in different ways now: You get a mini-me! So exciting! You’ll have a life-long best friend! A boy is yours ‘til he finds a wife, a daughter’s your daughter all her life.

Yes, I want my daughter to feel like she is always my daughter and my friend. (I want the same for my boys, just like I want to raise her to be independent and self-reliant like her brothers.) But I also want my daughter to be friends with her mother-in-law, to see her as a bonus mom and not just the woman who raised her husband because after that beautiful, honey-moon phase of spouses needing only each other is over, once the grind of daily life sets in, once children show up, that daughter will want that proverbial village. A huge portion of that village is the family she came from but also the family her spouse is from.

It won’t be enough to tell my daughter on her wedding day to love and build a relationship with her mother-in-law, I’ll have to show her from the very beginning. Luckily, I’ve been working on that for a while. Worried about my boys not knowing any of their father’s traditions, I started incorporating them.

On one early visit, my mother-in-law brought a book, her favorite book growing up complete with the original illustrations The Little Engine That Could. I find the book too long for a children’s book and my voice gives out before I finish it, but I have read it many, many times over the years because I want my boys to have that connection to their Grandma Allred, and I always mention it was her favorite book as a little girl.

If I make a recipe from my husband’s childhood, I mention that Grandma Allred makes this recipe. I even make recipes I don’t like because my husband likes them and wants his kids to try a piece of his childhood, and I want that to live on.

RELATED: To the Mother of My Son’s Future Wife

I’ve worked on having a relationship with her outside of my husband. I’ve asked my mother-in-law for advice, I listen when she speaks, I keep her updated  on my life, and I’ll pick up the phone for a quick hello and call the boys over to talk. When we write letters to grandma, we write letters to both grandmothersno on gets left out.

While I notoriously struggle with giving traditional gifts that come wrapped and tied in ribbon and have a holiday due-date, I hope my daughter (and sons) see me sweeping the floor and wiping out the fridge when we go visitlittle practical gifts that take something off her to-do list, and she does the same when she comes for a visit. I am also very careful to not criticize her in front of my young childrenher grandchildrenbecause she loves them, and they deserve to hear only the best because there is so much good in that woman.

I am by no means a model daughter-in-law, but I do try. The woman who raised my husband has been a great help to us throughout the years, and though we are different people with different interests, as I’ve come to know her as a person and not just “my husband’s mother” I’ve come to appreciate her friendship and rely on her help. Life takes a village, and I am glad she is part of mine. And I hope, I really do hope, that my example of loving my mother-in-law is strong enough to teach my daughter how to love hers.

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April Allred

I'm an English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. The latter two are my favorite titles, and the former two my childhood dreams come true. Though I don't have a green thumb, I'm a hopeful gardener and can usually be found outside.

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