Dear Annie: I've read so many stories in your column about terrible in-laws. I'm sure most in-laws think they are wonderful and justify their behavior. My daughter is getting married next fall, and I don't want to be one of those people. I would love to see some guidelines on being the mother-in-law people wish they had. I'm sure others would benefit, as well. — MIL-to-Be
Dear MIL-to-Be: What a fantastic question. The mere fact that you asked it indicates you probably don't have to worry too much about being a nightmare mother-in-law. The qualities of a good mother-in-law are similar to the qualities of a good friend.
Be supportive but not suffocating. Give them space to grow and room to make mistakes. Some life lessons can only be taught by experience.
Offer input on their decisions only when asked. Remember that people rarely take advice even when they ask for it, let alone when they don't. And unsolicited advice has a way of sounding like judgment.
Provide practical help however you're able — whether that means offering baby-sitting or just a sympathetic ear.
Make your son-in-law feel that he's truly part of the family. Don't treat him as an outsider.
That said, don't treat him as a child, either. Treat him as you would a peer. Respect his boundaries, and try to trust his judgment.
When in doubt, think back to the golden rule. Treat your son-in-law as you'd like your mother-in-law to treat you.
Congratulations on your daughter's marriage, and I wish them all the best.
Dear Annie: About four months ago, I was a bridesmaid for a good friend from high school. We grew up together in North Carolina and were once quite close. However, I've moved cross-country since then, and now, though we talk in a group text every week, we aren't so close. The wedding was back in North Carolina, in a location that was a bit hard to get to, but it was a wonderful experience. It was beautiful, loving and fun — but also rather pricey, considering the dress, flights, hotel, rental car, bachelorette party and other expenses. The bride and groom have expensive tastes.
Amid all the hubbub of the wedding and traveling, I forgot to send a gift. I know that's bad form — though I have a year to send a wedding gift, according to most books. However, the registry is empty now, and I don't know what to get them. I'm considering asking my friend whether there's anything else she wishes she'd received, but I'm scared she's going to tell me something really expensive and I'll feel obligated to purchase it. Should I reach out about the gift, or should I just try my luck purchasing something returnable? — Bad Bridesmaid
Dear Bad Bridesmaid: Don't worry; you can still make good on the gift. There are three routes you could go: a gift certificate to the store where the couple registered or to an upscale restaurant near them; a more personal gift, something that they may not have thought to ask for on a registry but that shows real thoughtfulness (such as a professionally framed photo of the two of them); or a plain old check for at least $100, enclosed in a nice card. Though cash might not be the most exciting thing to give, people are always happy to receive it.
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