Future In-laws

I’ve spent the last week with my boyfriends Parents and brother while he slaved away in Harare. We did all the usual fun family things most of us have come to take for granted- at least until it is disrupted. Somewhere in between baking cookies and burning caramel popcorn before breakfast: my potential future sister in law (PFSIL), Tenile, came over for a few days.

Now here’s the thing about family dynamics: it’s complicated! There really is no family who doesn’t have some issue or lifestyle choice that can be considered weird… we’re all unique and equally messed up. Not to get into too much detail, let’s just say that my boyfriend’s brother has been a bit of a player, actually that’s not correct: he’s just fallen in love a lot more frequently than most. Obviously his- many – past relationships will have some bearing on his current and future relationships. The unfortunate thing is that Tenile and his parents are caught in the crossfire.

See, Tenile knows about most of his past relationships, especially the most recent and painful break up. But what she doesn’t know is how his parents felt about that girl and for that matter all the other girls their little boy has been dating. Don’t get me wrong, they are adamant that she is a step up from the rest but that’s sort of my point: they have an opinion. The only bad thing they have said about her is that she’s young. She’s 4 years younger than their son- which isn’t much but if you take into account that their son is only turning 21 in a few months, it makes a difference.

Considering the type of girls that my future brother in law has dated in the past and the things they use to do, my future parents in law are a bit concerned that this relationship could get too serious before Tenile really has a chance to find herself. And these are all valid concerns but as far as I’m concerned, the wrong people are getting concerned. It is not our parents place to choose who we share our lives with; they cannot feel the love inside our hearts or validate our emotions through logic and reason.

I love my PFSIL and think she’s an exceptional human being: a 16year old who chooses education above smoking; fights for the right to learn while supporting her single father both emotionally and domestically is not something to speak lightly of. Her life hasn’t been easy and neither has my boyfriend’s brother’s life. Growing up in Zimbabwe has aged them all. Here age really is just a number, and invalid number!

Unfortunately parents are parents and they care, sometimes too much for us to handle. A few comments have been made this weekend that hurt Tenile and upset her boyfriend and caused some friction between my future mother in law and my future father in law. They really were just fleeting thoughts that came out wrong but again with the track record of past relationships, my future mother in law saw history repeating itself and in an attempt to get my future father in law to be more open minded… well it sort of backfired on her. I love my future father in law and in a lot of ways he is very, very similar to my dad so I understand him just as well as anyone else in this family. He is not a man who shows his affection easily; he is proud and he is strong and that is how he was raised to be. For him to sit back and watch his little boy date anyone is tough. For him to open up and allow anyone into his family circle – the same family circle he has been charged with protecting- is not a small ask.

He is an amazing man but he is not a flawless man. He wants his sons to experience the happiness that he has had with their mother over the last 25 years. Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to guarantee that. So instead he bides his time and watches every person who crosses their path, analyzing and probing and checking and re-checking. Somewhere during this process he tests his boundaries and tests how much these two really care about each other – love is too strong a word to be used, simply because it is a complicated subject in itself. Yes, he will try to push her away, just to check how much she is willing to endure for his son’s affection. And he will push all of his son’s buttons, just to see if he really likes her enough to fight for her; to stand up for his own feelings and believe in their relationship enough to disagree with his father.

My future mother in law is very open minded, sort off. Actually I think her open mindedness is driven by fear, fear of losing her sons or having them hate their father. So she has been fighting non existing battles on behalf of Tenile. I don’t know what is said in this family when I turn my back but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing like this. See JS is their eldest son and he is simply put a mamas-boy. This comes with its own set of problems but not yet… not sure why but it seems to me like mothers bite their tongue when it comes to their children’s relationship till way later… sometimes they only voice their opinion after the relationship has ended. The youngest son takes after their father even more than both of them realize and that is partially why my future father in law is so protective and slightly possessive over him. This isn’t something that’s just going to change or be solved over a cup of tea. But if Tenile and my future brother in law can hold on long enough and focus on their relationship instead of what anyone else is saying or potentially thinking, I see great love in their future.

Parents just want us to be happy and sometimes that means they want to protect us from making mistakes they did or getting hurt and I have to quote the message from Finding Nemo [had a girly day of watching animated movies this weekend]. “If you never let anything happen to them, then nothing will ever happen to them”. Parents are also just people with their own set of baggage and sometimes we, as the children, need to step back and realize that not every comment that seems to be directed at us; actually has anything to do with us. Sometimes we just have to let them sort out their own issues and give them time to come around.

What I’m trying to say in a long winded way is: love can’t be defined by someone else; families are complicated and little things shouldn’t stand in your way if you love someone. And all parents out there: just because your kids love someone else it doesn’t mean they’ll love you any less!

AM

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