Play It Again, Sam!

Do Over 2

There are days we long for a do-over. Yesterday’s poor food choices or the thoughtless remark made in a heated moment. Small things that add up. But what about the big stuff? Like a look back on your parenting and wondering if you’d do it all again in exactly the same way. Time provides insight and often, important lessons.  I’m pleased to introduce my new friend, Sharron Cosby. She tells her story with transparency, as she looks back on her life as Mom. You may want to take a moment to learn from her story – and change yours while there’s still time.

by Sharron Cosby

A friend recently asked, “If you were granted a do-over with your children, what would you do differently?”

My first response, albeit unkind, was, “Probably not have any!” I quickly let her know I was joking, but there were days when the thought played dodge ball in my mind.

The question was posed after I shared my story of our addicted son. The heartaches our family suffered wreaked havoc on me spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. I feel like I have PTSD. Even now, with five years clean, his arriving late for dinner or coming into our home when we’re away jerks my memories back to the dark days of his active addiction.

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if a time machine appeared and afforded a second chance at child rearing. Here are a few things I want to believe I’d change:

  • Employment outside our home. If I had the freedom to choose, I wouldn’t work outside the home. As our children got older, my presence in the afternoon was needed. The three-hour gap between school dismissal and the work-whistle blowing left space for mischief— our home became the shenanigans gathering place. I don’t think it would have been had I been at home. At the very least, I would have worked part-time.
  • First things first. Each of our three children had their own vehicles. They had to work to pay for insurance and gas. Anything left over was fun money. Instead of focusing on earning money, their first focus should have been school. Our daughters worked in restaurants with college-aged kids. They participated in activities inappropriate for their teen years, but since they worked together, they were part of the crowd.
  • Delay cars for kids. Cars aren’t a necessity if they’re not working. Of course then, I couldn’t work because they would need transportation. Already my resolve is fading. The responsibility to haul kids around isn’t alluring.
  • Meet their friends’ parents. I allowed our children to stay overnight at friends’ homes without ever meeting the parents. I had no idea what kind of values and standards they had. They probably wondered the same about me.
  • Ask the hard questions. I didn’t ask because I was afraid of the answers. In my heart of hearts, I knew there were problems, but I hoped by denying them they would go away. Or at least not be as bad as I envisioned.
  • Work on my issues. I realize now, I parented out of my own hurts and hang-ups. My white picket fence dream of a perfect family drove my actions and inactions. I was unwilling to face my own inadequacies, side stepping them in hopes our family’s ship would right itself.

As I pondered a do-over, I came to the conclusion that even if I had made these changes I wasn’t guaranteed a different outcome. I could have been Mother of the Year, cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring kids all over town, but at the end of the day, my children had choices to make, independent of me. Would they still make the same heartbreaking choices? I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that I loved them and had their best interests at heart. Their father and I taught them to love God, their family and friends. They were never unloved. There were days I didn’t like them, but they were always loved—and they knew it.

I don’t need a time machine to provide me with a do-over. God’s Word tells me, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23a NIV.

Every day I have fresh opportunities to know Him deeply, to love unconditionally and to extend grace. I’m still their mom. They’re still my kids. There’s always tomorrow.

 

 

Sharron CosbySharron Cosby: With southern charm and a hopeFULL heart, author/speaker Sharron Cosby reaches out to families desperate for an anchor in their storms. Read her story in Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90 available on Amazon.

Three Tips for Great Family Getaways

vacationA recent girl’s night out included some shared appetizers, cool beverages and tons of conversation. It had been a while since this group had all been together and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Eventually the conversation focused on “what I did for summer vacation.” A big birthday and significant anniversary had been celebrated with a trip to Portland. An upcoming New York weekend, including a Broadway show, was discussed. And two shared their version of the Chevy Chase “Family Vacation.” You know the ones: rock-hard beds in tiny shared quarters where you learn way too much about one another. The kayak river trip in a mostly dried up creek, or the beach trip that featured six straight days of rain. People can get cross with the circumstances—and with one another.

We laughed till we cried, but later I thought about the tradition of family vacations. We laugh at Clark Griswold’s family because we’ve most likely been there at some point. All that togetherness can be a challenge.

Vacations with little ones can be stressful; they’re away from the familiar, routines are disrupted, and the items that comfort them are unavailable. Our own summer getaways when our boys were young were spent in the 113 degree heat of Palm Springs at the Oasis Water Park and Resort. Sounds swanky, right? In the winter, we’d have paid a premium price. But in July, $99 a night bought us a two bedroom condo with maid service and daily water park passes for the entire family. Living big, I tell you.

We continued the tradition as our sons became adults, adding their wives and little boys as they appeared on the scene.  We’ve enjoyed snowy mountains at Christmas, Florida’s DisneyWorld, and the many attractions of Southern California. Each trip offered a challenge or two, but we enjoyed them and recall them fondly. It’s been two years since our last trip, and we’ve added four more little boys to the mix in that time, but we look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Traveling with adult children is a very different experience and requires a process that varies from when they were little. And even though the traditional summer vacation season is drawing to a close, three day weekends and trips for the holidays are year round. We’ve gained some insights over the years, so  I’m sharing some ideas that surfaced as we’ve traveled together. Here are three tips we’ve discovered that can make a big difference.

  • Include EVERYONE in the planning process. You might be surprised to learn that your services as travel director and tour guide are not always welcome. You may prefer to hit the beach while others would rather see the museums or area theme parks. Let everyone weigh in; we all like to be heard. Does everyone have to do everything together everyday? Or is there room for a freestyle day when the group splits off to pursue varied interests? A break from all that togetherness can be a great bonus!
  • Clarify expectations. What are the financial arrangements? Will the cost be shared evenly across the family? What if one couple has three kids, and another has none? Will they pay the same for the lodging, rental car, and meals you prepare in your condo or cabin? Do the math well in advance so everyone knows what to expect. And what about chores? If you’re in a rental home, consider creating a plan. Rotate cooking, clean up and trash duty. Discuss it before plans are made so no one is surprised. A family meeting to discuss the details will make a big difference.
  • Be flexible. The cabin might be a bit musty, hikes gets rained out, and rental cars break down on occasion. Know going in this stuff happens, and if it does, make the best of it. Air out the cabin, do a rainy day movie marathon, and tell Hertz you expect a big upgrade in the replacement vehicle. Remember the unofficial beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!

The “vacation” might simply be a family visit to celebrate the holidays together. Will the grandparents be expected to be on-call babysitters? We usually offer a time to let the big kids have some time together while we enjoy our grandsons. Recently we split it up: the girls stayed in with the six little boys one night, and the guys were on duty the next. Again, communicating is key; make no assumptions.

Lastly, remember that one of the big benefits is the chance to be together, to enjoy one another’s company. It should be a feature of the vacay, not a cross to bear. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving weekend, a Christmas trip seeking sunshine, or a traditional summer vacation, a little pre-planning can make it one for the scrapbooks!

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Fonda MILToday I am sharing an abridged excerpt from my first book, “Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the book at Amazon with this link: Amazon

“This is my mother-in-love, Deb.”

The young woman behind the counter in the green apron smiled at me and waved. She was Sarah’s Starbucks boss, and I was glad to meet her. I was thrilled, however, with my daughter-in-law’s introduction of me. “Mother-in-love” was a sweet surprise, and I was once again reminded why this lovely girl has captured not only my son’s heart, but mine as well.

Mother-in-love is what Sarah calls me when she introduces me to friends or coworkers. It touches my heart and makes me smile when she says it. It is a wonderful honor. It also made me think about the terms in-law and in-love. I was intrigued by the contrast of these two titles. Love versus law. The more I meditated on them, the more interested I became. Where did the term in-law originate?

The explanation is simple: we are in-laws because of the legal joining of the couple. We are related according to and through the law.

Next on my quest was to understand what the term law means. What are its attributes? How does it serve? Who does it protect? The law has specific qualities and characteristics that distinctly define it.

• The law limits and excludes.
• The law is a finite thing: black and white, inflexible, ?focused on minute details.
• The law is conditional: if you, then I.
• The law is of the mind and intellect.
• The law seeks to benefit itself. Its only fulfillment is to ?be obeyed.
• The law is without emotion and without mercy, and it ?pronounces judgment.
• The law demands a high price to be paid if it is not ?observed correctly.
• The law is designed to rule by power; it enforces norms ?and standards of behavior.

The purpose of the law includes a coercive effect in regulating conduct. ?If a personal or family relationship is ruled by law, it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?

The law is inflexible and coercive, enforcing standards established through harsh penalty. It is relationship based on the conditional proposition that if you do as I require, then I will not punish you, or I may even provide you with some benefit. Wasn’t that the arrangement between God and man after the Fall in the garden and before the death of Christ on our behalf?

Relationship between God and man before grace was built on the Law given to Moses. The book of Leviticus provides a thorough and detailed description of the requirements by which man could maintain relationship with God. There was a lot of blood involved. It required daily attention and a constant investment of time. The next required act of obedience was never far from one’s mind, because the penalties for failing to follow the Law were substantial.

Sounds like some in-law relationships I know. Characterized by demand and obedience, inflexibility and personal preference, these relationships choke out the potential for family unity and harmony. Grudges are nursed like babies at the breast. Walls are erected, bridges are burned, and the structure of the family divides like the waters of the Red Sea.

But love is quite another matter. The characteristics of love are very different.

• Love is a living thing.
• Love overlooks, forgives, and grants pardon.?• Love includes and gathers in.
• Love is easily satisfied and does not demand on its own behalf.
• Love is unconditional.
• Love is from the heart and seeks to benefit others at the expense of itself.
• Love is fulfilled when it’s invested and given away.
• Love is full of mercy.
• Love pays the price.

Now that’s more like it. There’s an element of promise, hope, and possibility in a relationship rooted and grounded in love.

So, the burning question is this: Should we be living our in-law relationship in love or under the law?

It’s not a surprise the Word of God provides us direction.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law,” (Rom. 13:8). “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24).

Love accomplishes what the law cannot. And love is a choice.

Christ chose to love us when we were anything but lovable. He knew every last secret, every shred of pride and rebellion, every ugly thought. All of it. He loved us still. And He asks us to do the same to a lost and dying world. Even with our woman-in-law.

Demonstrating love on a daily basis is not easy. Some people are hard to love. They are difficult, arrogant, opinionated, prideful, selfish, and the list goes on. It does not matter to Christ. To love those who are lovable is nothing special—those who walk without Jesus can manage that. He asks us to love those whose behavior is hurtful and damaging.

That’s a tall order. Being civil is not sufficient. Love those who seem determined to take you down, to hurt and demean you. Pray for the ones who use you in a spiteful way. Remember that before we trusted in Christ, we were just as unlovely in the eyes of a perfect and spotless Lord Jesus. If we can’t or won’t make this our goal, we are failing to follow the foundations of life in Christ.

Love is a choice.

I hope you will make an important choice. If you desire to live your life aligned with God’s word on the subject of MILs and DILs, this book can be a very helpful tool. You can find Related By Chance, Family By Choice at this link: Books by Deb

THE POO RULE

Dad shocked by crying babyby Deb DeArmond

I watched my son’s face as he changed his first really messy diaper for his newborn son—his first child. Only a few days old, my grandboy had taken the exercise seriously and had delivered an impressive load.

My husband and I were enjoying the moment, watching our son and his son together. The baby looked relieved and relaxed. My son did not.

I could tell this was a moment my son would never forget, nor would he look forward to repeating it any time soon.

Later, as we sat together with a sleeping baby nestled against my shoulder, we chatted with the new parents. Happy, but exhausted, we talked about the whirlwind that no first timers are ever prepared for.

“So I can’t do that again. It was all I could do not to lose my lunch.” My son looked at his wife.

“You’ll get used to it,” she said reassuringly.

“No, I won’t. I’m not kidding.”

He sounded pretty certain. It made me giggle. It’s just starting, I thought. And it’s not the worst mess you’ll have to deal with.

My husband glanced at our son. He looked serious. “You know, son, I had a personal poo rule when you and your brothers were babies.”

Oh yes! The poo rule! Couldn’t wait to see my son’s reaction to this tidbit of fatherly advice.

My son leaned forward, looking relieved. Aha! My dad’s going to bail me out here, get me off the hook! He had a poo rule – maybe we should make it a family tradition!

You could see the grin beginning to form on his face. “Tell me about it, Dad. How did it work?”

“Well, your mom was home with you all day and I missed out on some of the “firsts” — first smile, first time you rolled over, first crawl. It was tough hearing about it second hand. I watched that bond form between the two of you and I was a bit jealous at times.”

My son nodded. “Makes sense.”

“So I decided I would change every messy diaper I could,” he continued. “I wanted my face to be associated with the relief and comfort that comes when that baby was poo free – all cleaned up in a fresh diaper.”

Not the answer my son had hoped to hear.

I knew Ron had often stepped in to take over a messy diaper. At the time, I didn’t understand his motivation. It has come up with each of our other two sons as they became dads. I’m not sure they were convinced.

What my husband and I are convinced of is this: the poo rule doesn’t expire when they are potty trained. For parents, it’s a lifetime opportunity.

No matter how old they are, there will always be poo to deal with. It comes in new forms – bad decisions, difficult choices, or missed opportunities, but poo by any other name, is still poo. And it can be stinkier and more difficult to help clean up when they’re grown.

Ron’s theory is they’ll go back to those early days, remember the face that brought them comfort and help and seek it out once again. And they do.

Relief now comes in the form of conversation, brainstorming, and sometimes counsel. Poo detail has helped our sons through sticky situations, given them new insights, and brought them closer to their dad. It’s a guy thing. Sometimes, I’m jealous. But I know men learn to be dads from their own fathers. I’m grateful my boys have such a strong teacher.

Isn’t that what Father God does for us? He comforts. His Holy Spirit counsels. His Word instructs and He brings the relief that comes with His touch. Time in His presence leaves us feeling clean, refreshed.

And now each of my three sons has two sons themselves. That’s a lot of relief opportunities.

Who knew poo could be such a wonderful thing?

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Tact-is-the-act-ofBy Deb DeArmond

I love this quote. Turns out Isaac Newton was not just a gravity genius. He apparently was a relationship guru as well. Must have come from a big family.

I was raised as an only child; my only sibling was 16 years my senior. By the time I was two, he had gone off to college and never returned to our home state. We grew close only after I grew up. So, as a child, I had my folks all to myself. I never needed to call “shotgun” to ride in the front seat, never had to split the last cookie with a younger sibling and never had the heartbreak that comes with being asked to sacrificially yield the last of the ice cream to another child in the family.

Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? I won’t lie—it was a great life. One I discovered (later in life) my friends envied. But it turns out, there was a dark side.

I never learned to share. Or at least to share graciously.

When required to do so in the midst of a school event or neighborhood pow-wow, I was known to be demanding, bossy and  loud about what I wanted.  Later I learned it was behavior considered immature. Well excuse me! Experience had taught me differently than it had my multi-siblinged comrades.

I eventually developed the ability, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. And now I wonder how I ever avoided being pushed out, pushed down or simply outcast. Very grateful looking back it hadn’t gone that way.

So now, as a full grown adult, I watch as we all struggle with the urge to “have it our way” even in the relationships that are most important to us in life: in our  marriages, with family members – adult kids, sibling in-laws, aunts, uncles, even grandparents have their preferences. It’s hard not to campaign for the thing you want, even as an adult. It can be tough to set aside your own preference without getting sulky and sullen.

But it’s also not okay to simply let the loudest voice lead. How do you cope? For starters, stop being the loudest, and start being the clearest voice— to bring a sense of peace and order when the conversation begins to give way to self-interest without regard for the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others.

How do we do it? How do we find a way to have candid open discussion without damaging the people we love the most?

Effective communication skills and using the Word of God as our guideline is a foundation that will stand every time. Here are two Spirit-led reminders, designed to help us walk in love.

  • Prefer one another. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another,” Romans 12:10 (NKJV). Putting the interests of another is counter-intuitive to the flesh. Preferring others will always cause people to sit up and take notice, because it’s not how the world does things, so it serves a dual purpose, as it draws attention to our great God.
  • Love does not seek it’s own way. It’s not Burger King, friend. It’s not always going to go as you’d hoped. Set your preference aside and listen, really listen. Be willing to be changed by what you hear. (1 Cor 13)

And remember that the way you say what you say matters. Volume does not equal leadership.

So remember, tact counts. Just ask Isaac. Turns out that apple bonk on the head must have loosed some real Godly insight!

You’ll Always Be His Mama!

photoBy Deb DeArmond

That beautiful bundle I’m holding is my new grandson, Kohen. He is six-weeks old today and already making himself heard in this world. Just ask his parents about the sanctity of sleep. They have a whole new appreciation for it these days.

They live halfway across the country, but they are exactly where I believe God wants them to be. So the airline points will fulfill a new purpose in my life: hold that boy!

We celebrated his Mama, my daughter-in-law, Heather, at a baby shower before his arrival. Several guests were asked to share a few words of encouragement or advice for the new mom-to-be.

Many talked about their own experiences as moms and what their children had taught them. Some reassured her that she would again, at some point in her life, sleep undisturbed through the night. Her own mom talked about Heather as a baby and what a blessing she knew this addition would be to Heather’s life and that of my son.

As the hostess I spoke last, just before the prayer offered over our luncheon. I looked at my sweet daughter-in-love, whose place has been secured in my heart for more than 12 years.

“Heather, I know something about boys,” I began. “They are so incredibly special. Be forewarned—they are loud and track in dirt and they can sometimes be smelly. But you’re going to love it – and they will love having a mom who loves sports and all things outdoors.”

“The first moment you hold your child, you’ll wonder how you ever drew a breath before he graced the planet. You will be captivated by a love you didn’t know could exist. He will look into your eyes as if no one else is of any interest at all. You will be besotted, and he will own you completely.”

“You’ve been given a lot of advice today. Great advice. It’s my privilege to add one more thought, a recommendation to help you as you raise up your sweet son.” I paused, swallowing hard. “As much as he loves you, and as fervently as you will love him, please remember this one thing: God never intended for you to be the most important woman in his life.” Several guests looked at me curiously.

“The good news is that for now, and for many years to come, you get to be the stand in for that role with no competition. But just as God chose you to fill that spot in my son’s life, Kohen will someday find the woman of God’s dreams to fill it in his. Knowing that now, will make that day joyful for everyone.”

Heather looked teary. My other two DILs were too. It’s the reality of every boy-mama. We are tasked with raising our sons so that someday some woman will take him off our hands and into her heart and life. It’s God’s plan; it’s how He designed it to be.

When it’s done well, your son will remain fully in your heart and life as well. It’s one of the few times God smiles when two women love the same man. And don’t ever forget, you will always be his mama.

Something’s Terribly Wrong Here! Part 2

DIL6

By Deb Dearmond

As promised, today we are flipping the coin over to examine the image of the daughter-in-law.

Often she is the recipient of our sympathy. After all, she has to put up with the fire-breathing dragon her husband calls Mom. And if you missed Part 1 of this article, please take a look: I’m not suggesting that some MILs haven’t worked very hard to earn their reputation as difficult at best and disastrous at worse.

But often daughter-in-law’s no bargain either—and it’s working against both women—and the man-in-the-middle.

During the research for my book Related by Chance, Family by Choice, I interviewed a woman who told me she had found the key to dealing with her son’s wife. “Keep my mouth shut and my checkbook open. She’s not interested in spending time with me, but she’s glad to spend my money.”

The DIL, according to our survey, may be the one to throw the first punch in the relationship. In fact, she may do it peremptorily, just to let Mama know how things are going to be.

A DIL may come to the relationship expecting a meddling mama-in-law, one who corrects and criticizes, who believes her DIL will never be good enough for her son. With this as her expectation, DIL stakes out her territory and puts Mama on notice that her advice, her suggestions, even her interest in creating a relationship are  unsolicited and unwanted.

Often what we expect to see is exactly what we find. Any movement in the bushes gets a barrel full of buckshot. She’s hostile to the woman who raised the husband she loves and stakes out her territory  with a wallop.

Even if she’s not hostile, the younger woman may encounter a very different “mother” than the one who raised her. The challenge comes when we see different and judge it as wrong. Different is not wrong. It’s simply different and often, we do not understand the difference.

When we fail to understand, we fill in the blank with our own interpretation and we hear:

  • I hate you.
  • You’re not good enough for my son (and never will be).
  • You’re doing it all wrong.
  • You’re a a bad wife, mother, homemaker, cook, etc.

We now have our personal (but inaccurate) translation, and we live as though those words came from her mouth. We may even believe she actually said them. Once offended, we may return fire and the battle rages.

At this point, you may realize you’ve had a  role in creating the problem—or you may believe sincerely that your hands are clean. To the Lord, it doesn’t matter. If the relationship is in trouble, God asks us to step out and clothe ourselves, preparing to do His will and His work. It’s not about who did what or who’s to blame. It’s about accepting responsibility to walk in love.

Each of us is responsible for our own behavior; God is responsible for the results when we are obedient to walk according to His will.

If it’s already bad, are DILs doomed forever to be stuck in a really stressful relationship? Not if we choose something better.

1 Thessalonians advises us to dress properly in the Spirit: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thess. 5:8 NIV). Joyce Meyer puts it like this: “How do you put on something spiritually? You have to plan for it mentally.” We must plan ahead of time to:

  • compliment and encourage
  • forgive quickly
  • bless those who curse us
  • focus on the needs of others

In other words, don’t wait for the feeling to kick in to kick off a change in your approach. Feelings are fleeting and subject to change. Plan kindness. The way you put on love is to decide to do it and then follow through.

I can hear some of you asking, “So I’m supposed to be pleasant in the face of her punishing attitude? Slap on kindness along with my favorite shade of lipstick?” Yes, you’ve got it!

It’s easy to love those who are lovely, kind, generous. Anyone can do that. Even the sinner. Jesus asks us to go well beyond that.

So call your MIL, take her to coffee, send her an email that says, “thinking of you.”

After all, she did raise the man of your dreams!

Something’s Terribly Wrong Here! Part 1

By Deb DeArmond

 

MIL 2I had an eye-opening experience this week.

As my book on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships prepares for release this November, I spent some time searching online for appropriate photos to use in articles and press releases.

Using what I thought were reasonable search terms (mother-in-law) I was stunned at what I discovered. Here are just a few of the photographic examples: monkies in fur coats, angry women with rolling pins, a wedding cake topper with room for three – with mama in the middle.

And honest, this image  came up under the search “mother-in-law.”

From Fred Flintstone’s embittered relationship with Wilma’s mother to the long-suffering Debra Barone whose MIL seems intent on running her life, it appears that mothers-in-law need a better public relations campaign.

How is it possible that without skipping a beat, a groan is the first utterance when we hear the word mother-in-law? As much as I hate to admit it, cliches and stereotypes emerge when there’s some kind of pattern that flips that switch. The whole MIL experience has become an urban legend. Movies, TV and even songs herald the horrible-ness (not sure that’s a word) of having one, unless she lives on Mars—or is dead.

It shouldn’t be so. So what are some top tips to make sure your face doesn’t end up on the next website mother-in-law mosaic? Here are three bite-sized chunks to chew on:

1. Remember that although your son will always be your kid,  he’s not a kid anymore – and neither is his wife. They   are adults and deserve to be treated as such. No dropping in unannounced, no looking through the stack of mail on the counter, and no snooping through their cupboards when you are babysitting the grandchildren. Respect their privacy. Please.

2.  Unsolicited advice is unwanted advice. “But I’m just trying to save her from making a big mistake.” No matter how well intentioned you may be, it won’t land well. My DIL, Sarah, once said, “You know what I appreciate about you, Mom? You don’t have an opinion about everything we do.” I nearly laughed out loud. “Of course I do,” I replied. “I’m just not entitled to share it with you unless you ask me or God nudges me to tell you.” Let them build their experiences on their own without trying to step in and you might just be surprised when they ask, “So, Mom—what do you think?”

3.  See your DIL as family, but don’t ever forget, she already has a mother. Being the back-up singer in the band may not seem like a good gig, but it can be. I’m incredibly grateful that after raising three wonderful sons, to have daughters in my life. We are family, not just friends, but if you try to trespass on her mom’s turf, don’t be surprised when you are asked to step back. There’s room in her life for her mom and for you, too. Among my good friends are the moms of my daughters-in-law. They did a great job raising these young women, and I am a beneficiary of their work. Let them know you appreciate what great daughters they raised.

Three quick tips, all gathered in the process of writing Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. Although the book won’t be out until November of this year, you can get a head start on establishing, maintaining, or improving your image—and your life—as a mother-in-law!

And in case you think the younger women in the MIL/DIL equation are getting a free ride, stay tuned. Watch for the second part of this post. What goes around, may come around…

OUR BIG FAMILY VACATION!

big-family-on-vacation1

In less than two weeks, my family, my entire family, three sons, three daughters-in-law, and two grandboys (ages 2 and 5) are headed to the happiest place on earth: Disneyland. And oh, by the way, one of the girls is pregnant.

This will involve a 3-hour plane ride, two rental cars, one rented vacation house—and lots of grace on everyone’s part.

We’ve traveled together before, but the family was much smaller. When I discussed our upcoming plans with a colleague, she looked a bit horrified, and asked, “Why on earth would you do this? Why would you want to do this?”

It’s simple, really. Including my husband, these are my favorite nine people on the planet. But while we are busy creating memories, we want to make certain we are not setting the stage for conflict at the same time. As individuals, we do not lack opinions. Even the little boys who have been looking forward to this for months, have ideas about how we should spend our time. One of our goals is to live together in alignment with our faith in Christ. Even on vacation.

They do call it the Magic Kingdom, the place where dreams can come true. But sometimes fairy Godmothers need a bit of help making that happen. So since we’ve done it before, here are some tips—things we’ve learned on previous trips, about making this work for everyone.

Gather Input. It’s almost natural for the parents to assume they will set the itinerary for the group, and all will come happily along. Remember they are adults and this is their vacation, too. Talk about when, where, and what the group’s interests are. What would we all like to do? What is the meal plan for the days we eat in? Talk about it. Getting everyone to take part in the planning process helps insure there are no unhappy campers later.

Discuss Finances. Since my hubby and I made this trip part of their Christmas present, we are paying for the rental cars and the vacation house. Beyond that, we’ve all agreed each couple is responsible for their own park and attraction admissions and meals out. We will share the cost of items like gas, and stocking the refrigerator. We are willing to “go cheap” and forego fancy restaurants so we can all participate. This allows everyone to budget appropriately in advance, and no one gets caught by surprise.

Establish Expectations. Will your heart be broken if the group doesn’t spend every moment of every day together? Really? Is that much togetherness a good idea? Or is it smart to include some options for each of the couples to spend some alone time? We think so. How will we divide up the responsibility for driving? Is it okay for someone to decide, “I’m going to chill today. You go on without me. I’m going to hang here.” Yes, it’s okay. We’d rather you openly voice your preference than go along and be tired or grumpy all day, asking, “Are we done having fun yet?”

Set Some Ground Rules. Papa and Gigi are not babysitters on demand, but are always happy to plan some time when we get the boys to ourselves. This helps make the couple time possible, too. Everyone helps with making the meals we eat in and cleaning up afterward. A schedule divides the responsibility and it’s clear whose turn it is. There’s no maid service in the house, and this mama is not volunteering. Pick up your towels off the floor and put your dishes in the dishwasher, please. I have a tendency to get overly parental with these issues, and I don’t want to go there. Talking about it openly in advance makes a difference.

Everyone is busy and working, right up until the moment we head out, so email has become our method for communicating this important info, ensuring the vacation gets off to a great start.

So, our plan’s in place. A plan is a good thing, as long as the group is willing to be flexible. We may discover something wonderful we didn’t know was available until we get out there. Don’t adhere so rigidly to the plan that it wrings the joy out of the vacation.

Do I anticipate that all will run like clockwork without a single cross look or moment of annoyance? No, that’s not likely. But, if we are all still on speaking terms at the end of the week, well, that’s proof positive: we are one big well-adjusted happy family!

Holiday Change-Up!

By Deb DeArmond

“Aren’t you just devastated?” my colleague moaned.

“No, not really. I mean, we will certainly miss them,” I replied. “But they are clear that California is where God is taking them. I want them to be where He wants them to be. It was such a gift to have them here for two years.”

My friend and I were catching up on what we had done over the weekend. I had told her about a dinner last Friday evening, hosted by my hubby and I – a gathering for a few family members in our new home. The purpose of the event was to share a meal and bid farewell to my oldest son and his wife as they prepared to relocate back to the west coast. They were set to leave the next morning.

“Oh, that would just be impossible to think about,” she said, shaking her head. “I couldn’t stand to lose my boys.”

Her boys are in elementary school. I can clearly understand her feelings, even if I don’t share them. But I did at one time…

My boys are all grown up with careers, with families – all adults. It takes some getting used to – that awareness that mom and dad are not the central force in their lives. But we did get used to it and appreciate God’s clarity about the concept of leaving and cleaving. “Train up a child in the way he should go….” the Word says. Most importantly, Mama, remember they are to GO.

With summer winding down and the fall holidays approaching quickly, I want to encourage you to remember that God set them apart to stand with their spouses. That can become an issue and a bone of contention when it comes to holiday celebrations. Here are a couple of tips to make the season far more enjoyable for everyone:

• Communicate early. Make sure you discuss what everyone’s plans or intentions are for celebrating the holiday. Make no assumptions, as it will surely disappoint you and them.

• Be flexible as to what and when and where and how – and you may be surprised with the best day ever! Traditions are great, but if they no longer work, create some new ones.

• Be fair. You don’t get to have them 100% of the time. They have in-laws, friends, and may decide that this year is not your year. Don’t pout or punish them. Make your own plans and prepare for a lovely time.

• Celebrate their independence. It’s a sign you did a great job of prepping them for adulthood. This is what is supposed to happen, and because it did, you can rejoice.

So don’t hold so tightly to those adult kids that they want to squirm free of your grip. Make this holiday season one of the best celebrations ever.