My mother-in-law asked to have my nine-year-old son over, and despite my misgivings about coronavirus, I agreed. When I picked him up she had a cousin over, and they were not physical distancing. I was furious and screamed at her. Then my father-in-law got into it telling me that I’ve been horrible to his wife for 20 years (which may be true). Now I feel terrible, but I’m still angry.
There’s very little doubt to me that everyone’s mind is collectively bending into a pretzel because of the way 2020 has unfolded so far. Global pandemic out of nowhere, the prospect of a precipitous economic downturn, “murder wasps” and protests against police brutality.
Call it 2020-itis. Is it any wonder we’re all going a little barmy? My guess is 2020-itis may have been behind your hissy-fit with your mother-in-law. You need to walk that one back, as the fashionable neologistic phrase goes.
But first, I want to say I agree with your underlying sentiment. My wife says I’m “paranoid” about COVID-19. I prefer “prudent” (as I patiently explain to her, placing a latex-gloved hand on her shoulder and pulling down my mask for a quick kiss as I exit our domicile for the first time in a week).
Or maybe “careful” is the mot juste. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to be more careful and mindful in our everyday interactions with others.
It drives me crazy when people are all devil-may-care and loosey-goosey about physical distancing, mask-wearing and all the rest.
Businesses are shuttering, our children are staying home from school, we can’t go to restaurants or houses of worship or the hairdresser – and you’re just going to go ahead and flout the guidelines, with everything we now know?
Nevertheless, you can’t go screaming at anyone. There’s never any call for that. You have to apologize to your mother-in-law for that.
And it has to be unalloyed. Don’t allow the apology to tip over into self-justification. The mayor of my city was recently caught on camera maskless amid a throng at an overcrowded park. His apology was beautiful, I thought.
In effect, he said, I’m sorry, I made a mistake and I will try to do better in future.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if all politicians – indeed all people – uttered such humility-filled mea culpas?
Be like that with your mother-in-law: “I’m sorry, I made a mistake, I will try to do better in future.” Then, and only then, unpack your hopes (that she will also try to be better in tit-for-tat fashion) and fears (your family could get the virus).
If she demurs, disagrees and/or becomes disputatious, then I think you have every right to keep your son away from her devil-may-care, seat-of-the-pants household.
Maybe if she sees you’re serious, she’ll come around, smarten up and fly right. I wouldn’t advocate such a drastic move under normal circumstances, but these aren’t normal circumstances.
And then address your father-in-law’s contention that you’ve been “horrible” to his wife. That’s serious. If there’s any merit in it, then the three of you need to sit down and try to mend fences.
Sometimes a crisis can throw light on long-simmering tensions, which sounds like the case here.
If you can work out these long-running tensions, maybe all this meshugas will be the best thing that ever happened to you.
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