We think we know everything about mothers-in-law, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I never found mother-in-law jokes funny, because I know how hard so many women work to keep things warm and easy between generations.
One woman I know praised her mother-in-law to the skies. She and her husband lived next door to his parents, and her mother-in-law never uttered a harsh word, took the kids in after school, and was always helpful. This woman’s own mother was a nightmare of criticism and control. Even into her 90’s, she would call her daughter to tell her when to get a haircut and when the weather was too dangerous to drive. Her grandkids loved her, but they adored their dad’s mom.
Another woman I know has three sons, and she gets along with two of the wives. They appreciate the time she takes with the grandkids—she loves being with them, even when she is exhausted. But the third daughter-in-law has always been tough. My friend can’t seem to get it right with her, and some of the angry words have concerned how she mistreated her son when he was a child. This daughter-in-law believes, I’m sure, that in rejecting her mother-in-law, she’s standing up for her guy. So things just are never easy. When my friend tells her daughter-in-law what a good mother she is, the words are greeted with a shrug of disbelief. She arrives with gifts for the kids, which are rejected as being too fancy; she plays with them and hugs them, and is told she’s spoiling them. I am sure that my friend can be annoying, just as you and I can be, but since she has good relationships with the other daughters-in-law, she thinks that something beyond her control may be going on. Sometimes chemistry and history work against the best of intentions.
As Mother’s Day approaches, how about declaring a 24-hour amnesty with the one you’re tense about. Take a moment to declare a mental truce: think of her good qualities—there have to be some. After all, she loves your son, which shows good taste. After all, she gave birth to the man you love, and that should count for something. Maybe when your heart softens a little bit, so will hers, and perhaps you can find a way to make a lasting truce.
If this sounds wildly optimistic, you may be right. But since you’re just sitting down by yourself and thinking about it, there’s no harm in trying.