Hallelujah! My In-Laws Don’t Suck!


My in-laws just visited for 12 days. They mostly stayed with us. You know what Benjamin Franklin once said? “House guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” My mother in law actual told me this.

But they didn’t smell. In fact, they were delightful.

My husband’s parents live in Washington, and we try to see them at least once a year. They’re retired, and no spring chickens, and of course they enjoy the extended stay get their money’s worth. Due to lots of recent trips for us to the West Coast,  they were overdue for a visit.

We rearranged our bedrooms so that they weren’t relegated to a blow up mattress in the basement. I mean, I HATE sleeping on them and I’m 45 years younger than my father-in-law. Imagine him trying to get out of that in the morning? Creaky. We have no guest room or pull out couch, so we fashioned our daughters’ room into a temporary guest room. Our girls slept on a cot and a portable crib in our room. It was….cozy.

My in-laws spent many years working hard – my father-in-law, Art, as a barber, hairdressing instructor, and state barbershop inspector, and my mother-in-law, Cookie, as an inner city high school math teacher for 42 years. They now enjoy a relaxed life by their lake, with family and friends to fill their days.

Art kept my house neat as a pin. While we worked, he folded laundry, washed dishes, unloaded the dishwasher, and so on. He was slightly dismayed when the girls came home from school and proceeded to trash the place like Lindsay Lohan on a hotel tear. I explained that’s why we usually don’t bother. That didn’t stop him from following Emmeline around with a dust-buster as she left a trail of muffin crumbs. Her mess alone could occupy him for days.

Cookie and I talked about work, about training for a marathon (me), finishing a library book every other day (her), our daily lives. I explained I’m not sure where I’m headed with my career. I have so many ideas and no time, determination, or commitment to see anything through. She encouraged me to take a retreat, something she did twice as a working mom, to reflect and chip away at some personal-professional soul searching. It’d be worth the time to invest in myself, and Dave could handle everything back home, she assured me. I’m inspired.

She said she wanted to be more active. I told her about the program Couch to 5k, designed for novice runners, or run-walkers. She asked if I’d help her buy running sneakers, so we did. She downloaded the app, and promises to enlist a girlfriend to walk with regularly. Maybe I can accompany her on her first 5k. She’s 71, and still up for new adventures and challenges, and that’s damn cool.

My mother-in-law gets her first pair of running shoes.
My mother-in-law gets her first pair of running shoes, proving it’s never too late to try new things.

Right around the time I was starting to yearn for my bathroom back, they rented a car and ventured on a 4-day leaf-peeping road trip. It was nice to have our house to ourselves, but I found myself wishing for another set of hands as my husband worked a few late nights. They returned and we had a few more days together.

They’re both great with our kids – they’re the mellow, couch-sitting, game-playing sort. They don’t judge when I let my kids eat homemade pie before dinner. They emphatically say “Yes” when my daughters ask them to play a game or read a story, and another story, while I got to shower in peace or go thrift shopping (believe it).

As I laced up my running sneakers Sunday morning, Art asked “How far you running again?”
Me: “10 miles”.
He held his coffee cup and toasted, “Best of luck to ya”. I grinned ear to ear.

We had a wonderful time. Our girls enjoyed two more doting adults, my husband and I enjoyed some liberal, hilarious dinner conversations, and free babysitting. They stripped their beds and packed up their stuff yesterday. My older daughter cried as they pulled out of the driveway, and I too, felt sad to see them go.

8 comments on “Hallelujah! My In-Laws Don’t Suck!”

  1. OMG — this made me sob. As the MIL of two incredibly wonderful and talented women, I want to be EXACTLY the comfy, helpful, non-judgmental ally that your MIL is to you. This is a great blueprint to follow. How lucky you ALL are!! Thank you for a lovely and inspiring post.

    1. Thanks Randi. I’m sure you ARE that helpful, non-judgy MIL we wish for. That’s the best gift to give your children and grandkids – a harmonious relationship.

  2. What a beautiful post, Shawna. Your family is warm, welcoming, and I would have loved having the company, too! I can see why your daughter was weepy as they drove away. I would be, too!

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