A word of advice: Be nice to your mother-in-law

Lori Clinch

Summer is the season for weddings. I know this because my refrigerator is full of magnet-attached invitations and the weekends on the calendar are filled.

Having been married for lo-many years, I’ve learned a thing or two and would like to offer this bit of advice to all of those women about to jump in with both feet: Don’t ever go to bed mad, and if you do, bring a frying pan.

Word to the wise.

Today’s bride should also encourage her new husband to go in for the put-back when his dirty socks miss the hamper. It never hurts to train him to help out with the dishes from time to time and teach him early on that a bowl of cereal does count as a meal.

Another little nugget of wisdom is to pray for a good mother-in-law. They can truly come in handy.

When my husband was approaching his 30s, his mother became concerned that he might never marry.

In a bit of a panic, she decided to take matters into her own hands. So she did as any devout Catholic woman would do: she snatched up her rosary, went to church and said prayers that a good woman would soon enter her son’s life.

Following the prayers, she lit a prayer candle and then left it in God’s hands. Imagine her surprise when I showed up!

A woman who cracks jokes and airs her issues in public would not be the daughterin law any woman envisions for her beloved son. Doesn’t exactly sound like an answer to her prayer.

Now when my Pat first met my parents, it was on his terms. He had time to shower, dress, and to run his fingers through his hair.

My father, being tickled that I was finally dating someone seriously, did not even give Pat the what-are-yourintentions with-my-little-girl talk he was famous for. He did not ask him about his career aspirations, his lifelong goals, or whether or not he had diversified his financial portfolio.

Since I was the ripe old age of 24, my father was simply hoping that someone would still take me. Therefore, instead of grilling my gentleman caller, Dad shook Pat’s hand, slapped him on the back and told him, “Thanks for giving her a chance, son!” I wouldn’t have doubted that he slipped him a $20 and sent him on his way with a wink of an eye and a “there’s more where that came from.”

When my turn came, however, I did not receive the customary “meet the parents” announcement that was due me. Anyone who is anyone knows that before meeting the mother of a man that one thinks well of, a girl needs time. She needs hours for hair adjustments, three days for a wardrobe selection, and perhaps a consultation with a good therapist.

Check this. Instead of receiving proper warning, I got a “Mom wants to meet you and we’ll be there in 20 minutes”!

Can you believe that?

“Has your mother ever met anyone you’ve dated before?” I asked in a panic. “No, but this will be just fine, come as you are”! Instead of having the time to work on my appearance and calm my demeanor, I was forced into an introduction sporting bad hair and looking as if I had just swept the chimney.

I am sure I was nothing like the woman that my mother-in-law had prayed her son would choose.

Yet, my mother-in-law took me in stride. She tolerated my imperfections, overlooked most of my faults and even chuckled at my witticisms.

I always tried to be the best darned daughter-in-law I could be. I cooked balanced meals, supported my babies’ heads and forced coats on my kids in July.

She repaid me by ignoring my faults, bringing her famous Jell-O to family meals and teaching me it was OK to hold back a piece of sausage for myself before serving the rest of the family.

Be nice to your mother-in-law, young brides. She may not be perfect and neither are we, but we share a love for the same man, and that is what bonds us.

My mother-in-law accepted me for what I am, and that should not have surprised me. After all, that little woman did light a candle to get me.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to [email protected].