The house plants I relegated to the back porch have begun creeping outside their pots. For some, it is an attractive look — cascading ivies and fern fronds threatening to take over the place. For one plant, a mother-in-law tongue, it has been a disaster waiting to happen. Perched just 6 inches from the edge of my pool, I began to imagine long stalks of the plant exploding out of the pot and into the pool.
Yesterday, I decided to drag the pot out and transfer the monster to a much larger one. When I began trying to remove the plant by loosening the sides, it refused to let go. The more I tugged, the more I realized this was starting to look like a visit to the chiropractor.
It took a high-powered water hose nozzle to remove all traces of dirt before I could even wiggle the leaves out. Eventually, I succeeded in settling the plant in a new pot and dragged it back to the porch.
Out of curiosity, when I was finished, I Googled “mother-in-law tongue,” where I found the correct name, Sanservieria Trifasciata, or snake plant. It seems the more common name refers to the fact that the leaves are flat like a tongue and have a sharp tip, like a snake, to represent how “evil” a mother-in-law is.
That was when I had my epiphany. Mothers-in-law not only get a bad rap in jokes, the media and literature, they are represented by a plant with rather negative attributes. I hope you note that there is no “father-in-law” plant.
On behalf of mothers-in-law everywhere, I wish to call your attention to these facts. Until you are a mother-in-law, you cannot truly understand their psyche. They spend their entire lives devoted to their children, nurturing them into some degree of adulthood. All the while, they’re observing the parade of potential mates for those children that pass through their doors.
They have horrible nightmares and endure long periods imagining that the boy/girl with the purple hair, nose ring and at least 12 tattoos (that she can count) might be joining the family permanently.
Finally, joy of all joys, her son/daughter brings home a new love with manners and the ability to converse in multiple syllables, who even offers to help with the dishes. Life is good. A wedding follows. Everyone is happy.
Then something happens in her life, a shift not unlike a small earthquake. Her popularity with her son/daughter sags a bit. The recipes she offers for her child’s favorite food receive a warm reception. The gift of boxer shorts with little alligators she dropped off for her son didn’t even get a thank you – the same boy she spent nearly a year trying to toilet train. Her heart is heavy.
Like the plant, clinging to the pot, mothers have to let go because now there is someone who loves her child as much as she does.
Granted, it isn’t easy to be a mother-in-law. It’s a bit of a slippery slope. Give them space, but be there when they ask for help. They are building their own family and finding their own way to do things, just as we did.
And if you’re lucky, one day there will be little ones and you can graduate to a much more fulfilling role, grandmother, represented by that highly desirable plant, the money tree.
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