Thursday, February 09, 2012

Just another thing we never had to think about: How do you sign a birthday card to a daughter-in-law?

Oldest Son married Abby in 2010 and I honestly don't know what we did last year. But it was Abby's birthday again this week (they seem to come about once a year, generally) and my wife was insistent that we would send a card.

The people of the world may be divided into two types: Card people and not card people. But this is an easy one: Women are card people, men are not. Some men can be trained into producing hastily-bought cards for occasions insisted upon by their card-person spouses. Maybe there are even some men who voluntarily buy (and even shop for) cards, but these have to be a tiny minority.

Despite Long Suffering Spouse's best efforts, I continue to view card buying as a waste of money. And my poor wife knows that even the thought of carefully shopping for a card chills my blood. After nearly 30 years of marriage, that still sometimes bothers her.

I would submit that men are basically indifferent to card-giving, not averse, but either way it makes sending birthday greetings to our son-in-law Hank quite easy: My wife reminds me to fire up the old Facebook and write "Happy Birthday" on his wall. Which I do. Problem solved.

But Abby is different. Long Suffering Spouse longs to establish cordial relations with Abby. Abby is not hostile -- don't misunderstand -- she's just not close. Her husband (our son) is the same way. He wasn't even cuddly as a baby. He's very correct, very dutiful and (particularly since he's met Abby) even pretty nice. But he was ready to move out of our house in junior high. He's a little... distant. He and Abby are well-matched.

Long Suffering Spouse really liked my mother. She wants to be liked by her daughter-in-law, too. (I was the distant one, back then. True story: When LSS and I wed, my mother said that, if we were ever to divorce, she and my father would keep my wife, not me. Seriously. I couldn't be offended, though; I understood. I could see their point.)

Long Suffering Spouse has taken her measure of Abby and knows that she can't become close overnight. She must take baby steps to build a relationship. Thus, the birthday card this year took on great significance. Oh, I was expected to (and ultimately did perform) my Facebook duty. But that was not enough.

We absolutely had to send a card, too. A card that my good wife carefully picked out, agonizing over the choice. She thought it struck just the right note. (Don't ask me to recall what it said; all I really noticed was that it conveyed birthday greetings as intended.) But choosing just the right card was not enough... how would Long Suffering Spouse sign it?

"'Mom' won't do," Long Suffering Spouse explained. "That's presumptuous." But her first name wouldn't do either. "'Your mother-in-law' sounds cold."

I won't burden you with the entire discussion. I tried not to pay attention -- sometimes she likes to talk to herself, you know -- but (I soon found out) this was not one of those times. I admit I was less than helpful when she asked me for suggestions. I will even confess that Long Suffering Spouse got fairly well miffed with me because I did not seem to be stressing over this. (OF COURSE I wasn't stressing over this; she was stressing more than enough for both of us. Besides, I would go along with whatever she decided.)

Eventually, Long Suffering Spouse signed the card, "Your other Mom." She called me over and handed me the pen. "Here. You sign now." She looked away.

I signed, "Your other Dad."

And I remembered to mail the card and everything.

Pretty good, I thought, for a male.


Kacey said...

I had to read this one to my other half and he agreed that you wrote right from our house. I have even made the observation that in the event of a divorce, we would keep the in-law kid. Recently, we have been worried that our son seems distant and he has been married about as long as you and LSS. We are older and this distance hurts my husband, because we love our children so much. So, today you have given us hope that this is normal. My mind keeps telling me that, "Your son is your son till he takes him a wife, but your daughter is your daughter for all of your life". I suppose sons have a certain competition with their parents to best them, but never get on the d-i-l's bad side. She will always win, because she sleeps with him.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i understand this but have only one son in law and no daughter in law yet. (the duck is reluctant to wed, this is a good thing too!) anyway i digress, when daughter first got married i went to new son and called him son and asked him to call me mom and he did and always has since. he is a great guy.

smiles, bee