A couple of days ago, I happened to chance upon a post in a popular social networking site: “difference between mother and mother-in-law”. Intrigued, I took a closer look. It was a series of cartoons depicting a “mother” and a “mother-in-law” in similar situations. It depicted the former as focused on you as a person while the latter was more focused on what you are able to accomplish. Like when you sleep late, your mom allows you sleep in, while your mother-in-law wonders why you are still in bed. It got me wondering about my husband’s mom. I realised that, at least in my case, all the examples so vividly depicted in the online comic strip were far from true.
It got me thinking about our mindset in general, how we are prone to take a negative stance by default on certain issues or certain people. We categorise and judge, very often quite unfairly. We hold certain people to very high, humanly unattainable standards. We get carried away in our enthusiasm to pick on their little faults, conveniently forgetting a mountain of virtues they possess.
It brought back memories of the wedding jitters I had. My colleagues (then unmarried) were generous in sharing their exaggerated stories of terrible and wicked in-laws, scaring me out of my wits. Needless to say, the highlights of these horrible “true stories” contributed to many a sleepless night. Tossing and turning, I would keep wondering, “Was my beau’s mom really nice? Or did she just seem that way? Was it all an act?”. My mother-in-law was an easy person to talk to — ironically that’s what my colleagues found suspicious! According to them, mothers-in-law are never friendly, they are cryptic and scary. “She is playing you, beware!” they warned me. “Sizing you up! Getting a feel of what kind of person you are, finding your weakness. Your Achilles’ heel! Once she catches on to that, you’re trapped and helpless forever! Then she will make you dance to her tunes”. Not surprisingly, on the day before my wedding, I was unable to sleep a wink out of sheer panic. My family was very amused with my sudden bout of insomnia and declared it was all the excitement of the wedding. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I never thought about the wedding, not once. All my thoughts were focused on my mother-in-law to-be. I imagined her turning into this ferocious creature that strikes fear into your heart, chills the blood flowing in your veins, so terrifying that you are rooted where you stand, paralysed with fear. So melodramatic, kind of like a horror movie! But then I had an entire sleepless night to conjure all that up! I find that extremely funny today.
Contrary to what my dim-witted colleagues claimed, my mother-in-law turned out to be exactly as she seemed — friendly and fun. No hidden claws or agendas. In fact she is one of the nicest people I’ve met to date! Selfless, sincere and sociable are three words I would choose to describe her in brief. Always a caring and loving mother to me.
Today, all of my colleagues have gotten hitched. One of them called me for counsel when she got cold feet the day before her wedding. I managed to calm her down, all the while thinking how my hand shook uncontrollably when my fiancé put a ring on my finger. The photographer made us exchange rings a second time, so that he could take a better picture. Laughing his head off, he said he’d covered a lot of wedding ceremonies as part of his job, but never witnessed something so hilarious. I remember I was too mortified at the time to see the humour in the whole affair. Even the priest who married us had trouble keeping a straight face.