My father-in-law will arrive in about eight days for a short visit. Friends and family members always ask, “How is that, since your mother-in-law lives with you?”
I don’t have one word to describe how it is because I haven’t spent any time defining this dynamic. I focus on making my father-in-law feel welcomed, keeping hubby relaxed, encouraging my kids to spend time with their grandfather, and keeping the house stocked with my mother-in-law’s favorite beer (if she sticks around).
I think my father-in-law is a kind and interesting person. I always learn just a bit more about him on each visit. I do have any expectations of how his visit will go because I choose not to put any stress on myself if the expectations are not met.
I also do not expect my father-in-law and me to have the same type of relationship as I have with my mother-in-law. Our interactions are completely different, and my mother-in-law does not completely fall into the extended family category – as my father-in-law does.
Below are 6 things I do to nurture, not force, my relationship with my father-in-law:
Know the appropriate way to address your father-in-law. He may want you to call him “dad” or by his first name. Don’t guess, just ask him directly.
Just as many grandmother’s choose their “grandparenting name” (e.g. Nana, Grammy, Grams, etc.), allow your father-in-law to select the grandparent name he’s most comfortable with – and your kids can actually say.
Don’t push it. If your father-in-law an only engages in social interactions for a maximum of 15 minutes, so be it. Communicate this with your kids so they are not shocked with their grandfather disengages.
Learn about your father-in-law’s strengths and interests. If he is good at square dancing, ask him to teach your kids and you a few steps. You can set a time limit on this type of interaction.
Do not put yourself in the role of a relationship therapist. If your partner/spouse has a not so productive or complicated relationship with his/her father – do not meddle in this. You may have good intentions, but it’s not your business or duty to fix things. Stay in your own lane.
Always be authentic. Do not change who you are when you interact with your father-in-law. Pretending to be someone else will make you exhausted and resentful.