Open Letter to My Son-in-Law

Rob and Cadence, Kayaking. Pearl Harbor. Mother’s Day, 2012.

[Note: Tomorrow my daughter, Elaine, and her husband, Rob, celebrate their wedding anniversary. Our acoustic vacation was spent in their home. Unplugged, I had time to think.]

Dear Rob,

Now that Rich and I are home from our visit, I have a few things to say to you. I’m sure you know how that goes: You spend a big chunk of time with someone, and then after you’ve had time to process, you think of stuff you wish you’d said. 
Today, I’m having my say.

First, about your naval career. When you and Elaine became engaged, the only thing I didn’t like about the match was the possibility that you’d be dragging her and my grandchildren off to some far-flung location. It sure didn’t take long for that prophecy to be fulfilled, hmm? Before we knew it, you were off to Hawai’i. 
Now, it’s nice that you’re stationed at an attractive tourist locale, but truthfully, I could have happily sat on the sofa and watched you all breathe the whole time we were there. Really. 
That promotion to chief is moving you farther still from your California home–all the way to Guam.  It troubles me, because I don’t know what to do with the mingling of my pride over your accomplishments, your ambition to do well and provide for your family, and my dread of the distance. 
And the kids–I must speak with you about my grandchildren. Don’t think I didn’t notice, the way you’d come downstairs early on a Saturday morning, caring for the boys so Elaine, pregnant with Little Miss Kidney Bean, could sleep just a little longer. Don’t think I didn’t notice you investing in their lives, spending the scarce coin of your time on them: tossing Sawyer in the air, kayaking with Cadence. Don’t think I didn’t notice you applying consistent, loving discipline even when you knew it would result in a noisy outcry. It might have been easier–quieter–in the moment, to just capitulate. But you didn’t. 
Next, I mean to have a word with you about your wife (and my only child). I’ve seen the two of you making decisions together, planning your future, caring for your children, choosing a movie to see. You’re synced. My mother’s heart overflows when I see how well you two love each other, how deeply connected you are.  I see her light up when you return home. 
And I see you light up, too, when you return to her. You’re exactly the man I had in mind for my precious daughter. How many mothers can say that?
Finally, let’s talk about us. Rich told me, the night before we left your home, “I’ve felt welcome every single minute we’ve been here.” And he’s right. Not every busy young couple–certainly not every son-in-law–would welcome a ten-day visit from parents. But you and Elaine? Your graciousness, your genuine welcome, made us feel so special. That doesn’t come from nowhere. Nope.

It speaks to me of the quality of our relationship, yours and mine. We have in common our intense, abiding love for your wife, my daughter. And we pull it off well. 

Here’s the thing, and I reckon you’ll see this better in fifteen years than you can today: My job, as mother and grandmother, is to stand down and support the two of you as you go about this business of living, loving, and rearing a family. I have friends who have been so horrified at what they’ve seen that they could not be still, felt compelled to intervene in their adult children’s lives.
But you and Elaine? You make it look natural. As she said to me, “It’s just what we do.” 
Thanks, Son. And happy, happy  anniversary.

Rob and Me. May, 2012.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.
Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)