Monday, March 11, 2013

I’m a Weirdo

Sometimes I feel like a total weirdo because I don’t conform to the norms of this world.  Case in point:  mothers-in-law.

Our culture would have you believe that mothers-in-law are monsters-in-law.  That they are pushy, meddlesome, complaining, needy, annoying, son-obsessed, controlling, and difficult.

I have a very positive image of mothers-in-law stemming from my own mother’s relationship with her mother-in-law (my paternal grandmother).  From as early as I can remember, she called her “Mayrig” (mother, in Armenian) and cared for her.  We lived downstairs from my grandparents and spent a lot of time together.  When I was very young my grandmother broke her leg, and my mother put her studies on hold to take care of her.  At the time she had been working toward earning her GED via correspondence school (while raising two young daughters and working full time).  At her advanced age, my grandmother’s leg took about a year and a half to fully heal.  My mother never earned her GED.

When I got engaged, there was a fleeting moment of wondering what I should call my mother-in-law to be, especially since my mother had already passed away.  Would calling her “Mom” imply that she was in some way replacing my own mother?  No, that was ridiculous.  My own mother called her mother-in-law mom, and I followed her example.  My mother-in-law has been “Mom” to me from day one.

I read this article today:  5 Biggest Mother-in-Law Mistakes.”  It highlights what our society thinks of mothers-in-law.  And maybe it’s true for some people.  But my experience has been the exact opposite.

Mistake #1:  You Stop By Unannounced
I don’t think my in-laws have ever stopped by without calling first.  In fact, when we first got married, they made it a point to “leave us alone” during our first year so we could build our marriage relationship.  I think they came to our apartment once, maybe twice, that first year – and only after we BEGGED them.  (Reverse psychology, perhaps?)

Mistake #2:  You Want Her To Call You Mom
My mother-in-law never presumed nor expected anything from me.  All she desires is care and respect – she has never asked me for anything else.  I call her Mom of my own volition and because she is a mother to me.  This in no way lessens what I had with my own mother – it is a reflection of it.

Mistake #3:  You Give Advice She Didn’t Ask For
My mother-in-law is very cognizant of my strengths and abilities.  She’s lavish with her praise and cautious with her criticism.  When Silas was a baby, for the first time in my life I felt utterly clueless and low in confidence.  I pleaded with her for advice, but she would only respond, “You’ll know what to do.”

Mistake #4:  You Criticize Her Kids
In the 7-1/2 years that I’ve had children, I haven’t heard my mother-in-law criticize my children once.  This is not to say that my kids are perfect.  We often discuss the boys’ strengths and weaknesses and how we can help them improve in specific areas.  I especially covet her guidance on discipline and education.  Her input, gleaned from raising two children of her own and teaching for 25 years, is invaluable to me.

Mistake #5:  You Talk to Your Son About Her
Jayson often complains that his mom talks more to me than she does to him.  We are blessed with an open, honest, communicative relationship.

So in terms of how society labels mothers-in-law and their relationships with their daughters-in-law, what I have is completely weird, abnormal and unnatural.  Or is it?  I’m not saying all in-law relationships are easy and without challenges, but that it IS possible to build a positive relationship with your mother-in-law.  I always remember Naomi and Ruth from the Bible – what a blessing they were to each other!  My mother-in-law and I have been working at it for 13 years and our efforts have paid off.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.