Monday, November 10, 2008

Of Changing Relations

Last night we were invited to dinner by Rinkadi (Vicky's cousin's wife who's here on holiday). Rahul was offered his dinner early and my mother-in-law asked to feed him. As I served them and discreetly left the scene, I couldn't help but think of how little I had expected such a simple gesture, once.

When I wrote my Survival Guide for Daughters-in-Law a year ago I did get a lot of flack, both directly at the post and elsewhere for being regressive. (Mad Momma's place comes to mind, although it was a commentor there and MM herself, despite her differing views, defended me quite dearly.) The idea of me being regressive is a bit of a joke, if you know me in person. But you don't, so perhaps I need to tell you why I write those posts. I write them because those are valuable lessons that I learnt and quite frequently, learnt a little late.

I don't forget the things that Vicky's mother did to me. Nor do I underplay the extent of the harm she did to me and mine. Nor have I ever thought that his father was any less to blame for letting the siutation spiral out of control as badly as it did. Consequently, it took me a long time to get over my fears and inhibitions, to visit that house once more. On the other hand, I'm glad I pushed myself and kept pushing, because it's now that I see how good it can get.

Now Rahul knows his other grandparents. He knows their home and is as free in it as he is in Madras. He knows what he can expect from them and is secure in his place as their first grandchild. He had always had it from my parents, of course, and now he has it from both sides. Vicky and I have the security of knowing we have a place to leave him in emergencies and also that in a crisis his parents call us up. We are finally functioning as a family again, depending on one another, taking the support for granted, doing things together.

I didn't know how important this was for me. I needed the acceptance and I needed the balance. I used to feel vaguely uncomfortable that R had such a fantastic relationship with my parents and such a desultory one with V's. One of the nicest things to come out of this in fact is not just that Vicky turns to his parents when in need -- something he had entirely stopped doing -- but that I'm finally secure enough in his life to be comfortable with that. However much I may throw an old hurt or two at him in a moment of anger, I no longer believe that his mother would be happy to see this marriage broken up.

My mother told me a long time ago to give her time to learn to be a mother-in-law, because she'd never been one before. And likewise, that she needed time to learn some of the grandmotherly requirements other than the cuddling because she'd never been a grandmother either, before. Somewhere along the line it suddenly made sense to apply the same logic to the in-laws as well.

I can understand that not everybody's in-laws meet them halfway or even part-way. Some are not worth the trouble of getting to know. And a few will never accept you no matter how often you shove your own hurts aside. On the other hand, some, quite a lot of them do want a happy family. Maybe they don't want you to be a part of it, but if you make their child happy that is a point in your favour already. Nothing comes overnight but there is nothing like a constant chipping away of walls. However discouraged I have been in the past I have always tried to keep it to myself. (To me that means I yell at Vicky and calm down. That's keeping things to myself. That's why I keep the man around.)

And there is also a lot to be said for being very strong and not being afraid to show it. Vicky's parents now know that I am no less capable of shutting them out as they once shut me out. It's just that we have finally accepted, all of us, that we each have a lot to lose by walking away. It started out because I wanted Rahul to have the chance of knowing all his grandparents, and to be honest, I also wanted them to see what they were missing. In the process somewhere down the line we all saw what we were missing. This doesn't mean we spend all our time bonding together, but it does mean that when we meet, we gather as a family. Too much water has gone under the bridge for me to ever take that for granted again.

I have been in two minds about writing this post. For one thing, I was so scared of jinxing things. For another, I would not wish for a reader to take this for an IL dissing post. But I think that now we all recognise how precious these ties are, we will all take the trouble to get along. And I also believe in setting the record straight. I have never hidden the troubles Vicky and I have gone through but nor would I like anybody to think that we don't have our good times.


D said...

When you've been through a bad patch in a relationship, you learn to value the good times even more. Or at least yearn for them.

Monika,Ansh said...

Glad things are getting better for you.
Being in a joint family with my in laws,& going through a lot of stuff myself, I know how difficult it is to forgive & forget. But we still do it for the sake of our kids & also ourselves.

beaches-and-hills said...

Anti Jinx!!
You are a strong woman... It takes a lot to learn to live with the issues and still be cordial...
am still on the anaylizing phase. :(

Rohini said...

Very sensible approach, Sue. Glad things are working out. Like they say, it takes a village to raise a kid and you sure seem to be getting your village sorted out...

Mama - Mia said...

sensible sue at it again! :)

this is so true. i keep telling everyone that whether you like it or not, the fact is, your hubby IS his parents son and a part of what he is today is thanks to them.

its just so unfair to cut them out completely. and if one is making effort to that end, its is anything but regressive!

you know MILs had some silly prob with us and M actually took effort to fly down just for coupla days and within next two months Cubby was enjoying his time with Daadi calling her Piya! and it was all so precious.

i think we as people NEED family. and if the other side responds to the efforts you have made, its time to start building bridges.

yet again Sue, this was beautifully said!

hugs to you for that!



Maggie said...

A mature and hopeful post, clearly thought out as usual. Hugs, and anti-jinx!

Ritu said...

Anti Jinx and God Bless

Taking baby steps to rebuild relationships is the best way. I am glad that stability and peace has come into your life and family

david mcmahon said...

Hi Sue,

There is a certain indefinable price on the sometimes rare commodity of harmony.

Anonymous said...

Went through some similar shit myself after the Munchkin's birth. It is very difficult to forgive and forget not to mention the stress is causes in our marriages. Your rationale is correct and that is what I aspire for also, but right now I'm still not ready to make nice.
But I hope to get where you are soon.

Casuarina a.k.a. Madame Sosostris said...

You know, Sue, this is THE most imp reason why I read your blog're brave enough to share all this with us...I've had my own fair share of troubles with the IL, before AND after marriage, but at that time, confiding in even close friends seemed like a betrayal of my fiance/husband but keeping it pent up felt equally nightmarish... I'm glad I decided against leaving the arena despite serious misgivings and almost giving up on several occasions. Finally, I suppose, my MIL and I realised we were playing tug-of-war over someone equally precious to each of us and so, somewhere, we just let go.Things are much better now and we have finally begun to bond.

the mad momma said...

here you go babe -

and here's the thing. the reason why i agreed with you and not the commenter is that yours was a personal situation where you told us what you experienced and how you dealt with it. it gives the reader an insight.

with uttam dave - he didnt give us the DILs view at all. it was all one sided. most of all he missed this very important point you made "I can understand that not everybody's in-laws meet them halfway or even part-way. Some are not worth the trouble of getting to know."

and that is the concession you need to make. not all inlaws are the same. and as a result not all of us can choose to do what you did. which is fair enough. God bless and may your relationship just go from good to better to best...

anti jinx

Sue said...

D -- Damn straight.

Monika -- True. And it sounds to me like you know it better than I do.

Beaches-and-hills -- You'll get there. Just give it (and yourself) time.

Ro -- Boy, do I need a village at the mo! Mind you, have been thinking of a post on the panghat for some time now. :)

Abha -- That was so sensible of him. Yeah, it's true that when I watch them with the boy I forgive them a lot of their sins. :)

Maggie -- *crosses fingers*

Ritu -- Thanks. We are all grateful, I guess. Nor shall I lay claim to all the credit.

David -- You said it!

Avanti -- Well, it took me two and a half years. And it's never all forward progress. I just tell myself to do what I want a future DIL to do because I don't think I'll be a very amiable MIL!

Casuarina -- You read my blog ritually? *faints at the idea*

Never let anybody drive you away from the people you think you should be close to. Not even the people themselves. I follow this with my parents. :P

MM -- True, the article was so badly written you didn't know whether to take a correction pen to it or scream in feminine frustration. Thanks for the link. *blush*

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

over form David's, you've certainly made me think and reflect!!

Jeni said...

What a very wise post -your theories about the importance of children growing up and able to know their families is indeed something that more should strive to do. I tried with my children to provide as many ways as I could to give them the opportunity to know not just my family but their father's too. Difficult to do considering they lived a good distance from us but today, my younger daughter has a very strong relationship with her paternal grandmother albeit it mainly via letters since the distance -geographically -has increased but there is no distance between them otherwise. Just warmth and love -which is as it should be.
Great post and well deserving of David's POTD too!

Anonymous said...

awesome Sue!

I am sure its for eveyone's benefit..maintaining peace and cordial relationships!

more power to u :)

indicaspecies said...

Life's ups and downs can be likened to the simultaneous sounding of different notes. Through it all, life can be sweet, just like those notes could make music pleasing to the ear.

Lovely post. Congrats on David's POTD mention.

eve's lungs said...

This is why I like you so so much :) You're saying things .. in what 3 years' time ? that it took me over 10 years to rationalise . Wise Sue :)

Serendipity said...

I had a wedding which was fixed.. and got called off (partly) because of all the things that happend with the in laws to be. I just couldnt deal with having my character questioned so many times over and over again.
I really liked your post.. and Im also a little frightened..this evidently takes a lot of strength of character and determination. And I wonder how ill cope. I also wnder how ill deal with the husband not saying anything, cos in this xcase even tho it was boyfriend who was keeping mouth shut about everyhting, it was traumatic to go through.

Sue said...

Fat, Frumpy and Fifty -- (I love the name!) Was that a good thing or a bad, being made to think?

Jeni -- Thank you. Aren't letters fantastic? I used to write to my grandparents too, when I was younger, and a few years ago I found some of those letters carefully preserved by them. Made me feel very special.

Chandni -- Yup. Am not one for doing something unless I too get something out of it!

Indicaspecies -- :) I'm impressed at the imagery. Thank you.

Evie -- Stop calling me that! Aaargh! I feel about seventy when you all gang up on me.

Serendipity -- I would say I'm sorry to hear about your wedding, but in the long run I suppose it was a good thing. Here's a thought: when we read/hear about somebody else's experiences we tend to see them through the lenses of our own experiences. So perhaps, my experiences weren't as drastic as yours or perhaps they were simply more bearable. It's impossible to tell without sharing the sad details and so I would say, don't give up hope. Yes, any marriage requires strength but when your time comes you'll find the strength you need. I cried for a year and a half but eventually did what I should have done earlier and wasn't able to. Next time, find yourself a boy who will stand up. It doesn't need to be an open condemnation of his parents but he can certainly make it clear to them that he does not share their views and since you will be his wife, his opinions matter more than theirs.

Just don't marry a Bong. :)

Manasi said...

I read both your posts and totally relate to you on this issue. I sensed the growing "replacement" and "insecurity" and "under-confidence" early on... and I stood brave (like an army man's daughter should) and unflinching... I slowly realized that one doesn't have to retaliate to every jibe because nothing works as a better response than a sweet smiling face which shows the insulter that their words have no meaning...

I also realized that husband and I are a team and we are in it together even though he doesn't speak out openly. He suffers when I suffer. He wins when I win. And your mother was very wise in telling you that "give them time to grow out in their new role"

I also realized that my energies are limited. I can either put it to foster negativity in my head or put it to a constructive use but managing my emotions. Today, I am driven to achieve what I have set my eyes on and as a woman wishing to rise up the corporate ladder I am using the same principals of logic to manage my boss and in-laws alike... and its no different from potty training a new dog.

I wish you all the success in your chosen endeavors and peace in your heart. I have always remembered - "forgiveness is the attribute of the strong"

Best wishes,