Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Care and Feeding of a Meyer Man

July 2013 I am soon to gain a daughter-in-law.  I am overjoyed.  She is a delight.  She's incredibly intelligent and talented.  And she loves my son.  It's the best it can be.  And yet, in-law relationships are complicated.

I want her to love me.  I want her to know I love her.  I want us to be close.  And have respect for each other.  Nothing complicated about that.

But...we both love the same man.  Differently, of course, but the same man.  And while I've loved him far longer, he will be building a life with her.  And that's as it should be.

And it leaves me to figure out my place in all of this.  How to be helpful, but not over-bearing.  Involved, but not smothering.  Honest, but kind.  And not meddling.

Ah.  Tall order for one who's always been a mama bear.  Fiercely dedicated and protective, I'd lay myself on the railroad tracks for my child in a heartbeat.  And I always said I'd lay anyone who hurts him there, too.  I nurtured him and prayed for him and gave up coffee for nine months.  I held him and rocked him and fed him.  I have stayed up all night, just watching him breathe, thanking God for the miracle that he is.  I have listened to him, cried with him.  I have sat in many emergency rooms.  I read "Home for a Bunny" a million times.  I leaned over, just right, so he could hold my ear when he was upset.  I have laughed at his silly antics.  I have sat on every bleacher in the Pacific Northwest, cheering in every kind of weather.  I have marveled at his thoughts, his memory, his intellect. I've watched him grow into an incredible human being, a man of integrity and true courage.  I have loved this boy with everything I have for every minute of his life.

I've learned a little about love along this journey with my husband, with my son - with Meyer Men.  Most of the lessons were hard-earned, and long before I knew her name, I wanted to share with her.  So...in the spirit of letting go,

To the newest Mrs. Meyer,

Let's start with the feeding.  That's easy.  He'll eat almost anything.  And he'll cook, too. And help clean up. He's that kind of guy.  Feed him and he won't complain.

Which leads us to the other part.  The care.  The care of a Meyer man.  That last sentence in the first paragraph is important.  He won't complain.

He comes from a long line of men who are dedicated, caring, stable, intelligent, kind and faithful.  A line of men who have all married women who are strong, intelligent, determined and driven.  I've observed a lot.  And made a lot of mistakes.  Here are some of the things I know.

1.  Quiet is not the same as disengaged.  He might not say much.  But he thinks a lot.  He has an opinion.  But he will often defer to yours.  He respects your opinion.  And he wants you to be happy.  He will put his own thoughts and desires on the back burner.  Every time.  And he'll be happy to do it.  Until eventually he's not, and feels unimportant, unheard.  And you may not even notice.  This is important. You must notice.  Take the time to hear him.  Let him know that what he thinks and feels is important to you.  Listen.  And know that you will have to wait in order to listen.  He needs time to process his thoughts, time to figure out what he wants to say.  Be patient. Don't interrupt or finish his sentences. He's not slow, or stubborn, or resistant.  But he is deliberate.  Trying to rush him will not help.

2.  Decisions are difficult for him.  It's easy to let you make them.  He trusts you and will often let you decide.  If you are to grow a relationship based in mutual trust and mutual investment, don't fall into this trap.  He doesn't like waves.  He likes smooth sailing.  He'll choose the path of least resistance.  He wants to support you, and going along seems like the way to do that.  But you'll both need to realize that supporting someone's decision and making a decision together are two different things.  Be patient, but insistent. Every marriage, every family faces trials.  And if you are working together, shoulder to shoulder, those trials can make your bonds stronger and your burdens bearable.

3.  He doesn't want to disappoint you.  He wants you to be happy.  And fear of making you unhappy will cause him to hold much inside. It can almost paralyze him. His dad died when he was 13 years old.  Perhaps the most crucial time for a boy growing into a man.  There was no way for me to fill that gap.  As much as I tried, as much help as I had, he grew up without his father.  This leads him to self-doubt sometimes.  And it's compounded by the fact that what replaced the flesh-and-blood human father was an icon.  We shared memories of a great man, but the human-ness was sometimes polished away through the remembering.  His expectations of himself are incredibly high.  Unrealistically high.  He needs to know that he is enough, just as he is.

4.  He needs to know that you respect him.  He needs to know that you see him as a worthwhile person, a man of substance, as a leader, as a protector.  He wants fiercely to make you feel safe, to provide for you, to make his arms your home, your refuge from the world.  He's solid as a rock.  He's both faithful and full of faith.  You can count on him.  And he needs to know that you believe in him.  He worries, he second-guesses himself, and he needs to hear your words of affirmation often.

5.  Help him laugh.  He is a serious chap.  Always has been.  Even as an infant. He was slow to smile.  I think of him as an old soul.  He always had this look, this little bit of a frown, like he was trying to figure things out.  He was.  He still is. He thinks about things deeply. Part is his disposition and his intelligence and his intuition.  Part is his life experience.  He often feels out-of-sync with the rest of the world.  He experiences a lot of angst and understands things differently than most people.  Our world is not as it should be and he sees this.  He's a peaceful person, a peace-loving person.  Conflict and strife wear him down.  Larger issues matter to him.  He wants to do the right thing.  He wants to make the world a better place.  He worries he's not doing enough.  He analyzes everything.  Everything. He often focuses on his inner thoughts about the world and his place in it.  He puts a lot of pressure on himself.  Even when he was small.  He would be pitching, up on the mound.  And between every pitch, he'd look for his brother - to make sure he was okay. He always does more than his share. This makes him responsible, but it can cause him to forget that there are many small delights in every day.  You can help him find this joy.  Remind him of the beauty that exists in the ordinary.  Help him remember to release the weight of the world and have fun sometimes.

6. Know that I love you.  I have prayed for you since before you were born.  I prayed for my children's future spouses. I prayed they would be raised joyfully and that their hearts would be filled with God's love.  And you are the answer to that prayer.  Thank you for loving my son.  Oh, and P.S.  Learn to love football. :)