Upon becoming wives and mothers, my best friend and I made a pact with each other about our behavior as future mothers-in-law and grandmothers: If one of us witnesses the other person committing certain heinous acts which often stereotype these roles, we promise without hesitation to call each other out on it. No sugar coating, no mercy, just a blunt, “Do you realize what you just said?”
Below are some of the four-alarm phrases for which we remain on high alert:
“Don’t you look cute? Are you sure you want to wear your hair like that?”
Well, we were sure, but thank you for taking our self-esteem down to junior high levels. This type of phrase we sincerely hope never to inflict on our daughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters or anyone of the female persuasion.
“I did (insert outdated parenting strategy) with all my kids. Surely I know how to take care of my own grandchildren!”
Baby aspirin for a fever, rum in a bottle to induce sleep or laying infants on their bellies to nap were all well-intentioned, but bad, advice. Child-rearing practices evolve, which is actually not a personal affront to the way anyone did it before. We solemnly vow to respect our children’s intelligence and wishes when they raise their own children.
“Here’s a little present just for you. Just don’t tell the other grandkids, okay?”
A grandparent may secretly have a favorite grandchild, but the key is to keep it secret. We promise not to play favorites that can put the “chosen one” in an awkward position and make all the other grandkids (and parents) resentful.
“But Christmas has always been at our house.”
The torch must be passed – with grace, not guilt. Every young family deserves to build memories and traditions in their own home for Christmas morning, Thanksgiving dinner, Groundhog Day, whatever.
My friend and I would like to think we would never commit these sorts of infractions. However, no one who makes these statements ever intends to annoy or offend their targets. These phrases just sort of sneak in. So, here’s hoping (with a little tough love) we can avoid these pitfalls and be the mother-in-law and grandmother who everyone loves to have come visit. Because dropping in unexpectedly on your daughter-in-law is always okay, right?