And after that we had a little talk about matters of the day which proved to me that “Mother” had a mind broader and certainly more quiet than her daughter. I studied the daughter with interest after knowing “Mother” better, and her habitual strain of voice and manner were pathetic. By making a care of her mother instead of a companion, she was not only guilty of disrespect to a soul which, however weak it may have been in allowing itself to be directed in all minor matters, had its own firm principles which were not overridden nor even disturbed by the daughter’s dominance. If the daughter had only dropped her strain of care and her habit of “bossing” she would have found a true companion in her mother, and would have been a healthier and happier woman herself.
In pleasant contrast to this is the story of a family which had an old father who had lost his mind entirely, and had grown decrepit and childish in the extreme. The sons and daughters tended him like a baby and loved him with gentle, tender respect. There was no embarrassment for his loss of mind, no thought of being distressed or pained by it, and because his children took their father’s state so quietly and without shame, every guest who came took it in the same way, and there was no thought of keeping the father out of sight. He sat in the living-room in his comfortable chair, and always one child or another was sitting right beside him with a smiling face. Instead of being a trying member of the family, as happens in so many cases, this old father seemed to bring content and rest to his children through their loving care for him.
Very often—I might almost say always—the trying member of the family is trying only because we make her so by our attitude toward her, let her be grandmother, mother, or maiden aunt. Even the proverbial mother-in-law grows less difficult as our attitude toward her is relieved of the strain of detesting everything she does, and expecting to detest everything that she is going to do. With every trying friend we have, if we yield to him in all minor matters we find the settling of essential questions wonderfully less difficult.
A son had a temper and the girl he married had a temper. The mother loved her son with the selfish love with which so many mothers burden their children, and thought that he alone of all men had a right to lose his temper. Consequently she excused her son and blamed her daughter-in-law. If there were a mild cyclone roused between the two married people the son would turn to his mother to hear what a martyr he was and what misfortune he had to bear in having been so easily mistaken in the woman he married. Thus the mother-in-law, who felt that she was protecting her poor son, was really breeding dissension between two people who could have been the best possible friends all their lives.
The young wife very soon became ashamed of her temper and worked until she conquered it, but it was not until her mother-in-law had been out of this world for years that her husband discovered what he had lost in turning away from his wife’s friendship, and it was only by the happy accident of severe illness that he ever discovered his mistake at all, and gained freedom from the bondage of his own temper enough to appreciate his wife.