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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Front Porch: Gaining a son-in-law, and a new title

It won’t be long now before I become a mother-in-law.

My son Sam is getting married next month, and I am enjoying – from a comfortable distance – the delights/anxieties of wedding planning and the growing happiness I see in my son as he approaches the date when he will pledge himself legally and officially and in front of family and friends to the man it’s taken him just over 40 years to find.

That two men will be marrying is no longer a big deal, and I am so grateful for that. What is a big deal for me is that this particular man is getting married. I am more than grateful that Sam has found the right man for him. And, not that it’s all about me or anything, but I am happy as well that I get a new title, too.

This will be my first time in this role, and I’m really looking forward to it. Knowing myself as I do, I’m pretty sure there will be thoughts I will wish to share after the wedding, but at the moment, as I think of my impending new status, one that I am acquiring after 70-some-odd years on this earth – I understand that it’s not a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thing for me. Most of my friends have been mothers-in-law for decades now, grandparents and even great-grandparents – often multiple times over. I have a lot of catching up to do if this is a competition.

It’s about attaining in-lawhood (new word) itself. I do have a sister-in-law, but no direct-line in-laws. For those of us who have children, it’s pretty common to acquire sons- or daughters-in-law eventually. When it works out well, it’s like gaining another child, but without the labor pains and costs of college tuition.

And that’s what we’re getting with Ryan, Sam’s fiancé. He is good to us, his about-to-be-in-laws, and has been since we first met him three or four years ago, when marriage, while possibly in the backs of their minds already, was far from the topic of discussion. He will forward articles to me on subjects he knows I’m interested in, is a thoughtful host when we visit in Seattle and actually sits and visits, talks and shares when we are together. At other times I’ll get random texts with comments about one thing or another or about something he’s seen that he’ll know I’d appreciate.

How lucky am I?

The best part, of course, is that he is good to and good for my son. And there’s this, too – I am also relishing the fact that Sam will be becoming a son-in-law as he gains a whole new family – and will have assorted in-laws of his own. Ours is a teeny-tiny family. Ryan’s is larger and multilayered. He has two sets of parents, full siblings, half-siblings and stepsiblings, all in Texas and all coming to Seattle for the wedding. Sam has met nearly all of them already, spent holidays together and learned the ins and outs of navigating a big family with a different style – by sheer numbers alone – than the one he grew up with. They have taken him into their arms, and I love them for that.

I’ve reached out to Ryan’s mom and stepmother, and we’ve begun email communications. Because we won’t meet face-to-face until the wedding, this has been a nice way to get to know one another a little ahead of time. They are old hands at this in-law business, so I have much I can learn from them.

So I’m wondering how this mother-in-law thing is going to play out. Will MIL jokes ensue? If so, I expect them to be reasonably kindly ones – no doubt focusing on the charming traits of a mother-in-law who overthinks things and feels the need to provide a back story for every story told. (In my defense, I believe context is everything, is vital for comprehension and is the inevitable consequence of overthinking. But I’ll work on it.)

I don’t think there’s an established format for son-in-law humor that doesn’t come across as odd, or a proper way to collect sweet son-in-law vignettes for telling at family gatherings. I might try to work on that, too. But first I’ll overthink it.

So as I savor this impending new status we all are about to attain – in-lawhood – I am focusing on how the joining of families can be a lovely thing. It takes some work, compromise and commitment, but it’s all made possible by two people stepping forward to say “I do.”

And the most important thing that will happen is that Sam and Ryan will each emerge with the best new title of all – husband.

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