A couple of years ago, I learned that my grandma was a pretty tough mother-in-law to my mom. Passive-aggressive statements, undermining my mother’s authority, and just constant poking. My mother apparently endured years of this with a smile.
Now, please don’t misunderstand and jump to any conclusions here. My grandma was an amazing woman who spoiled and loved us! But, being a grandma and being a mother-in-law are also two very different roles, and I only have experience with one of those roles.
My two brothers, sister, and I were always oblivious to the “adult stuff” going on around us. We didn’t care. We just wanted to have fun with grandma, drink her orange sodas, eat her cookies, learn piano from her, and play pool in her basement.
My mother never let on that there were ever any conflicts. In hindsight, however, I do have memories that make way more sense now. There were many times my mother would tell us to do something, like pick up our toys, and my grandma would chime in with a rebuttal like, “Oh, they can play for 10 minutes and then I’ll clean it up so they can go get ice cream with Gary (my father).” Grandma for the win.
There were countless times that my grandma “saved us” from our mother’s orders. Grandma could do no wrong in our eyes! I always chose to sit next to her, ride in her car, stay behind with her, hold hands with her, help her with the dishes, etc.
Grandma was always winning the popularity contest.
And, now I realize my mom let her win, for us.
For so many, many years, my mother put her ego and pride at bay so that we could have happy memories of our grandma. I will always be thankful for that.
I don’t know what happened behind closed doors all those years. I don’t know everything that my grandma ever said to my mother, or even about her. I don’t know if my mother ever talked back or confronted the issue.
I don’t know their story. Their relationship.
So, I can only write about the memories I have, the little bit my mother shared with me a couple of years ago, and come to this conclusion…
Your relationship with someone is your own unique experience, and no one else will have the same feelings as you. The way in which you react and believe a relationship to be with someone is yours, and yours alone.
It doesn’t matter who else knows it or believes it to be, nor does it even have much validation, because their relationship with that same person is very different than yours.
I could try to make assumptions and conclusions about my mother and grandma, and concoct a great story to put my mother in a good light, and my grandma in a bad one. I could embellish my memories in favor of my mother. Or, maybe I want to glamorize my grandma, instead, so I could twist everything to make it look like my mother was just jealous.
I have a very powerful opportunity right now…
How I decide to write this story will greatly determine how you decide to judge my mother and grandma. And then, you may even talk with a friend sometime about this story, and embellish it even more to make it sound the way you either interpreted my story, or how you want my story to sound in order to get a great emotional reaction out of your friend.
After all, telling a story where your friend gives you a “meh” response is really lackluster, so why not make it worthwhile for both of you?!
Bottom line, don’t talk about other people’s relationships, especially with other people. And, don’t make judgments and assumptions.
You have no idea.
You only know the things you are told by others, and the way in which you “see” things yourself. But, you do not know their relationship the way that they know it.
I have another very important choice here…
Now knowing that my grandma was rude to my mom, do I completely dismiss all of the wonderful memories of my grandma, and suddenly view her as a bad person? I could. I could decide that grandma was actually a deceitful bitch, and she was only doing those nice things for us to get under my mom’s skin. I could question every intention of my late grandma., and start to paint a completely different picture.
Or, I could see it as two women who, despite their feelings for each other, both wanted the best for us kids, and made the best of the situation to give us great memories.
I really don’t know the relationship between my mother and grandma. Only they know how that went down. I do know, though, that both of them loved us more than life itself.
I also know that both of them were just doing what they felt was the best for us at the time.
My grandma wanted to spoil us rotten and let us be wild, happy kids. My mother wanted us to have a great childhood, which including having an awesome grandma.
I am thankful for them both.
My biggest take-away from all of this was that we are all allowed to have our own relationships and realities with others. Let others have their relationships, and you have yours.
What you experience with my husband, for example, may be extremely negative, and therefore you conclude that I married an asshole, and he must be a jerk of a dad. However, my experience with my husband is that he is a fun-loving father with a plethora of classic dad jokes, a supportive husband, and very hard-working man who can build a gorgeous wood staircase from scratch.
You see, just because YOU don’t like my husband based off of YOUR experiences with him, that does NOT mean that that is who he is to everyone, everywhere, everyday. Your negative experience with my husband was YOUR experience. Not mine. And, not for many, many others.
This does not, however, take away from your experience with my husband, though. The two of you may very well not get along at all, and he may have even hurt your feelings in some way because of your differences. That is your reality.
But, what we all need to start to realize and accept is that each relationship is unique, and just because we may have experienced something with someone, it does NOT mean that that is the ONLY experience a person is capable of having with the rest of the world.
And, if you ever hear of a negative experience from someone about a friend or family member of yours, don’t be so quick to forget all of your positive experiences with that person.
While reviews of others can be helpful in some situations, and give us fair warnings from time to time, take it all with a grain of salt and an open heart.
Yes, some assholes really are assholes. However, most people are actually good, and just have a bad experience with one or two specific people. After all, we are all human.
Allow each other to be more human with one another.
And, allow each other to have our own unique experiences with the world. Let people learn and do better next time with the next person.
Maybe your negative experience with someone will be the inspiration he/she needs to change for the better.
Give them that chance for change.
Give each other a chance.