Saturday, October 23, 2010

The One With the Best Mother-in-Law Ever

Who, me? Yes, of course it is me.

I don’t like to brag, but there are plenty of girls who date my boys just so that they can have me as a mother-in-law. Being a good mother-in-law is not just a matter of minding one’s own business. Or giving good advice. It is really a skill, and one that I personally have raised to an artform. And, as with all good art, there are rules.

Rule Number One. Never make your daughter-in-law look bad. This one is so easy I can do it in my sleep. In fact, sleeping in until nine or ten so that my daughter-in-law has time to get up and make me breakfast in bed is a perfect example. I have to be careful because I am a good cook. You see, if I am a good cook, and hypothetically speaking, the daughter-in-law is not, then that makes her feel a little nervous. So if I play the mother-in-law game correctly, I can sit with my feet up in front of the TV while all the daughters-in-law make meals (and do the dishes, obviously). It is all part of the best mother-in-law service that I provide. It also helps if my house is messy (and it is). Not completely slovenly with rotting food in every corner… just messy. Then the daughters-in-law can feel that they are superior housekeepers. Because they are! See how perfect that is? There are certain areas where I just can’t help but stand out as a shining pillar of perfection… a wifely paragon, if you will… but by letting other things slide, those things can be overlooked, thus maintaining perfect mother-in-law-hood.

Rule Number Two. Avoid giving unsolicited advice. I cannot tell a lie... I love to give advice. But as a mother-in-law I have adopted a sort of reverse psychology approach. By pretending not to give any advice, and pretending that I don’t even like to give advice, the girls will just naturally crave it. It is human nature. And once they open the door, well, let’s just say I will come in and make myself right at home.

Rule Number Three. Child-rearing is not the job of Perfect Mother-in-Law. The key to this rule is Laissez Faire. Hands off. I will not give you my opinion on your baby names. You can name your child Atilla the Hun if you really want to. I will just smile and say, “Oh, how sweet.” Because babies in our family are notoriously large at birth, and by the time you push that ten-pound linebacker out with his little conehead, you should get to name him whatever the heck you feel like. This hands-off philosophy will continue. I will never ask you why little Atilla does not wear socks. I will not ask you why your darling 18-month-old is sitting in front of the TV watching Spanish novelas, drinking a two-liter of Coca Cola and gnawing on an entire brick of cheddar. I don’t judge. After all, I clearly was no great shakes when it came to child-rearing. Just take a look at your husband.

Rule Number Four. When in doubt, always take daughter-in-law’s side. Please refer to rule number two, here. But once advice is solicited, it is best to side with the darling DIL. This is not difficult, either, because my pack of boys and I have been at odds for lo, this many years. Just because we have patched things up since those unfortunate teenage years and adopted an uneasy truce does not mean that it is all water under the bridge. I may not be able to remember a single thing I did last week, but I can sure as hellfire remember when Josh called 9-1-1 and told them I beat him with the bar off his red bunk bed. Oh, it’s on, alright. But I’m not bitter or anything.

Rule Number Five. Live at least an hour away. The perfect mother-in-law is the one that is inaccessible at best. If my daughter-in-law thinks she can just drop off little Atilla any old time for babysitting, then eventually she will begin to feel used and resentful that her mother-in-law is monopolizing so much of her family time. If Perfect Mother-In-Law can just drop by and help out and do dishes and other household chores with so little difficulty, then the special and long-awaited nature of her visits cannot be properly maintained. In a situation like this one, the young married couple does not have time to have MIL’s favorite treats prepared and other comforts which a daughter-in-law loves so much to provide.

And that is really all the rules. It is more of lifestyle, really. An attitude. Maybe even a certain disregard, if one is to be honest with herself. But it all works together to make the perfect mother-in-law. And I do so love my job.


Garry said...

That picture at the top of the post is probably the best one I have ever seen of you. Whatever you are doing different don't change it.

Just ME the MOM said...

Great advice - taking notes madly :) While I never wanted to spoil my kids when they were at home, I must admit that I look forward to it when I have the opportunity to visit their homes. Which isn't often enough . . . . so I'm not really sure I would be a good one to share advice!