I love the name Jennifer, but there are a lot of us around. It’s the Generation X equivalent to Carol, Peggy or Doris.
Growing up, I was always another Jenny.
But now I have the privilege of being another Mrs. Bardsley, and that is something different indeed.
I am the second Mrs. Bardsley to raise my family in Edmonds. I never got to meet my husband’s grandma, but she was an Edmonds mom too. Our children even went to the same school.
I have Mrs. Bardsley’s silverware on my table and her dishes in my cupboard. Best of all, I enjoy all the love she passed on to my husband.
Sometimes I drive down to the beach and look out across the water. I think about Mrs. Bardsley and how she used to enjoy the mountain view too. She’d probably love watching my kids play in the sand.
The Mrs. Bardsley I do get to share my life with is my mother-in-law, Lynn — for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Lucky for me, it’s been a heavenly match.
My mother-in-law treats me like an extra daughter. For me she is a bonus mom.
For her part, Lynn Bardsley offers love, boundaries and respect. On my part, I try to express genuine appreciation.
It’s easy to be grateful because my mother-in-law goes out of her way to be generous with her time and talents.
For years she has taken my kids for fun-filled “Grammy Days” every week. When they were little I would use this time to clean the house or grocery shop. Now I write my column or selfishly take a nap.
Sometimes I wish my mother-in-law would be selfish too. I wish she would buy herself a fancy new car, one with all-wheel drive and heated leather seats.
She says her van is perfectly fine — and brings my kids home with bags of new clothes from Oshkosh.
Spoiling grandchildren is her favorite pastime.
My mother-in-law spoils me, too. If I ever need help, all I have to do is ask.
The glue that holds this relationship together is flexibility. Our holidays aren’t rigid. Both of us are willing to celebrate Thanksgiving on a Saturday if we have to. But usually we don’t, because it’s easier to combine families and invite everyone.
A lot of women I know have horrible mother-in-law stories to share, but my experience is the opposite. Part of that is dumb luck. But probably, learning by example is also important.
Someday years from now my son will get married and there will be a new Mrs. Bardsley.
Thanks to my mother-in-law, I’ll know exactly what to do.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.