The Mother-In-Law I Didn’t Know I Needed

mother-in-lawYou might not know this, but I used to wish on a star for you. Following the death of my mom, I longed for the presence of a strong, loving female figure in my life. I was 16 and felt like a lost little girl, so I found other ways to cope. With no siblings or close aunts nearby, I made wishes wherever I could. “I hope I meet a wonderful man someday,” I would whisper to the sky or birthday cakes or fountains filled with coins, “and I hope he has a really nice mom.”

READ: Survival of the Motherless: Becoming a Mom After Losing My Own

As the years passed by, my hope dwindled. Then I met your one and only son when I was 31. I don’t recall the exact moment I met you, but I know that I remember thinking, “My wish has come true.” You are smart, kind, nurturing, and more than anything, you didn’t hesitate to embrace me as “your other daughter,” even though you already have three beautiful biological ones of your own.

mother-in-lawIt hasn’t always been easy, I know. At one point, it was just you and your son against the world — until you met your knight in a navy uniform shining armor. (I love that story, by the way.) Now that I have sons of my own, I can understand the bittersweet heartache you must have felt sharing him with another. Me.

As different as I may be — an overly anxious liberal-at-heart who drinks way too much Starbucks — you and your family have accepted and adopted me as one of your own. Sometimes I still question this. Are you sure you really want me? Me? Like. Sometimes I don’t even want me. This may be why I have desperately sought your approval throughout the past decade, to the point where it nearly consumed my every interaction with you. I know you knew I was nervous. I know you didn’t want me to be. I know you wished you could help. I know you tried. I know we had that brief argument where I was having a meltdown and you earnestly said, “Tina, sometimes your emotions trump everyone else’s” — a tense COVID casualty, every family had them — and in that instance, I know my heart felt like it shattered into a million tiny pieces. I worried that your approval would be lost forever. Because what you said was right. I was too emotional. (I still am.) But the truth is, you aren’t true family if you haven’t fought. Or said the hard things. And you said the hard thing that day. I needed to hear it. Thank you.

But more than anything, thank you for being my mother-in-law. Thank you for flying out the moment I had each of my babies to help me through those first few weeks of newborn fog. I was clueless and lost. You guided me. Thank you for loving my sons. You have 12 other grandchildren, yet you have this way of making it known how special our boys are to you. I have never once doubted your love for them. You’re their only grandma. Their best grandma. Thank you for making all of our baby blankets and selflessly sewing that beautiful quilt comprised of my mother’s old T-shirts. Thank you for sharing your infinite wisdom, providing free therapy sessions, and passing along that top-secret cheesecake recipe.


And, thank you for sharing your son with me. I know that I am not always the perfect wife. But I love that man to the ends of the earth. He is strong, loving, patient, kind, compassionate, and the husband and father that I always wished on a star for. This is all because of you.

I still haven’t gotten up the courage to call you “Mom.” I may surprise us both one day, or you might always be “Grandma Trena” — time will tell. I know that I am difficult and emotional, sometimes awkward and distant. But I am trying to relax. I want us to be closer. I want us to say the hard things and the easy things. I want to feel your approval and love deep within my soul always because I know that it’s there. And I want you to know that I love you. So much. You are my wish come true, and you are the mother figure that I didn’t know I needed.

You may not remember this, but knowing that I am a writer, you sent this sweet story to me that you wrote a few months after I married your son. And you told me to finish it. I think that I can finish it now.

He Sent a Son: The Story of a Mother’s Love

There once was a young woman who was very sad. She asked God how she would cope with the trouble in her life, and He sent her a son.

That little boy brought her such joy. As she watched him change from a baby to a little boy, her heart was captivated by him.

He became enamored by another. There came a time in his life when he needed to become a man. He chose a beautiful woman to start his own family with.

She fell in love all over again. The young woman had grown into a much older and wiser woman and learned that her son had chosen a woman she could love as her own.

Because she loved her son… he still loves her! And they all lived happily ever after (even though there were sometimes struggles).

God always knows what we need. And sometimes He sends a son. 

And sometimes He sends a mother-in-law… to the daughter who needs her most.

Tina Smithers Peckham
Originally from Kansas City, Tina relocated to Jacksonville, FL with her dear husband, feisty cat and sweet-natured corgi mix in 2016. After eight years working various gigs in New York City from magazine publishing to digital marketing, Tina joined the world of freelance, writing and reporting for a variety of publications and websites including MTV News, ET Online, Glamour, Us Weekly and more. Tina has also assisted with social media, editorial and content strategy for brands and personalities such as Britney Spears, Jordin Sparks, Beauty Brands, truTV and WE tv. When she’s not plugging away on her laptop, she can be found exploring the Jacksonville beaches, reading a good book or enjoying a local coffee shop with her cherub-cheeked little boys, Archer and Austin.



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