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Carolyn Hax: Words of appreciation for mothers-in-law

While I’m away, readers celebrate mothers-in-law.

I was in a marriage that ended sadly but amicably. I’ve kept in touch with my mother-in-law, with whom I had become quite close in spite of the fact that we were two very different women.

About two years ago, I was going through a difficult financial and emotional time. I don’t know if she heard through my ex-husband or just sensed it, but she knew I needed help. She sent me an email: “When you and [son] parted ways, you asked me to hold on to your engagement ring. ... It occurred to me that neither you nor [son] would ever have use for [it]. ... The diamond has been worn by three people – my godmother, me, and you. That’s more than any diamond could hope for as a ring. I would like to take it out of the mounting and set it into a pendant. However, I think that you should receive something in the spirit of fair trade. I’d like to offer you (a good chunk of change). I can tell you from years of trying to make things work, every now and again, a little windfall is nice. Maybe this could be a launching point for your next big step. I love you so much and really, really want you to have this opportunity.”

It was the most amazing gesture from someone who could have totally left me behind when her son and I parted. It allowed me to quit a soul-sucking job and put myself completely into a job search, which resulted in the great job I have today.

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I love my mother-in-law! Seriously, I adore her. She’s what you’d call a hippie, but she’s so much more – a magical person who raised my husband “by herself” (his dad was never really in the picture) but surrounded by a loving community of friends. They were poor for many years, but my husband never wanted for anything. She is not holier-than-thou, though she is literally the most emotionally well-adjusted person I’ve ever met, second to my husband. She never harangues us about calling or visiting.

My only challenge in relating to her has been rising to her level of openness, but I realized it’s all love and you simply can’t turn your back on love.

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I adore my mother-in-law. She’s great. We don’t share a religion, which is very important to her, and she has never said a critical word to me in the 12 years I’ve been married to her son. She finds fun outings and focuses on making them toddler-friendly for our kids. She hand-makes beautiful quilts and reads mystery novels. I try to make special time for her to spend with my husband without me and/or the kids, and I like to spend time with her, too.

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My ex-mother-in-law told me just prior to my wedding that her mother-in-law had been petty and unpleasant, so she vowed to treat me like her own daughter. She did. She was kind and thoughtful and helpful without being intrusive. Even when her son and I were divorcing, she never said an unkind word to me (or about me).

My current mother-in-law is even nicer. She is funny and warm and welcomed me and my children to the family without blinking.

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My mother-in-law is fantastic, not because we always see eye-to-eye, but because she is able to NOT share everything she is clearly thinking (dirty fridge, unfolded laundry). It is clear that she is driven nuts by these things, but oh, I am so appreciative of her rising above it and meeting us where we live.