A letter to my future daughters-in-law

Columnist Sarah Smiley shares a letter to her future daughters-in-law.

Dear future daughters-in-law,

I have you in mind quite a bit. I am keenly aware that my three boys will live with me for a mere 18 years and with you for a lifetime. My successes and missteps impact your future. I know this because I live with a man who says his mom told him he could do anything—even sing (shudder.)

One time Dustin and I made lists of the parts of our egos and self-confidence that are sensitive to criticism. The goal was to learn where each of us is likely to be defensive. I had three items on mine: being a mother, writing and my weight. Dustin can make fun of my cooking and cleaning all he wants. I take no pride in those things, and I don’t claim to be good at them. But Dustin should choose his words wisely when treading on the Big Three.

Dustin’s list was a tad longer, and by “a tad” I mean that when he handed me his list of All Things Important to My Confidence, it fell open to the floor like a grandmother’s accordion -style wallet filled with the grandkids’ photos.

“You can’t feel like you do all of these things well,” I said, scanning the list. “Singing? You put singing on here?”

“My mom said I’m the best at all of those,” he said.

And ever since, it has been my job to cross off Dustin’s “talents” (he simply couldn’t claim “cooking”), and make the list a bit more manageable.

Dustin’s mom, however, raised him to be incredibly giving, patient, smart, loving and understanding. So there’s that. But she was wrong about the singing.

As a father, Dustin has been a great example, and I have no doubt my boys will also be giving, patient, smart, loving, understanding — and totally handsome. Still, I’m working to correct other things that are likely to plague you. Like toilet seats. How many times do we have to go over it: toilet seat up. Toilet seat down. Wash hands. Replace the hand towel on bar, not the floor. Turn off the light.

The boys also leave their dirty clothes completely intact in the laundry basket. Do you know how gross it is to unravel a sweaty baseball sock? It’s as if the boys slither out of their clothes, like a snake shedding its skin, and place the now flattened pants, underwear and socks, all still connected, into the basket. No, they don’t take the gum or change out of their pockets, either. We’re working on that. (Question: What’s worse than sending a pack of bubble gum through the dryer? Answer: Nothing.) The boys also burp and make strange jokes. Gosh, I hope you think those are funny.

And then there are each boy’s individual quirks. Take Ford, for instance. If there’s one thing you should know about Ford, it is this: When playing a game that Ford created (and he creates a lot of them), you will always lose. Don’t bother trying. Ford made the rules, and you will lose. If Ford makes an IQ test for you, you will fail that, too. Not because you aren’t smart. I’m sure that you are. No, you will fail because Ford is grading it. Ford likes being right. And just like his dad, he usually ends up being so. It’s frustrating, I know.

Owen is the middle child, that should tell you enough. Maybe it’s why you love him. He once fell asleep in the garage while playing hide-and-go-seek, and he moves through the house like a cat. Startling. But Owen is the ultimate consumer. His favorite part of everything is buying something new. New baseball season? New glove. New school year? New backpack. Don’t give him access to your Amazon account.

And then there’s Lindell.

Oh, Lindell’s wife, what can I say? By the time you read this, I will have already shown you the video of Lindell dancing like a T-Rex or running around the baseball field in a barely big enough lion costume. I do hope he has given up the lion outfit by the time he’s yours. Lindell wants your name to be Buckachewy. He plans to use that nickname if it isn’t. And I hope you don’t mind living with an invisible robot named Bob. Bob has been Lindell’s imaginary friend since he was 3. You will need to set a place at the table for him. Sorry.

Don’t worry, I still have some years left with these guys. We are working out the kinks. My goal is to raise three boys so that you will live a happy life with a man—a man who will be strong and kind but will never stop making you laugh, like my Dustin. (Ask him to sing “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago.)

And, please, remember this: I am so glad to have more females in the family.