When Your In-Laws See You Cry

It’s never good when one of the last family meals on vacation ends with you excusing yourself from the table teary-eyed.

My almost four-year-old was making yet another demand—while using a fork to fish out the ice from his glass, no less. My younger son also had a utensil in his glass, except his utensil of choice is his hand. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if he’d also dropped some watermelon chunks and rice in there, but I can’t remember, because like I said, my eyes were rapidly filling with tears.

My sudden need to leave the table had nothing to do with the pleasant conversation my in-laws were sweetly trying to maintain despite the toddler chaos. My children were overtired and over-entitled, just like I knew they would be, and I was mentally reeling at their behavior over the last few days. I was seeing holes in our parenting that I had never noticed before. And after nine days away from home, away from the little life I realized I love so much, my emotions had hit the ceiling.

The trouble is, I get to this point on almost every family vacation, although some years it is not as obvious as me leaving mid-dinner and asking my husband for the car keys. 🙂 (And some years it’s even more so!)

It is one thing to lose your barriers around your own family. They’ve known you forever; they’re used to it. It’s another thing altogether to lose them in the presence of your in-laws, the people you once tried so hard to impress. (And maybe still do!)

If you’re lucky, like me, your spouse isn’t the only one willing to take you “for better or worse.” Your in-laws have likely experienced their share of “worse” and know how much patience and forgiveness family relationships require. The Psalm “God setteth the solitary in families” makes me laugh out loud, because I know well my own solitary tendencies, but I’m also learning that nothing chases away the solitary like letting down your barriers. So whether it is in front of your colleagues, your own kids, or your in-laws, give yourself a break next time you let your guard down. You might be surprised where it will lead.

This is the great family I married into!

Linked up with Things I Can’t Say and the Alabaster Jar.  

  • Leigh W.
    July 11, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Great post, Erica–sometimes it is so hard to be vulnerable even with people in our own families. I appreciate my time to myself, too, and miss it when I don’t have it. One nice thing about returning from vacation is that you have some degree of control over your life and schedule again (as much as is possible as a caretaker!)

  • Karah @ thespacebetweenblog
    July 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

    What a wonderful post! I am lucky to have wonderful in-laws as well … sometimes, no matter how hard we are trying to impress people we can’t help but be ourselves … for better or worse. 🙂

  • Vindie
    July 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Oh did this one hit home! While on vacation with my family I left mid-meal at a restaurant all blubbery and a mess. It’s good to know I’m not alone. Thank goodness for returning home to routine and good old fashioned boredom! I always try to remember that my parents (and in laws) were once right where I am now.

  • Caitlin B
    July 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I can really relate to this post! I have amazing in-laws, but sometimes it’s still hard to be myself around them. I don’t know why, but I always feel like I have show them that I am “worthy” of being married to their son. It’s silly, really, and I know they don’t feel that way at all!

    I love your blog, btw. I’m an Arizona native myself! Only, now I’m living in rural Arkansas. 🙂

  • Alaina
    July 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    The silver lining to vacation is how much is cleanses me and prepares me to go back and be even better at my ‘real’ life. After 14 days away from home I’m feelin’ it too! Here’s to making the most of embracing our day-to-day.

    Also, I’m terrible at letting myself be vulnerable or teary around others. Thanks for the support.

    (catchy title btw! I couldn’t resist clicking ASAP 😉

    • Erica {let why lead}
      July 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      I really have felt so refreshed since being home; it actually makes traveling with kids worth it! Good luck finishing your vacation off—with or without tears! 🙂

  • Malerie
    July 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I can definitely relate. I have experienced the same vulnerability. Sometimes I wonder if vacations are really worth it with little kids. They take a toll on everyone. But of course it’s worth it to see family. We’re gearing up for being gone for a month. I’ve never done this. Three weeks will be without matt. Part of the time I’ll be at my inlaws. And of course it’ll take my kids at least a week to recover from bad moods, little sleep, being spoiled and a 2 hour time change….ugh. But reading this made me think I just need to do my best, be calm, and realize it’s ok. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. They love me and my kids and spending time with each other and creating memories (even if it’s me showing that I’m not perfect! 🙂 ) is really what’s important. I have also found when I am calm and less stressed, my kids are better. I need to remember that! Cross your fingers for me!

  • Sarah
    July 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    the only think i will remember about that dinner is watching trenton eat that huge slice of butter he decided it wanted and cut for himself. It was so funny 🙂

  • Ashleigh
    July 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    While we don’t have kids yet, I understand how you feel. Being away from home is really overwhelming for me, especially if I have to stay in someone else’s home. I’m never sure how to act, and that can be stressful for me.

    You have some sweet and thoughtful in-laws. You’re a lucky girl 🙂

    • Erica {let why lead}
      July 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      It’s true! And you would definitely know! 🙂

      And yes, I agree that that kind of anxiety can be hard to work around! But doable, of course! (If you ever stay at my house, you can do whatever and act however you want!!)

  • Cheri
    July 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Wow, you have a way of putting into words the things I’ve thought but couldn’t describe! YOU are a writer! You lift me up!! Take care.

  • Andi @ Running on Ipsum
    July 12, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Just got back from 10 days away myself and with an overtired but surprisingly well-behaved three year old. After my mother asked for the 40th time, “What happened now?” during a tantrum or outbreak, I finally just told her, “She’s 3. Who knows.” I think my parents (and those around us) forget how stressful these new situations, constant motion and lack of schedule is for kids. But we don’t. We are reminded, and then reminded again when peace is restored at home. (Where I am now, waiting on my 3yo to get herself to sleep in our own time zone.)

  • JD @ Honest Mom
    July 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I have wonderful in-laws, too. I hesitate to show my less-than-perfect side because I know how much they already deal with (financial worries, two adult children with diseases, and more) and I don’t want to add to their burden. They know I’m not perfect, of course – but even when I’m having a tough time, I tend to hide it so they don’t worry about yet another loved one in their lives…

  • Patricia P
    July 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    After almost 16 years of marriage, my in-laws are truly family to me now. In fact, my sister-in-law and aunt-in-law (?) comforted me when my daughter was making her First Communion, and my family couldn’t make it because my father was very ill. They sat with me while I cried, and helped me through it.

  • Becky K
    July 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Oh my goodness, I had a similar experience at a pizzeria last week. I left thinking my mother-in-law must think I’m a terribly crabby mom. Maybe she just thinks I’m human – that would be good!

  • Paula
    July 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I think a vacation with family isn’t really a vacation, especially when you have small children. Many times after our big family beach vacation every June, I come home exhausted!

  • Shell
    July 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I used to try so hard not to let anyone see when I was upset. But then I realized that others are there for me- related to me or not!

  • Evanthia of merelymothers
    July 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I know that feeling of being overwhelmed all too well! Before I got married at just 21, my mother reminded me that you don’t just marry a person; you marry their whole family. Building a new “family” with your in-laws can definitely be challenging, especially since you don’t always feel like you can just be yourself. I can’t see a thing wrong with showing your emotions, as you did, though!

  • Ashley Ditto
    July 12, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Amazing post!!!

  • Kerry
    July 13, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Kids and vacations can be overwhelming! But it’s times like these that make families closer. Have a great weekend!

  • Richella @ Imparting Grace
    July 18, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    It’s easy to TALK about being vulnerable, but sometimes it’s not so easy actually to DO it–especially around folks you’d like to impress. Funny, though–I think people are impressed when we do let our guards down, even when we think we look foolish!

  • Tristes
    August 24, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Family relationships are always little things how are you. In my case I get on very well with both my parents and my mother, but all the time you can spend at home in his best;)

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