I've written here before about my mother-in-law. The latest incident I've been stewing about is about her birthday cake. I asked her what kind she wanted, and she asked for chocolate. It's hard to believe, but I had never made a chocolate cake before, but I remembered a recipe my mom gave me recently so I decided to try it.
The cake was great. It was a chocolate "dump" cake so it was very moist. When she ate some, my mother-in-law said, "It's very moist." I assumed that was a compliment. I gave her half the cake to take home since it was her birthday cake. I wrapped it up in two containers so that she could freeze one of them.
When she came over a couple of days later, here are the only things she said to me:
"You should weed the front."
"You should go to the doctor about your bites."
"You should have made just half the recipe for the cake."
No "I liked the cake, but I think you gave me too much..." No "Wow... that cake is so rich... I'd love the recipe, but I think I would just make half the recipe." Just "You should have just made half the recipe."
This enraged me. I was grumpy from wasp poison, but why does EVERYTHING she says to me start with "You should..." or "You should have...?" Nothing I do is okay or enough. Everything I do should be done better. (Also, when I was making her birthday cake, she hovered around me and kept micro-managing me -- even telling me I was using the wrong tools. The wrong tools in my kitchen? I don't think so...) (Also, I ask her over and over again to please not tell me what I should be doing in the garden... that I'm overwhelmed with larger family stresses, and I really don't care if there are dandelions in front right now... I care more that my kid and husband are managing okay through a pretty huge crisis. But the comments about the weeds just keep coming...)
I snapped at her. I said, "I have never made that recipe before in my life. Why would I know automatically that I should halve the recipe? If I had known it would be so rich, I certainly would have made half the recipe, but I was following the recipe exactly because it was the first time I was making it! Why do you keep telling me what I should and should have done?"
I feel really bad for snapping at her. I usually try to turn the other cheek or respond with humor or patience, but she's over-the-top right now with her "high standards."
So I decided that I'm going to set out a "should/should have jar." Every time she tells me what I should or should have done, I'm going to charge her a buck. We'll make a game out of it, but I'm pretty serious.
I'm being realistic. If she expects me to care for her when she can't care for herself in a few years, then she needs to give me a little more breathing room and respect, or we'll both be miserable.
And maybe soon I'll be able to pay for a massage out of the should jar, and that will help my mood, too.