Dear mother-in-law,

So many things I wished I could tell you. So many unanswered questions regarding our relationship, or lack thereof.

I always thought my mother-in-law and I would have a relationship not too dissimilar to the one I share with my own mother. I thought we’d have days out together shopping and grabbing lunch. You’d share advice on how to love your son more. I thought you’d be able to share those little nuggets of information on what made him tick. The secrets only a mother would know. I thought we’d sit drinking cups of tea and coffee while you showed me pictures from his youth and recounted stories from his childhood.

But reality is usually bittersweet.

Every visit aggravates my anxiety, I try to walk in God’s faith and not in fear of what looming negativity you’ll bring into our lives next. If I were Dorothy, you would be my tornado—sending me into a whirlwind.

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I’ve spent years trying to please you. I am still trying to get my brain around the language that creates an even harder barrier between us because I figure it’ll be easier for me to speak your language than for you to speak mine as you age. The fact is you rarely utter two words to me the whole visit and barely acknowledge me in our home. So I have moments where I stop trying to speak and gave up on Google translating long ago.

In the past, I’ve tried to give you gifts for those special occasions–they are met with contempt, and yet I humbly accept every gift you bring into our home. More often than not, without you asking if this is what we want.

I try to be patient, taking a deep breath as I yet again re-arrange the guest room after every visit and put away the belongings you insist on leaving as a way of putting your mark on our home.

I am trying to love you how God loves me, but I’ll be honest my patience is wearing thin.

I am tired. I’m tired of trying to learn a language I have no real reason to speak apart from to communicate with you.

I am tired. I am tired of asking unanswered questions in an attempt to get to know you. You once told me you had no intention of ever getting to know me, so I at least applaud you for keeping your word.

I am tired. I’m tired of you criticizing the interior style of our home and how you feel I don’t look after the garden to your standard.

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I am tired. I am tired of cooking meals I inevitably know you will refuse to eat.

I am tired.

Many moments have left me emotionally drained, wondering what it is about me being in your son’s life that enrages you so much. At first, I thought that was just your way. No one can have your son but you.

There have been many moments over the years I really hated you. Yes, Christ is love, but I’m only human. I hated the way you’d come like a whirlwind into our lives, to take away his attention and sap all his energy so by the time you left, he had none left to give me and would need another week to get it back. I hated how you made assumptions about me without trying to know me. You still have learned nothing about me and it’s been five years.

I’ve hated the way you have treated me and still treat me.

You believe your son is yours alone, and I should be grateful you allow me a space in his life temporarily until you can swoop in and claim him back. But he is not yours. He is his own person.

You didn’t gift him to me. He chose to be with me. And he will continue to choose me for the rest of his life. In fact, he’s been choosing me over you for a long while now. After thinking about this for months and tearing my hair out overthinking and over analyzing, as I do, the realization then dawned on me . . . 

Your hatred comes from fear. With every passing year, I’m becoming the most important woman in your son’s life and that scares you. You are scared of becoming obsolete as we become more united in our love for each other.

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But your fear is doing nothing but driving a wedge between you and us. Yes us. To be one we must leave and cleave, and he is cleaving to me more and more. I’m sorry you’re scared.

But now that I know you’re scared, I am learning to love you.

Even if you never learn to love me, even if you continue to cause friction in our relationship, even if you never speak to me, I will daily try to remember you in prayer and get God to fill my heart with love for you.

You see, I realize now that to hate you is to hate him. For he is a part of you. You share DNA. I love the way his high cheekbones look when he smiles. I love the way his eyes dance in the glistening sunlight when he is animatedly talking about something he’s passionate about. I love how he still charms me by being chivalrous. All of those things I’ve noted in you and thus to love him is to love you because you gave him those things.

And so I’ll love you. I’ll love you for bearing this man whom I love and will continue to love for the rest of my life. I’ll love you for raising him to the best of your abilities. I’ll love you for the husband he is becoming and the father he is yet to become. I’ll love you because without you they’d be no him.

Aisha Brown

Aisha Brown is a "wife-in-training" living in the Netherlands with her partner and their grumpy, yet playful Jack Russell Terrier. She is a blogger, poet, and sustainability enthusiast. When she's not writing, you'll find her at the gym, drinking Earl grey tea with friends, walking with the dog, reading yet another book, or strumming her ukulele.