The other day I received an e-mail from my daughter’s father, which was also sent to my parents. He was confirming that he had bought us tickets to my daughter’s year-end dance recital in June. I was beyond thrilled that he had done this, without me even mentioning anything. That’s right. My ex, the father of my daughter, just bought me and, more importantly, my parents tickets along with tickets for himself and his parents (my ex-in-laws) so everyone could see my daughter at her recital.
My parents were even more thrilled and grateful than I was, when they saw that my ex had purchased them these tickets. They clearly have a wonderful and thoughtful ex-son-in-law. While there are so many articles about the difficulties and the importance of the relationship you have with your in-laws, no-one really seems to have delved into how in-laws treat each other, or should treat each other, and what kind of relationship they should have, if any, regardless of the state of the marriage of their respective children.
Since I now have two exes, which means two ex-mother-in-laws, the dynamic obviously has changed. Make no mistake, I am under no impression that, if push came to shove, my ex-in-laws would side with their sons, just as my parents would side with me. Blood is thicker than water, as the saying goes.
But, there’s a saying that also goes, “You don’t just marry your spouse, you marry his or her family.” Which means that our in-laws – our parents – should then treat each other like family too, right?
The fact that my daughter’s father thought about buying my parents tickets, shows that even if he’s my ex, he still views and treats my parents like a loving and doting son-in-law. Likewise, I still treat my ex-in-laws with only respect and kindness, and it’s not a forced kind of respect or kindness either. I truly care and like them. In fact, sometimes I’m on the phone with Rowan’s grandmother for almost two hours – and I make a point to call them at least once every other week. Why? Because my ex-mother-in-law and I have one talking point that we can go on forever about, and that talking point is my daughter.
My daughter’s grandmother will call me for updates on her granddaughter, to make plans for when they can come in and see her, or when she can go visit them. When my daughter’s grandparents come into town, they will even call my parents and invite them out to dinner…without me. My ex-in-laws and my parents truly care about each other.
I only usually find out that my daughter’s grandparents have invited my parents out for dinner, because my mother has called to tell me so. Again, I’m not usually included to grab a bite to eat with the four of them, plus my daughter. So, yes, many times, my parents and my daughter’s father’s parents go out with my daughter, without me or her father. You know, like true friends do.
Even though it’s been more than a decade since my daughter’s father and I have split up, the in-law relationship, between my parents and my daughter’s grandparents has stayed in tact. In fact, they are closer to each other than many of my friends’ in-laws, who have been married for years. When I asked my friends how their parents got along with their spouses parents, I was met with answers like, ‘Don’t even ask.’ Or, ‘It’s fine.’ Or, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
Like I said, there are hundreds of articles about in-laws and their relationship to spouses, but nothing on the importance of in-laws getting along, or on adult children making sure the in-laws have a good relationship, if not a fabulous one. I don’t want to read articles on 10 ways to have an easier relationship with your in-laws, or the psychology behind the mother-in-law relationship, or ten basic rules for dealing with in-laws.
I’m interested in the relationship my children’s grandparents have with each other. There are so many intricacies, if you really pay attention. How is it that my daughter’s father’s parents and my parents have formed such a close bond that they call each other to make plans, or to wish them happy birthdays or anniversaries, even after we split up?
Although I find it funny that I’m excluded in their outings, over the years, I’ve seen that weird emotions can arise between in-laws—especially with my son’s father’s mother, the other ex-in-law of mine. For example, jealousy. Even if the in-laws won’t admit it, I saw this with my parents, the day my son was born.
My son’s grandmother has great intentions. But from the minute my son was born, she took on the role of new grandmother with abandon, as she should. But I also saw that she made my mother very jealous, by sweeping in and picking up the baby, refusing to let go, even though my parents were just as excited, wanting to hold their new grandson as well. A lot of in-laws, it seems, are jealous of each other, over things like who spends the most time with the grandchildren, who spoils them more, even who loves them more. It may be unspoken, but it’s there.
My parents just aren’t the type to want to start anything, so my mother was trying to deal with feeling like a ‘lesser grandmother,’ while at the same time trying not to overstep her boundaries with my son’s father’s mother.
From then on, I was obsessed with how in-laws treat each other. Perhaps because it was my second marriage, my parents, too, didn’t get too invested in either my son’s father, or for that matter, his parents, my now ex-in-laws, as they did my first go-around. Once bitten…
I’m not sure if my parents would call my son’s father’s parents, as she does my daughter’s grandparents, even though they live so close to each other. Sure, my parents and my son’s grandmother are absolutely civil to each other, and will be, in each other’s presence, but I’m not sure they will have any sort of relationship more than that. It’s kind of sad.
When my son’s father and I were together, they only saw each other at birthday parties or other celebrations. They’re always civil to each other. But do they talk on the phone? Do they go out together for dinner, like they do my daughter’s grandparents? Nope. I know why this is, even if it’s embarrassing to admit. I guess you could say I had a ‘good’ break up with my daughter’s father. From the start, whenever my daughter’s grandparents on her father’s side wanted to visit, I would agree. I religiously send them photos. I don’t forget their birthdays. I call, like I said, just because. In fact, I have been on vacation, just with my daughter and her grandparents on her father’s side.
With my son’s father, my relationship with his mother is a little more tricky, which makes it more tricky for my parents to get involved, or bond, with my ex-in-laws. Yes, it all comes down to us parents, meaning partly me. I don’t doubt that one day, after the dust has settled, I will have a good relationship with my son’s grandmother, which will set the tone of the relationship of in-laws, even if they’re now ex-in-laws. I need to be a good co-parent with both my children’s fathers. And everybody who is a grandparent, in this messed up family dynamic, needs to know how to be good co-grandparents.
Even with the most difficult in-laws, I still think it pretty much comes down to common sense. Send your in-laws photographs of their grandchildren. Pick up that damn phone and make that unexpected call, to give updates on their grandchildren. At the very least, just be civil, even if it kills you inside. I have already let my son’s father’s mother know that she can come by at anytime to see her grandson, on my days, and that she can call anytime for updates. Time will tell what kind of relationship we will have, and, for that matter, what type of relationship my parents and my exes parents will have. But it’s all so interesting! Why don’t more co-grandparents actually become good friends, since they obviously have something in common with each other?
Of course, a little part of me feels a little left out, when my parents and my daughter’s grandparents literally make plans and go out together without me. But I also love that my ex-in-laws get along so amazingly well. Go forth. Be amazing co-grandparents. And as an ex-daughter-in-law, I will only encourage all of the grandparents to not only get along, but actually talk to each other like friends. They may not be related by blood, but, it’s much nicer when everyone gets along really well. After all, all the in-laws have something in common; their grandchild.
How do your parents get along with your child’s grandparents?
Tagged under: life lessons,becoming a grandparent,mother-in-law,In-laws,learning from experience,making time for family,bonding with family,spending time with grandparents,relationship with grandparents,grandparents and grandchildren,getting along with your in-laws,amicable divorce,working on relationships,grandkids,grandchildren