I am in London visiting a friend and we went to see her mother. I've known the mother for almost forty years, and she has always been sharp, focused, funny, and interested in everything. This year she will celebrate her 90th birthday and is still the same. My friend is very fortunate and I feel jealous of their bond.
My own mother passed away seventeen years ago, and since then there has never been a day when I didn’t miss her. My mother and I were very close, and growing up I knew that she was the one person in the world who truly believed in me.
A typical example of my mother's disposition comes to mind: In high school I once had a conflict with a teacher, who had said something untrue about me. I told my mother that I would not go back to her class. My mother took the matter seriously and suggested that we'd meet with the headmaster. I remember my mother saying to him: “my daughter told me what had happened with the teacher and I believe her since she never lies.” I was moved and proud that my mother stated so clearly that she was on my side.
As it was agreed that I would not go back to that class, the headmaster was looking for solutions that would enable me to graduate. Those involved doing a lot of extra work on my own, and again my mother said: “my daughter is not afraid of hard work.” Hearing that, I knew that this was the price that I had to pay, and that I would make the effort and do the work.
I was thinking about this transformative moment and the importance of trust when I was invited the other day to a bridal shower by my friend whose son is marrying a girl from South America. Their custom of a bridal shower is different; it is held in honor of the bride and the two mothers, and the only guests are the female friends of the mothers.
The bond between mother and daughter is often regarded as the strongest and most meaningful in the family. On the other hand, the connection between the new wife and her mother-in-law is usually complex and full with sensitivities.
While we usually trust our mother, this is the missing element in the relationship between a daughter and her mother-in-law.
This intimate gathering in which the mothers were in the roles of friends provided an opportunity to shuffle the cards. It was a joyous occasion: being with true friends we feel safe and relaxed. There was a lot to observe, and the bride got to see her future mother-in-law with her friends with whom she was informal and happy. The mother-in-law saw the bride feeling comfortable with her mom’s friends. And the mother of the bride saw the future mother-in-law surrounded with a group of friends. This meant that she was a likeable person who would treat the daughter fairly.
Obviously the bridal shower, with all the hugs and the kisses, is not going to solve the problems in the relationship between the three significant women in the new union. However, the simplicity and good-will of such a party is an important first step in reducing suspicion and moving toward trust.