Daughters-in-Law: the Whining, Maligning and Outshining…
A few weeks ago a doting grandmother wrote about her spoilsport daughter-in-law who rejected her mother-in-law’s thoughtful gifts for her grandchildren (Chronicles 5-18).
I couldn’t help but be reminded of a friend’s non-stop whining over her in-laws’ neglect to outfit their grandchildren with new clothing for Yom Tov (as they’d apparently done in the past).
Rachel, my friend is far from needy. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t dawn on her that her in-laws may have experienced a financial crunch and just couldn’t come through the way they have on previous occasions.
Whatever their reason, who says in-laws – or parents – are obligated to “wardrobe” their grandchildren? She has the gall to complain about their “slacking” devotion. This goes to prove that it doesn’t pay to spoil children — whether they’re little or grown.
Seems like a “thank you, but you didn’t really have to” is quickly becoming a thing of the past, with thoughtlessness and greed replacing good old fashioned hakaras hatovand heartfelt appreciation.
Her whining is disgraceful
In regards to the mother-in-law who was so eager to please her granddaughters for their birthday only to have her daughter-in-law stop her cold, this just corroborates my long-held view that mothers-in-law are, for the most part, unfairly maligned and that too many daughters-in-law need to take a step back and do a self-evaluation of their own attitudes towards their in-laws.
My husband and I were once over by some friends when the paternal grandparents were visiting with their grandchildren. At one point, when Grandpa – a jovial fellow with a slight build – was bouncing his 4-year old grandson on his knee, the kid’s mother took a double take and abruptly left the room.
I followed her to see what was up and couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. She was reaching for a phone, while insisting (to her husband) that she was going to call the police because her poor baby was going sustain a brain injury with the way his father (her father-in-law) was carrying on. Hello? This was a 4-year old, not an infant, having a grand old time with his grandfather. Was this woman out of her mind?
We’ve since learned that there is no love lost between this daughter-in-law and her in-laws, whom she treats like lepers. My husband and I have known her in-laws forever, and they happen to be the sweetest couple and wouldn’t so much as hurt a fly. In fact, they have other married children whom they get along with just fine.
Respect begets respect
For years now I’ve been meaning to write to your column but wasn’t sure that it would be appropriate for me to do so. Let’s be honest: it’s people’s tzoros and complaints that make for an interesting read. And I have only words of praise, not criticism. Reading about the disillusioned mother-in-law, however, has prompted me to speak my thoughts.
I am a mother-in-law who baruch Hashem gets on well with all of our children (where daughters-in-law outnumber daughters). Some of them call me daily, some weekly, and some whenever they can manage to carve time out of their hectic schedules to touch base. Be that as it may, I don’t wait for kavod; if I don’t hear from a daughter-in-law for several days, I pick up the phone and call.
I can just hear the gasps – call?? Why not just text? For a recipe ingredient, maybe, but texting won’t do for a meaningful two-way conversation. Besides, I’m not adept at text abbreviations, nor am I into heavy cell use. For that matter, my weekend plan doesn’t offer me much leeway – and that’s the way I like it.
None of our children live close by, but all of them know that they are welcome to invite themselves over for a Shabbos or Yom Tov, or just to drop in for a visit. All they need to do is call to let us know of their plans and make sure we will be here. None has ever said simply, “we’re coming.” It’s always a “we’d like to come…are you okay with it? If you’re not up for it, we can make it another time.”
When visiting, all lend a helping hand and do their best to clean up after themselves. Furthermore, they are most appreciative of anything we do for them, give them or buy them, and none harbor expectations. The typical reaction to a birthday forgotten: ”It’s understandable, you have enough on your mind.”
To readers who are thinking, “You must all be very much alike, therefore you get along” — actually, we are about as diverse a group as the flavors in an ice-cream shop. We range from FFB, BT and MO, to chassidish, and not only do we get along, but each of us is eager to learn from the other.
What about hard feelings arising from misunderstandings? Those are easily avoided when a misunderstanding is ironed out before hard feelings have a chance to set in. We are open and truthful with one another, treat each other with respect and warmth, and have a mutual regard for one another’s need for privacy. If our children wish to share or ask for our advice, they know we are here for them and will do whatever we can for them.
That old adage – “A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life” – sits fine with me. I’ve done my time, and I’ll be the first to grant that my sons are lucky to have my daughters-in-law at their side. Hey, I’ve gained some daughters in the bargain.
Ah, but there is one very important component in all of this, one that no day of mine is complete without: prayer. I pray to Hashem to keep all our children safe and sane and to guide them in His ways, and I thank Him for all that He has blessed us with… and pray that He help us be continually worthy of His gifts.
I count myself lucky indeed
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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