Building relationships with mothers

By Eloise V. Traina, CEO

Family Recovery Center

“Be Nice.” These words follow me on a daily basis. They were the words my mother spoke to me on a regular basis. I imagine this was probably a daily reminder, especially since I was an obstreperous teenager.

And, sometimes, it is hard to be nice. All I can think about is wanting to say to others what my “real feelings and thoughts” are and why not? Honesty is the best policy. Oftentimes, I have to step back , close my mouth and move on. Restraint, self-discipline, correctness or just plain Christian-ness are my reasons for “being nice.” Thank you, Mom, for mentally reminding me to “be nice.”

With Mother’s Day upon us, many of us are thinking of our moms. What it used to be like and what it appears to be today. What do you remember?

My mom led a much more simple life: family oriented, always sacrificing for us as kids, and later as we moved from our adolescence to adulthood. She would go without in order to provide us with the things we thought were so important as adolescents. And yet, we had the nerve to feel deprived. Despite all this deprivation as youngsters, we were fed, clothed and educated. My brother, sister and I all have educations and careers, families and offspring we know would make both our parents proud.

My parents are gone, yet their words and deeds remain and resonate with us still. My children often recall those moments spent with Grandma and Grandpa Vacc. Picnics, hiking in the Metro Parks, Geauga Lake Park, or just learning how to tie their shoestrings, reciting little verses or learning what snow clouds look like.

We laugh recounting the fun times, and yes, even those difficult times when we as teenagers seemed to know it all. You can imagine the horror my own children exhibited when I posted a large sign in our kitchen stating: “Hire a teenager while they still know it all.”

Things change. Then as with many of us, new people and different events come into our lives. One of these individuals is called the mother-in-law. Do you remember your first encounter/s with your future MIL? I still do. She wore her hair high in an “updo,” shoes with pointed toes and little heels. Always in a brightly-colored dress.

And, you know what? She looked the same 40 years later. Same high hair, little shoes, and those bright-colored dresses. And, she, too, has been a good influence on my adult life. Always had something positive to say about individuals. Always fun to be around and laughed a lot in our presence. She offered good and positive advice when needed. Not really the intrusive MIL that many of us think will be happening in our lives.

But as I recall, at first, I did not like her intrusion (as I thought it to be) in my early married life (to her son). The impromptu visits, always bearing gifts which seemed unnecessary (to me).

And then came the children. Of course it appeared they liked to visit Grandma and Grandpa Traina more than they did my own parents. It took an Ann Landers article to set me straight. Both kinds of grandparents have a place in our children’s lives. Ones who provide the teaching and training, and the others who provide a lot of fun. So, I learned early that there is to be a balance to everything, if we just keep an open mind.

My mother-in-law who defied any and all of the MIL jokes, did not necessarily fit the norm of those MIL jokesters. Mom didn’t interfere with anything we did as a family. She actually respected my opinion more than she should have during our times together.

And what about those gifts? I and the family loved each and every one of them. They meant a lot to us as a family. She was also so willing to give of herself. My only wish was that she lived closer, so we could have just “hung around” together, shopped and had lunch more frequently or just laughed together.

When I thought about this going forward, I gave my own daughter the same advice as she was taking on a MIL. It appears more difficult for a woman to give up her son to another woman than a mother to take on a son-in-law. The same advice was given to our son.

So what I told our daughter was that in order to sustain the key elements of a wonderful marriage, establishing and maintaining a good relationship with the in-laws is well worth her efforts.

And, do you know what has happened? Both our daughter and daughter-in-law are good friends with their MIL. Wishing all you moms out there a very Happy Mother’s Day. For I surely miss my mom and MIL.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS).

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