Dear MIL,

I’m writing to you to thank you for being such a great example and role model to me. Just by observing you and having met your son, my soon-to-be ex-husband, I have learnt a great deal about motherhood and parenthood in general.

Below follows a list of the most impressive of your doings that you shared with me or let me witnessed that I plan to keep in mind while raising my own child, your granddaughter.

Cut his sandwich only in the way that he wants. Yes, I remember the story you shared with me in such a jovial manner. I’m sure you remember it because it’s one of your favourite stories. Your son, my husband, was about 4 years old. You had prepared a sandwich for him for lunch. He threw a tantrum because you cut it in a way that wasn’t the one he liked. You set the sandwich aside and proceeded to prepare a brand new sandwich and, this time, you cut it in his preferred way, which to this day, it’s the only way to cut a sandwich. How sad that I was not given that option while growing up. The few times I complained about not liking something they would put in front of me, they gave me a couple of options: To eat it as it was, or not eat at all. The choice was mine after all. I don’t understand why they would not prepare something different for me and even let me go hungry once or twice. They should have met you back then so they could have learned from you, especially since you’re so committed to your family considering you still do those things to this day and your son is 41 years older than back then. I’ve seen you preparing different meals, preparing them differently depending for whom they would be (your husband, mine, or your other son,) or both. Now I see why my husband prefers your cooking to mine since I cook for everybody and not just catering to individual preferences.

Empty your retirement savings and those of your husband’s to help him start a business. How noble and giving of you! He wanted to start a business and you gave him all your retirement savings. So sad that the business (one in a series of failed enterprises) failed just a year later. Now it’s been over 10 years he’s been paying you back and you sending your husband to remind him of paying you back regularly every month, knowing that your own granddaughter has needs that are not being met, but your son pays you back first. Anyway, I wish my mother would have done something similar when I was a teenager and I asked her to buy me a bike so I could go to work. Such a pity my mother said to me that she could either buy us food, or my bike and suggested I found a way to save money to buy a used bike myself. What kind of parent my mother was, daring to promote ways for me to become resourceful instead of just helping me right away?

Wait for your son to arrive at whichever time he pleases to finally serve dinner. How lousy of me not to follow your example and dared to serve your son cold dinner after the third time he came home almost 2 hours later than what he said he would! It doesn’t matter I had given him fair warning not once or twice, but a handful of times. I should have done what you always did: Had everybody wait on him to serve dinner. After all, you said it yourself: You could never do that (serve cold dinner) to your own son.

Set the example. You do what you want when you want and how you want it. And that is probably the best lesson you gave to your son and the one he’s learnt to heart. After all, you said it yourself: Parents teach by example. And your son has graduated from your university with honors.

There are more things I would like to thank you for. But this letter is getting a little long. I’ll save them for another time.

Thank you so much. I wish I had met you years ago. That way, I would have been able to say ‘thank you’ to my mother earlier, for the way she raised me. I didn’t understand it at the time and I used to get upset at my mother for being strict with me and not giving me what I wanted. But after having been married to your son for almost 7 years, I can appreciate and be grateful for all her no’s and the choices she gave me during my formative years.

I can only wish you the best.

Best regards,

The daughter you never had