About 25 years ago my mother-in-law, Virginia, and sister-in-law, Jane, asked me to go with them to a taping of a talk show then popular in Chicago, the Jenny Jones Show. We were put in a holding room where the producers worked us up like cheerleaders at a pep rally before the big game. Once we were all riled up, they announced the heretofore-unknown topic for the show: In-laws you love to hate. “Do any of you have stories to share?” they asked. “Just between us? (and about 1,000,000 viewers)”
Hands shot up across the crowded room.
I considered volunteering along with the other fame-whores, but my intentions were pure. I would say, “I have no idea what you could POSSIBLY mean – my in-laws are fabulous!” This had little or nothing to do with the fact that, at the time, I was sitting there like the filling in an in-law sandwich. I kept my hand down.
I’ve known a lot of women who act like the Wicked Witch of the West to the person their kid married. They seem to be actively pursuing the title of: World’s Worst Mother-In-Law. If you’re in the running, here’s some practical advice on how to snag the trophy:
1) Tell her that he’s not good enough
2) Start every other sentence with, “far be it from me to criticize, but…”
3) Tell her that her spaghetti is not bad, but it’s not QUITE the way he likes it
4) Never forgive him for deciding to stay home for major holidays, rather than spending the day in the car, trying to be as fair as Solomon and split the day evenly between the families
5) Tell him you feel sorry for him because she’s such a lousy housekeeper
6) Give helpful hints on how she SHOULD be raising your grandkids
7) Remind them that you told them not to buy that house
8) Keep track of the time they spend with his family, compare it – to the minute – against the pitiful amount they allot to you, and complain about the difference…loudly
9) If they have financial troubles, tell her you knew he would never amount to anything
If your goal is, instead, to nab the title of World’s Best Mother-in-Law, the rules are a whole lot simpler:
1) Be friendly, polite, and make the new member feel like a welcome part of the family
2) When she does things differently from you (and she will,) when they fight (and they will,) when he make mistakes (and he will,) bite your tongue. Often. Until it bleeds.
3) Remember that your child, who you love more than life itself, picked THIS person above all others. He or she must have some redeeming qualities.
My two girls are neither married, nor significantly other-ised, so you may wonder what qualifies me to comment. I’ve been observing the actions of my own, dear mother-in-law for almost 32 years. Virginia provided the model for the World’s Best Mother-In-Law. When my turn comes, I hope I can do the job half as graciously as she did.
Love you, Ginny. We are going to miss you more than I can say.