Karen Brazas: Mother’s (-in-law) Day
Every year on this Mother’s Day, I miss my mom. I search the internet for the perfect quotation to post on social media in her memory. The verses are beautiful, and many reflect the very essence of my dear mother.
“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Rudyard Kipling.
And my favorite:
“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” Herman Hesse
And on this day I also celebrate my mother-in-law. At her memorial service 15 years ago I ended my eulogy with, “We have all been touched by an angel. And that angel is Nani.”
But try Googling “Mother-in-law quotations” and you’ll find:
“Just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.” Henny Youngman.
Or late comedian Les Dawson: “My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed! I never knew they worked!”
Mothers-in-laws … we are supposed to avoid and abhor them, not applaud and adore them. Movies show them being thrown from a train or tied to the roof of a moving station wagon. Cartoons depict daughters and sons-in-law hiding behind newspapers to avoid conversation, or changing the locks to prevent their visits.
I am a mother, and we mothers know that our job is not for the frail or faint-hearted. At times the road can be rough. But for me, ending up with two loving sons has made my journey more than worthwhile. But I am now a mother-in-law as well, and navigating that route is a bit trickier. Both my daughters-in-law are from foreign lands, from cultures very different from our own. I marvel at their courage in coming to this country on their own and pursuing their paths to citizenship. I let them know how proud I am of their embracing our culture even as they hold tightly to their own.
Most of all, their love for their husbands, their children, and our family warms my heart. I know I have a leg up on other moms-in-law. For all intents and purposes, I’m their only available “mom.” The mother in Thailand has passed away, and the mom in Taiwan lives on the other side of the world. I love being their mother-in-law, but I’ve learned that besides commitment, this new role requires a certain type of finesse. So I offer up a few clues to avoid being thrown from that train, things I learned from my own dear mother-in-law …
Nani never attempted to become or replace my own mother. She knew our bond was personal and precious and not to be tampered with. She didn’t interfere in our marriage but taught us the art of compromise, encouraging us to reach conclusions by talking things over with each other. She didn’t interfere with our parenting. She would follow our lead, and our rules were her rules. She would render advice but only when asked. She listened, she understood, she advised. And then she stepped aside while we made our decisions.
And whatever we decided, whether or not she agreed, she stood beside us. She made every attempt to bring our family together whenever possible, believing that a solid family foundation was the key to happiness. And she was right. She taught me how to cherish every moment I spend with my children and my sweet grandbabies. I can do this because I had the best role model. Our Nani was the epitome of unconditional love.
So today, celebrate all the special “mothers” in your life. Find the good, appreciate their hard work, cherish their gifts of love. And let them know!
Karen Brazas lives in Nevada City.
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