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A Daughter-in-Law's Holiday Wish

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Decadent treats, fragrant dishes, festive plating, what's not to love about holiday dinners? Writer Jessica Young has one concern and a personal request. And here it is!

We the fiancées, girlfriends and young women who love your sons, beg you: give us a break. The winter holidays are upon us, and we are overwrought with fears about coming home with your sons. Will we be perceived as the thoughtful, charming and smart young woman we are, sure to be a great partner for your sons? Or instead will we be thought of as some floosy interloper, either too young, too old, too urban or too dark for your perfect boy? For weeks we've been plotting and strategizing with our girlfriends on how to be well-liked and well-received. A key factor, we feel, is the perfect gift. Should we perhaps buy you a scented candle that will soften and melt your stern, protective heart and warm your affection for us? Shall we buy or make you a hand-painted frame you can place on your mantle, to display the sweet, 2nd-grade face of your charming boy, with whom we've fallen hopelessly in love? Might we make you a beloved family recipe, not only to share in your holiday feast, but also to impress you with our culinary prowess? Or will you simply stare stonily into our hopeful eyes and say, “Oh, no thank you dear, why don't you send it to your own family”?

If we sound frustrated and desperate, dear mothers-in-law, it's because we are. We love your sons deeply, and though we are women different than you, we believe we are as good for them as you are. When they come home from work and whine about their bosses, we know it's because you've planted in them a tender seed of sensitivity. When they ignore us and choose to watch sports over talking with us, we recognize the dogged ability to focus that they inherited from their mothers. We love your boys, and we want you to understand and accept that, to embrace us as women who will take good care of your sons and make fine additions to your families.

Dear Mothers-in-law, we cannot hope to make marinara sauce as good as yours. We may be vegetarians, but your sons eat meat as often as they like. There will never be a sweet potato pie that is tastier, a bed sheet that is softer, or advice that is more sensitive and thoughtful as what you will give. Nevertheless, we love your sons well; we take good care of your boys, because they are our boys too. We hold them close, we laugh at their jokes, we challenge their opinions and encourage their hopes, and we do not allow your sons to mistreat us. We are caring, thoughtful, hardworking and intuitive women, and your sons obviously have your good taste and sound judgment, because they have chosen us as lovers and partners.

Mothers in law, we do not want to replace you. We want only to love your sons the best way we know how, and to be respected and accepted by you and your families. We will step timidly over the threshold of your doors in just a few short weeks, wishing you joy and peace, and a healthy, prosperous new year. Please, allow us to experience the joy and affection you shower on your sons. Reach out to us; take the hand of filial goodwill we offer to you. Be patient, be graceful, and show us the kindness and generosity of spirit you wish your mother-in-law had shown you when you first met her. Before you were the matriarch of your fine family, you too, were a young woman, wanting to make the best possible impression on a new family. Remember this delicate, awkward situation, and PLEASE open your arms to us in joy and understanding.

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