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.